If you have an office three steps away from your kitchen or bedroom; if your dining room table looks like command central; if you have grown accustomed to the business casual on the top – PJs on the bottom look; and if you can put in a load of laundry between calls… you are one of us! Before the pandemic, 17% of the US workforce worked remotely. At its height, when those of us who were deemed “nonessential” left the office and became more familiar with Zoom than we ever wanted, this number hit 70%. It’s since leveled off to about 44%. This is certainly a big step in the evolution of the world of work – but are we getting anything done?
Do distractions from family and friends, technical issues, lack of suitable space, and the looming specter of a sink full of dirty dishes make it difficult to be productive when working from home? Then you’re definitely one of us! We can’t help with the dishes (or… maybe we can), but we can give you some tips for crushing your to-do lists.
Being Productive from Home: What’s Stopping Us?
Kids: “MOMMMM!!! DADDDDD!!!!….I’m hungry!”
Best friend: “Oh hey, you’re home? I’m gonna stop by!”
Partner: “You need to clear off this table… The kitchen looks like an office.”
Lawn: “Mow me!”
Internet: “Not now; I’m tired.”
What’s stopping us from being productive? Well… all of this and more. According to a recent YouGov survey, several factors can impede our workflow and ability to concentrate, focus, and get it all done. Top distractors and detractors from productivity:
- Distractions from family or household members
- Maintaining proper relationships with colleagues
- Finding a suitable workspace
- Balancing work with other home duties
- Decreased focus
- Technical issues (only 65% of Americans have internet fast enough to handle video calls)
- Balancing work with childcare
How does anyone get anything done!
Rising to the Challenges of Working from Home
Here’s the good – and perhaps surprising – news about working from home:
- A Stanford study of 16,000 workers found that working from home increased productivity by 13%. That’s right: increased. Researcher’s attribute this to quieter, more convenient work environments; you’re also likely to take fewer breaks and sick days. Plus, “traffic was awful” doesn’t really apply.
- This study also found that remote working improved work satisfaction while attrition rates dropped by 50%.
- 77% of folks who work remotely at least a few days a month achieved increased productivity; 30% did more work in less time, and 24% did more work in the same period of time.
And here’s an interesting statistic for our home artisan crowd: workers who are assigned boring or tedious tasks will get them done (and done better) in an office setting. They’re more likely to succumb to distractions if at home. On the other hand, when work is creative, we are less likely to become distracted and more likely to get the job done quickly.
Ok… so what does all this mean? It is certainly positive in that it tells us that we can be productive when working from home, especially in our creative field. You may just need to make a few adjustments to your schedule, routine, and space.
So let’s get to it!
5 Tips for Being Productive When Working from Home
Ready to get more done – including the dishes?
1.Get Up, Get Dressed, Get Ready
Anyone else just roll out of bed with only a pitstop at the coffee pot before getting to work? It may sound like you’re being productive – think of all the time you used to waste getting dressed! But it is counterproductive. Heather Yurovsky, career coach and founder of Shatter & Shine, says, “Don’t underestimate the power of putting on clothes suitable for public viewing. It makes you feel human [and] confident and helps draw the line between being at work and being at home.”
So, get ready for work: shower, dress in pants without a drawstring, brush your teeth, shave or do your hair, put on some makeup, whatever your normal routine – do it. That half hour or so is not time wasted; think of it like your commute to work.
2.Go to the “Office”
Once you are dressed to impress (or at least in some nice jeans and a good top), you’re ready for work. So, go to the “office.” Not all of us have the luxury of a home office but we can carve out a dedicated workspace. Resist the temptation to “spread out” all over the house: going from dining room table to couch to bed to living room floor may seem like the height of convenience, but it makes it much more difficult to maintain the lines between work and home. We can already hear the distractions clamoring for your attention!
