In 2020 and 2021, many of us found ourselves working from home. Whilst many celebrated the change, remote working certainly brought challenges, both to those who embraced it and those more cautious.
The big concern for employers? That their employees would be less productive when out of the office environment. But, was this true? It seems it’s too soon to tell and, from the conversations being had it seems to be industry and even person-specific.
Regardless, a report by Ons from April-May 2021 revealed that an average of 24% of businesses planned to increase remote working opportunities and 85% of employees were hopeful for a hybrid office and remote working in the future. Therefore, it seems that home-working is here, for some, to stay.
Truthfully, there are both advantages and disadvantages to home working, however, many challenges can be overcome. This is what we’ll aim to help you with, by sharing our tips for productivity when working from home.
Some readers may be navigating home working as employees whereas others might be part of the brave many who have taken the plunge into self-employment post-pandemic. Either way, the challenges of productivity when working from home will be similar and, you’ll be pleased to know, the solutions are straightforward. What we’ll be looking at is creating healthy habits and routines to ensure that you’re at maximum productivity during working hours, but also able to relax and detach when the working day is done.
Here are our top 10 tips for productivity when working from home:
Whilst many of us may joke that the best part of working from home is staying in our pyjamas, doing so is not great for productivity. Although a little chaos can be good for creativity, some basic routines help us to divide our full busy lives up into compartments which help us to focus on what needs our attention at the time. Whether that’s family time, self-care, rest, socialising or work. Getting dressed sends a signal to our brain that it’s time to start our day. If you’re not required to wear restrictive power suits working from home then that’s definitely a big plus, so by all means wear clothes you’re comfortable in. However, what you wear when you work should not be clothing you associate with other activities, such as sleeping or exercise.
Not only can staying in sleepwear during the working day impact your productivity, but it can also affect your sleep. To preserve a good sleep routine is important, especially in regards to how well you can perform during the day. Getting ready for bed and changing into sleepwear helps your brain to prepare for rest. It’s the same reason it’s not recommended that you regularly watch television in bed or scroll through a phone at bedtime, our bodies trust us to let it know whether it’s time to rest or time to focus. Be kind to yourself and keep a little routine, even if it seems like you’re missing out on an advantage to working from home, getting dressed for work will get you ready for the day and may even help you feel more confident and empowered.
Drink Plenty Of Water
So, you wake up, get dressed, pour yourself a coffee and sit down at your home desk. A few hours later you’re still there and you’re starting to get a headache. Or maybe your head is fine but you’re struggling to concentrate and you keep yawning. You probably put it down to being in front of a screen for too long, even though you’d be doing the same thing in an office environment. Except, in an office, there are more interruptions. More distractions. Perhaps a couple of meetings, to which you take a glass of water. Maybe a couple of times a day a colleague will even fetch you a cup of water. You might even walk to the water cooler just to stretch your legs.
When you’re working from home, it’s easy to forget to stay hydrated. Yet, dehydration can hamper your ability to focus and can cause drowsiness and even headaches. Whilst many find that home working improves their focus because there are fewer interruptions, staying at your desk for prolonged periods can mean you’re not drinking enough water.
A jug of water on your desk or a reusable metal water bottle can not only remind you to drink water but even increase how much you drink. And most of us are not drinking anywhere near enough.
The NHS recommends 6-8 glasses of water every day, and for good reason. Drinking water boosts concentration, reduces aches and pains and therefore has a direct effect on productivity.
Get Fresh Air
Much like water, fresh air helps our brains to wake up and focus. We breathe better in fresher air and when we breathe deeper we energise our body and mind.
Encouraging you to leave your desk may seem counterintuitive, in an article about tips for productivity when working from home, however, you might have realised that being at your workstation does not always equate to productivity.
If you start to find yourself staring into space, getting restless or feeling tired, then it may be time to stretch your legs, preferably outside. Just a walk around your neighbourhood, or down to the shops, can make a world of difference. Getting some fresh air not only wakes up your body and brain, but time spent away from a work problem or query can help you to get some perspective. You might even use the opportunity to meet a friend and take some time to walk and socialise to break up the day and revigorate you.
