Working from Home: Tips to Boost Productivity
For many workers with a nine-to-five job, the idea of working from home has huge appeal. No commute, a comfortable sofa to check emails from, and more flexibility for family time and other commitments are just a few of the benefits that make it seem like a dream situation – especially on a rainy Monday morning.
If you're a small business owner just starting out, however, working from home may be a useful tactic, or even a necessity: a practical way to save on office overheads and travel costs. It's also a way of life for freelancers and the self-employed. The good news? Studies suggest that people who work from home are happier and more satisfied in their jobs – and in some cases, more productive too. Result.
Working from home does have its challenges, though. Self-motivation is one of them. You need to be able to zone out from the potential distractions that crop up in your home – from kids and pets, to stacks of dirty laundry and the latest TV show you're streaming. But with a little planning and discipline, you can get just as much done – if not more – at home as you can in a conventional office.
Whether you're running a full-time business from your spare bedroom, or just working outside the office for a couple of days a week, here's how you can stay home and prosper:
Define Your Office Hours
Ever encounter this situation when working remotely? You sit down, have another cup of coffee, check the news headlines – and before you know it, the morning is half over. Or, once you hit your flow, you end up working right up until bedtime – completely missing out on the potential for better work-life balance that comes with home-based working. Make sure you get the most out of your day (and protect your personal time) by having defined times to start and finish. These don't have to be 9am to 5pm, or even the same each day, as long as you’re clear on what is and isn’t work time. Make sure you stick to it. Now, watch your productivity soar.
Have a Separate Workspace
Being a small business owner means being switched on, all the time. Always thinking, always innovating. It’s what got you this far. However, it’s still important to separate work and rest. If you work from home, the best way to do this is to have a designated workspace that's comfortable and free from clutter and distractions. Ideally, this would be an office or desk that's only used for business. If this isn't practical, just make a point of completely clearing your kitchen table or any other space that's available. This signals to your mind that it's time to switch off from home life and get to work, so you can really hunker down and focus on your next great idea. Walking away from this space at the end of the day makes switching off from work and getting some proper rest easier, too.
Decide ahead of time to only check your email and social media notifications at allotted times during the day, unless you're expecting something urgent. This way your attention won't be pulled away every time a device pings with some new message. You may also want to consider spending a bit of time each morning quickly running around the house and putting things in order, so your brain won't be focused on the dirty dishes in the sink or the toys scattered over the floor when you want it to concentrate on work. Think of this clean-up session as a substitute for your commute – you'll be making much better use of the time overall.
Keep Yourself Accountable
Working from home can feel more casual and laid-back, so it's easy to lose the sense of urgency when it comes to completing tasks. Make sure you still accomplish a reasonable amount by setting yourself a realistic to-do list and crossing off a minimum amount of work each day. This way you can feel confident that remote working isn't affecting your productivity – and you'll have the evidence to back it up.
Set Boundaries for Friends and Family
Managing people is part of running a successful business – but it can be tricky when the people you need to manage are friends and family. Your heart may always be in your work, but they may struggle to understand that even though you're physically at home, you're actually working hard. Politely ask them not to interrupt during your defined work hours unless it's an emergency, and promise to get in touch as soon as you clock off.
Clear Your Mind
On that note, do remember to schedule regular breaks throughout the day. Getting away from your desk for lunch, a brisk walk, or just a bit of downtime is a brilliant way to refresh your mind and boost energy levels for the rest of the day. It's easy to forget to do this when you're already feeling relaxed at home, but try not to let this simple yet effective tactic for boosting your productivity slide.
Switch It Up
If you're feeling a bit cooped up at home and it's stifling your thought process (or you simply find there are too many distractions at home), why not treat yourself to a change of scene? Grab your laptop and notebook and head to a nearby coffee shop, library or any other place where you can work in peace, outside the house. You may find the extra stimulation is just what you need to get the creative juices flowing again.
Stay in the Loop
Sometimes people who work at home can feel a bit cut off from their colleagues or others in their industry. If you have an office, keep in touch with regular calls and meetings to make sure you still feel involved and part of a team. Similarly, networking and social events can help you feel connected within the industry as a whole, so you're always ready to seize that next opportunity.
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