Back in 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 5.2% of the American workforce — or 8 million people — worked from home. But as a direct result of the pandemic, it’s clear that millions more are now working remotely when possible. Whether you’re relatively new to working from home or you’re an experienced member of the WFH brigade, it’s likely that COVID-19 has thrown some curveballs your way. Even if you’re fortunate enough to still be gainfully employed, you might understandably have some difficulty staying focused right now. Here are just a few tips to help you be more productive when working from home — despite everything else that’s going on around you.
Stick Close to Your Office Routine
When you can work from home, it’s certainly tempting to stay in your pajamas all day and type while you’re cozy under the covers. But that can make it much harder to get into a productive frame of mind. Working from bed is rarely a good idea when you have the choice; not only will you want to nap during the day, but you might actually end up feeling restless at night if your workstation doubles as your place of slumber. At the very least, you should change out of your PJs into another outfit (even if it’s just loungewear!) and establish some kind of morning routine. Rather than rolling out of bed and still being in a state of stupor when it’s time to clock in, you should aim to work out, shower, or make breakfast prior to starting the day. You’ll likely feel more energized and will experience increased concentration if you do.
Clear Out the Clutter
If you aren’t accustomed to working from home, you might be making do with the kitchen table or the couch. These spots aren’t ideal, as they’ll require you to share your space and even work in uncomfortable positions. And even if you have an actual home office, you might find that it’s become overrun with boxes, assorted papers, and spillover from other rooms.
Wherever your workstation is, it’s a good idea to clear out the clutter in order to think more clearly. Studies have shown that it’s much harder to be focused and productive when you’re surrounded by mess, so you can’t expect to work at full capacity when your workspace is overflowing with clutter. That might mean you’ll need to devote some time to sorting through your home and renting a storage unit for overflow. Since the U.S. storage unit industry generates around $22 billion in revenue, there’s probably a convenient storage location nearby. However, you might also consider donating certain items to organizations in need within your community and doing a deep clean to get rid of junk and to sanitize surfaces — a must during our current health crisis. You might be surprised by how focused you feel when you don’t feel stressed by your surroundings.
Choose a Comfortable Temperature
Did you know that how hot or cold a room is can have a direct impact on how productive you are? A Cornell University study found that productivity levels are highest when the temperature of a room is 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your only workspace is in an area that’s prone to heat and humidity, chances are that you aren’t getting much done.
It’s a good idea to invest in a wall air conditioning unit (or at least a fan) to get through the summer. A dehumidifier may also be a good idea, particularly if your home office is in the basement or you’re located in an area that tends to get muggy during this time of year. Additionally, if you have the hourly flexibility, it might behoove you to get the bulk of your work done in the early morning, before temperatures rise, or in the evening once it starts to get cooler outside.
Set Clear Boundaries
It might sound counterintuitive to set boundaries as a means of amplifying productivity, but this can actually be quite effective. Working from home tends to blur the lines between our professional and personal lives; it’s all too easy to open your laptop or answer an email outside of normal business hours. But if you don’t set those boundaries with your availability, you’ll probably end up feeling resentful and burned out before too long.
Whether this involves sticking to specific working hours each day, blocking off your Google Calendar to ensure you schedule in time for your family, taking breaks as needed, or sticking to a fun ritual when you clock out for the evening, remember that you put boundaries in place to protect your well-being — not to control the behavior of other people. By prioritizing your own needs, you’ll feel more active and focused when it’s time to work while still making time for what matters.
Working remotely, as many people have already found out, is a lot harder than it seems. If you’re continuing to work from home during and even after the pandemic, these productivity tips will make it much easier to get everything done and maintain your sanity.