It’s also a great idea to get a walk outside into your daily routine since it’s not always easy to make yourself take a break once you’ve started work. For instance, if you usually take children to school in the morning in your car, try walking instead. Although, as a result, your workday may begin slightly later, a good walk in the fresh air can get you ready to focus on the work ahead and therefore improve productivity.
Do We Work Better In Silence?
Most of the learning to be productive when working from home is experimentation. You know how it feels when you get in a flow. You remember that it’s possible to produce a high volume of high-quality work in no time at all when you’re ‘in the zone’.
Each time you find yourself in that place, try to spend a little time reflecting on the set-up that enabled you to get there because it’s different for everyone.
Some of us need complete silence to focus and others need noise. Whether that’s the gentle activity of a cafe, relaxing piano music or heavy metal, sound can help some people find a helpful rhythm. Whereas others are completely distracted by any noise at all.
It’s not always cut and dry either. You may find that some work tasks are easier set against a pulsing high-energy soundtrack, yet when crunching numbers or writing tricky emails you might need the sound of silence to allow yourself complete focus.
There is no right or wrong way to work, only what works best for you. The most important thing is to notice, make note of whether background noise helps and, if so, then what music and for which tasks. One of the main benefits of working from home is being able to adjust your working style to suit you, so whether you need music or silence, do whatever helps you the most. Now you don’t have to worry about the perception of others in the office, you are free to find ways to work that most motivate you.
A Designated Work Space
How much you enjoy working from home often has a lot to do with how much space you have and how comfortable you are in your home. Some of us are fortunate enough to have our own offices where we can shut the door (and shut out the family) and create a dedicated space from which to build an empire. Many of us though are building empires from breakfast bars or corners of the dining or coffee table. Space is lovely if you have it, but if yours is limited then it needn’t limit what you can achieve.
There are many smart ways to create working areas that reflect your style and provide you comfort as you work. Transforming a cupboard or nook can provide an impressive workstation. Standing and seated desks are also worth considering. These would use a stool so that you might sit or stand at your desk, which can improve posture and be better for your spine too. Check out some ideas for home office spaces here.
Typically, those working from home will be using a computer. Being at the right height and distance from your computer is very important to prevent unnecessary aches and pains. Comfort is always the most important consideration in where and how we work. However, this does not mean working from bed. What we mean here is how easy is it for you to reach your tools (keyboard, trackpad, pens, etc) and are you sitting up straight?
If you’re regularly getting to the end of the working day with an aching lower back then it may be worth changing up your workstation to see if that makes a difference.
Having a designated working space isn’t just about where you have your desk and chair, but also how it’s set up. Minimal is usually preferable – clear space, clear mind. Put anything you don’t need away and include only what you need for the day and perhaps a couple of items that lift the spirits also, such as plants, artwork or family photos.
Take A Lunch Break
Lunch at your desk is not a good idea in the office and it’s not a good idea at home either. Breaks during working hours are important for productivity because productivity is not how long you work but how effectively you use that time.
When you’re tired and struggling to focus, work can feel like walking through mud – it’s slow and difficult to get anywhere. When you’re focused, rested, well-fed and hydrated work flows far better which doesn’t only make time spent working more enjoyable, but also your family time and social time due to the sense of achievement it brings.
Enjoy your lunch break. Catch up on those things you are tempted to become distracted by during working hours and, before you take your lunch break, set a time to return to your desk so that you stay on schedule.
Don’t Get Distracted By Housework
One of the biggest challenges when working from home is overcoming the temptation to clean. Now, ‘temptation’ and ‘cleaning’ may not be words you often hear together yet, for those more used to office work, the home is inevitably a place of different tasks – cooking, cleaning, sorting, relaxing. It can take a while for our brains to compute that being at home now doesn’t necessarily mean slipping into our usual home habits.
If you are going to successfully create a work mentality for yourself in your home then you’ll have to break old habits too. Housework during the working day is not ok. It’s not part of your job and neither is it self-care or time spent that might make you more productive overall. Tidying, laundry, washing up, hoovering and such tasks will only eat into your working day and leave you rushing to catch up with your workload later on.
