Working from home can be a wonderful experience for both employer and employee; after all, it saves the company money and saves the employee from commutes and other office hassles. However, it’s important to be fully prepared for the challenges you might face, such as having your documents e-filed or having all parts of your home organized for peace of mind. Just like working in an office, working from home has its upsides and its pitfalls.
A major problem is how to remain productive when there are so many distractions at home that can get in the way of your work. Stay on target with these five productivity tips that will help you stay focused and get the job done.
1. Have a Dedicated Office Space
Whether you have a room set aside to be your office or a section of a room dedicated to work, it’s important to have a place to “go to work.” Be sure to have all the office necessities there: a desk, a comfortable office chair, computer and telephone, filing or storage solutions, and adequate lighting. This room or space should put you in a work mindset, so when you go there you’re prepared mentally to do your job.
In the same way that a custom trade show booth appeals to an audience, our custom office space should appeal to our work ethic and mindset. While a TV is generally distracting, some people work better with background noise. You know yourself better than anyone – just be reasonable and practical about work space.
In other words, don’t just pull out your laptop and work from your bed in your pajamas. That might put you more in a state of mind to update Facebook or even drift off to sleep.
2. Set and Enforce Boundaries
A major productivity-buster when working from home is the people you live with. The child who wants your attention. The pet who wants to hop in your lap or go out for a walk. The friends or family members who call just to talk, because you’re home. To combat these distractions, it’s important to set and enforce rules for when you are working.
If you have a door, close it. If you don’t, try hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the back of your chair or set up some other notice that you are not available at the moment. Distractions are the downfall of productivity. Working without boundaries to eliminate distractions is like a roofer without fall harness protection – it’s going to cause more harm than good, even if ‘boundless’ environments seems appealing.
Post a schedule so others can see when you’ll be taking a break or are finished. Tell family not to call unless it’s an emergency. Enforce these rules from the get-go so they become a habit for everyone.
3. Set Regular Working Hours
Just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean you can roll out of bed at 10 a.m. or take a two-hour lunch break. You should have scheduled hours to work, just as you would in an office setting. Set your alarm, take a shower and get dressed, and eat breakfast before you begin work. This will help put you in a mindset for working, not lounging.
Depending on our line of work, companies are able to make sure we’re hitting our goals and daily tasks. Set reminders that you have responsibilities and stick to a schedule.
Do take a lunch break, but keep it to a reasonable time, no longer than an hour. Take this time to eat, take a walk, spend time with family or make those personal calls. If friends and family are adhering to the second tip, they will know that this is a time you are available.
4. Keep it Clean
It’s tough to be productive when your desk and office area is a cluttered mess. Be sure to keep your desk clean and clear of any clutter. Keep a trash can nearby to toss unwanted items and a filing system to keep your important papers organized. Have an in-bin for items that need your attention. Make sure only work-related items are in your office; no kids’ toys (which could attract the kids) or piles of junk from elsewhere in the house. Your office space should be for your work only!
At the end of each workday, take a few minutes to put things in their proper places so you have a clean slate the next morning, not a mess from yesterday to deal with.
5. Eliminate Background Noise
Noises and other distractions will kill your productivity. Crying children, noisy lawnmowers and email alerts can all jolt you out of what you need to be doing. Turn off all alerts and vow to check email only at certain times of the day, such as first thing in the morning, before and after lunch, and at the end of your workday. Have your personal cell phone send all messages to voicemail during working hours.
If you live in a noisy household or neighborhood, get yourself a set of sound-cancelling headphones so you can truly work in peace. You can also invest in a good white-noise machine to replace distracting sounds with soothing ones, or run a small fan for the same type of effect.
By following these tips, you can make working from home a productive experience and make the most of your home-office environment.