10 Great Ideas to Improve Your Productivity when You Work From Home

| 9 min read

I love working from home. I love the fact that I can crawl out of bed 5 minutes before work and still be on time. It thrills me that there’s no dress code and if I want to work in my birthday suit, I can. In fact, the Interaction Design Foundation’s philosophy of “work where you want” has allowed us to bring together a team of incredible talents and collaborative projects are a joy to work on too.

What I don’t love so much… is that with this much freedom, it’s sometimes hard to be as productive as I need to be. With that in mind, I’ve put together a short list of tips that might help others overcome this hurdle (they help me):

You Need a Working Space

Sure, you can always work at a coffee shop or from the beach but it’s still a good idea to have a space at home that’s dedicated to work. That’s my kitchen table. It gives me the space to run a desktop (handy when you want a big screen to work on). The coffee machine is within easy reach (preventing a coffee making trip from turning into an hour’s time waster). It’s also airy in the space and comfortable. It feels like I’m at work and that makes it easier to work.

You Need a Routine

It sounds great; the idea that you can work when you feel like. It also doesn’t work very well. You can’t burn both ends of the candle in your social life and expect to produce anything useful in the space between. You don’t have to work 9 to 5 mind you. I am most productive in the early morning 7-11 a.m. and then again in the early evening 3-7 p.m. Having a routine lets you focus on work and schedule other stuff in the time you have spare.

Author/Copyright holder: Anna Vital. Copyright terms and licence: All rights reserved.

You Need to Be Free of Distractions

Of course, this is nothing but a pipe dream. You can’t stop your partner from coming home and telling you about their day. You can’t stop the cat from yowling when it’s in heat. You can, however, explain your routine to the human inhabitants of the home. You can learn to check your e-mails at the start, middle and end of the day rather than every 5 minutes. You can turn your mobile on silent. You can, essentially, cut down on the distractions that eat into your productivity.

You Need to Do Other Things

It can be very easy when you work from home to end up glued to your chair. That’s not good for your health or your productivity. Make sure that you build in time to exercise (at least take a walk) and get out of your work space. Working from home should not mean working round the clock any more than it should mean never working at all…

Author/Copyright holder: IvanClow. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC 2.0

You Want to Eat Healthily

Sitting on your backside all day at home is fraught with risk anyway. It’s said that every hour spent sat down is a serious drain on your health. So don’t push yourself any further over the edge by living on a diet of McD’s and Coca-Cola. I appreciate this is easier said than done. While I have no fast food joints available where I am…. Coca-Cola is much harder to resist. It’s got to be done though. The more junk you eat, the harder it is to find any motivation to get stuff finished.

Author/Copyright holder: Michigan Municipal League. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-ND 2.0

You Need to Protect Your Work From Others

It’s shocking how many people seem to think that because you work from home, you don’t have a job at all. Friends will turn up at the front door and demand that you go shopping, eating, drinking, etc. Because somehow you will magically find more time to do the work, which they don’t consider real work, later.

You need to have a conversation with friends like these and gently but firmly explain that you have a real job and can’t give into their requests – no matter how much you want to.

You Might Need to Put Some Clothes On

Whilst I may occasionally turn up with what god gave me at birth for clothes at work… most of the time I get dressed for it. Why? The act of getting dressed is something that you take on in corporate life. It reminds you that you are going to work and not just slobbing in front of the telly all day. It also prevents you from accidentally flashing colleagues and clients when you answer a Skype call with the video switched on.

You Need Professional Connections and Conversations

I am lucky, I am part of a team at the Interaction Design Foundation and yes, we do talk to each other and send messages to bounce ideas round. Some work from home folks don’t have a team – in this case, it’s a good idea to throw yourself into LinkedIn networking (or better still local “real life” networking) groups. This lets you recharge your batteries and also keep up to date with developments in your field.

Author/Copyright holder: Shekhar_Sahu. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

You Need to Watch Your Internet Use

Doing research is a good thing. But it’s very easy for research to lead you into distraction. We’ve all spent at least one day on Wikipedia letting each link take us further from our original topic in sheer fascination at all the data out there. This is fine for fun. At work it just costs us precious time that could be spent getting stuff done instead.

You Might Consider Co-Working Spaces

Co-working spaces are often a great alternative to working from home. If you find it hard to be productive at home then a casual office environment with lots of free coffee might be a better place to spend, at least some of, your time. You may also find it helps with networking, idea generation, and a ton of other things. It’s also less distracting than a Starbucks full of people having a good time and not working at all.

Header Image: Author/Copyright holder: Ashley Brown. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-NC 2.0

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