There are several solutions to this problem. You might change up your routine so that you begin to put aside a set time to clean, outside of working hours. Hopefully, this will result in a clean and tidy house before you begin work. However, this can leave you with the feeling that your home has become a place of constant work, in one form or another.
The second option is to hire a cleaner. Turning your home environment into a workspace is challenging emotionally and it can put pressure on you. Although working from home can be wonderfully freeing, it can take some getting used to and even when you have, it can change the way you feel in your home. It becomes more important than ever for your home to be organised and clean. Being there more often usually increases clutter and certainly washing up, but you will probably find the floors and surfaces need cleaning more often too. Working from home then switching straight to cleaning tasks when the work day ends also means you aren’t getting to enjoy your home. When you’re working this hard, surely you deserve to clock off at the end of the day and sit back in a tidy, clean house and enjoy being there? Isn’t that one of the many reasons we welcome waving goodbye to the daily commute?
At Haus Maids we’ve seen a massive increase in clients reaching out for help with domestic cleaning since they’ve started working from home. For some, it can feel like an indulgence at first, but those home workers who outsource the home clean are always glad they did. It’s one less thing to distract from the important roles they play at work and, for those who work for themselves, it gives back precious, precious time.
Productivity must be approached holistically. In order to be at optimum productivity when working, you must be well in your body. We are, as they say, what we eat, so if you need to be high-functioning you should be mindful of what you consume. Avoid high sugar snacks that will cause a spike, possibly overflow, in energy levels, then leave you crashing. Instead, opt for more slow-burning energy food sources such as nuts and high-in-fibre fruits.
Make time for lunch, sit down (not at your desk) and enjoy your food. One clear advantage of working from home is the ability to eat well, perhaps even cook your lunch. In winter, soups are wonderful and in the summer months, you’ll be able to make fresh salads which, let’s face it, taste far better than ones that have been on a shelf or in a lunchbox all morning.
Remember, food is fuel so feed yourself well and you’ll find your concentration, and therefore your productivity, rising.
Let In The Light
In the UK sun is not something we see as often as we’d like. However, even on dull days, there is usually enough sunlight to make a difference to our mood, if we let it in. Sunlight boosts serotonin, (known as the ‘happy hormone’) production in your brain. This elevates our mood and, as we all recognise, this helps us to focus and approach our work with more enthusiasm. So, open the curtains, move your workspace to a location where the light can reach and let the sunlight do its work whilst you do yours.
Don’t Be Afraid To Reach Out
Working outside of the office environment can be isolating. Especially if you’re used to team working and collaboration. Video meetings work for some better than others and those of us more extravert rely on our peers to fuel our energy. When remote working we may find our passion and motivation wavering, even for those of us who far prefer working from home.
If you’re feeling like this it’s important to recognise this and reach out. Feelings of isolation can affect your ability to focus and therefore your productivity. However, it’s far more than that. For those of us who thrive on activity, energy and company then a lack of social interaction during the working day can affect our mental health.
Employees used to working with others in person should contact their managers if they’re struggling to work alone. A good manager will find ways to enable you to co-work with colleagues, even if it has to be via video conferencing.
For those who are self-employed, a lack of colleagues can be more challenging. However, the self-employed network is vast and many people within it are looking for company, support and co-working opportunities. Look for freelancers, SME owners or self-employed groups online or try networking events. In many cities, there are also co-working spaces available for self-employed individuals and solo entrepreneurs to bring people together and create a more bustling work environment, even if you just use it on occasion. In addition, accountability partners are a great way of setting and meeting goals. Finding an accountability partner gives you both the opportunity to discuss challenges, celebrate achievements, make plans and ensure you stick to them, by scheduling regular meetings and supporting one another in your aspirations.
Final Advice For Home Working
If you’re remote working the best thing you can do is embrace the benefits. Sometimes, without the distraction of office life and office politics, we find a renewed passion for our work and the space to think more creatively.
However, as an experienced home cleaning business, we know how important it is to feel relaxed, happy and inspired at home. So, be kind to yourself and take your time working out how home working will work for you. And give us a call if you’d like the house clean taken off your hands. We provide domestic cleaning services in Cheltenham, Bishop’s Stortford, Winchester, Fleet, Farnham, Alton, Milton Keynes, Guildford and Godalming.