If you don’t have an office, can you put a desk in an unused corner or a guest room? Can you clean out a little bit of the garage, attic, or basement, and set up shop there? Apartment Therapy has some terrific tips for squeezing a dedicated workspace into a small home/apartment. (And they look great too!).
While many people, especially those in creative fields, love the flexibility of working from home (the Muse strikes when she wants, after all), many others find it helpful to establish “work hours.” Say you start at 8:00, take a break at 10:00, get lunch at 12:00, and then power through until 4:00. What type of schedule will work for you, and when is your focus at its sharpest? Nail this down – and stick to it. Consistency is one of the most important keys of productivity.
Having regular “office hours” (even if it’s not 9:00-5:00; if 7:00am – 11:00am and then 4:00pm to 7:00pm is best for you, by all means!) can also help minimize distractions from household members and from household chores. If they wouldn’t call you at work to ask you for a snack or to help them change a lightbulb, then they shouldn’t when you’re working at home. If the laundry/dishes/lawn/mopping waited for after-hours or the weekend before, they can do so again. Set these expectations with your family, friends, and yourself.
This Is Hard
We understand that childcare, particularly for those with younger kids, is incredibly challenging for those working from home. As schools, daycares, camps, and enrichment programs open back up, try to take advantage of these options so you can ensure your child(ren) is cared for while you work. If you have family, friends, neighbors, or “pods” that you can share responsibilities with, get those systems in place. Consistent routines and schedules for both them and you can also help you manage more effectively.
And sometimes, you just need to call it a day when your kids take priority. More employers are starting to get it. If you are an employer, find ways to build flexibility into your workflow so remote workers can live and work in balance.
3.Eat the Frog
Mark Twain once wrote, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Turns out it is pretty useful advice for those of us working from home. For many of us, the best time to tackle an important task is first thing in the morning. Studies show that creative activity is at its height during and immediately after sleep – and so is willpower. Our brains are firing on all cylinders (especially after a cuppa joe).
Don’t waste your creative brain space checking emails – which is what most of us do first! Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email In the Morning, says, “Those requests and those interruptions and those unexpected surprises and those reminders and problems are endless… there is very little that cannot wait a minimum of 59 minutes.” So go ahead: eat the frog.
4.Get Out of There
Sometimes the best way to be productive when working from home is to get the heck out of there. It can be helpful to take advantage of a coworking solution. At Hub & Spoke in Fishers, Indiana, for instance, you can access dedicated, lockable offices and open workspaces, a conference room, collaboration space, high-speed internet (as mentioned, this is a big issue for many remote workers), networking events, and more.
Another great option is to join Home Artisans of Indiana. This is a community of like-minded home improvement professionals that will enrich your days, allow for engagement in your field, and help you develop strong, meaningful relationships with peers.
Some of the biggest impediments to productivity for remote workers relate to a lack of connection with colleagues, loneliness, and boredom. You can overcome these challenges by coming together with other professionals, talking shop, collaborating, creating, and being part of a vibrant community. “Working from home” doesn’t mean you have to work only from home!
5.Know When to Clock-Out
A major productivity-killer is trying to burn the candle at both ends. We mentioned the importance of getting dressed, of attending to your morning pre-work routine, and of establishing consistent work hours. And we cannot stress enough the importance of closing the door (either literally or by walking away from the desk in your living room) at the end of your “shift.” Research shows that 80% of remote workers find it difficult to “shut off” in the afternoon/evening.
You are not at work all the time, nor should that be the expectation to which anyone – including you – holds you. Clock out. Take time to enjoy your family and friends, to volunteer, to exercise, to make healthy meals, to sleep… to live your life. Take a vacation or personal day, while you’re at it. These are forms of compensation we expect in the workplace; expect nothing less when that workplace is your home.
These self-care steps keep us sane; they keep us happy; they keep us creative… and they keep us productive.
Connect with Your Peers
Working from home is both wonderful and challenging. To connect with others in your field who are experiencing the same trials, tribulations, and triumphs, visit HAOI.