How to be productive working from home

A woman working from home, sat at her desk looking at her laptop.

While working from home was something previously associated with freelancers and people running their own businesses, it has become the norm for many people since the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you're an employer, it’s likely that you and your employees work from home, at least on a hybrid basis. There are plenty of benefits of working from home, but something people can struggle with is productivity and motivation.

Working from home requires just as much commitment as being in an office. This is why it’s so important to learn best practices and to be self-disciplined in order to get the most out of your working day.

So whether you’re an employer who is looking for ways to keep your staff productive, or a self-employed professional who’s wondering how you can be more productive at home, we hope our guide can help.

Create a productive working environment

Being productive at home starts with having a good working environment. Worryingly, a study by Paper Giant, a design consultancy firm, found that nearly 30% of workers said their devices or systems didn’t work as well as those in the office, and almost 35% said that their workspace isn’t as comfortable or ergonomic.

If these things are impacting your ability to work at home, consider making improvements to ensure you’re able to be more productive.

While it can be tempting to work from the sofa, the dining table or even your bed, having a designated work area that’s away from distractions, like the TV or the fridge, could make you more productive. The space should have a proper desk that’s big enough for all of your equipment and stationery and an office chair that’s adjustable for your own comfort.

If you’re an employer, you should ensure that your staff have everything they need for working from home, including the correct hardware and software. Risk assessments can be carried out for both the home and office environment, and a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) workstation assessment can be completed to check the employee’s work environment is suitable and ergonomic. If you or your employees are now meeting clients at home, you may wish to consider taking out public liability insurance, too.

When you have a designated space to work from, it’s easier to stay organised and keep all your paperwork in one place, instead of spread around the house. A to-do list and calendar can be put in prime view, so you never forget another task or meeting, and you won’t be distracted by the dirty dishes or the pile of washing you meant to do at the weekend.

Finally, when it comes to your workspace, you may want to consider some design aspects too. For example, it’s thought that plants can make us more productive thanks to their oxygen output and their calming influence.

Stick to a routine

When working in the office, you have a sense of routine - you might leave the house at a particular time to arrive at work at a set hour and then return home at the same time each day. When working from home, routine can go out the window, but reintroducing it could help you to be more productive. You could take lunch at the same time each day, work set hours as you would in the office or even do a mini commute by walking around the block before sitting down at your desk.

Make sure your family, or whoever you live with, knows that you work between certain hours and shouldn't be distracted during those times unless it's important. If you begin to feel unmotivated or isolated, change the scenery around you and work from a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi for a while.

Dress professionally

While you certainly don't need to put on a power suit to walk from your living room to your home office, getting dressed each day can help you to get mentally prepared for work and be more productive during the day. So, as tempting as it may be, resist the urge to stay in your pyjamas or dressing gown.

Consider wearing something smart such as a shirt and trousers/skirt, or simply what you would choose at a weekend, such as jeans and a top. No matter what you choose to wear, the process of getting ready in the morning adds to your routine and will help you to get in the right frame of mind for the day. Plus, you won’t be taken by surprise if a colleague or client requests an impromptu video call.

Avoid social media during working hours

When you’re working on an electronic device all day, like a laptop, social media can be a big temptation. You likely have your mobile phone on your desk all day, too, which might be alerting you to new posts or interactions on your accounts. It’s easy to pick up your phone and ‘check’ your Facebook or Instagram, and before you know it, 20 minutes have passed.

There may be some things you can do to reduce the allure of social media. For example, you can keep your phone on silent and off your desk while you’re working, putting it in a drawer instead. This can be a good solution, unless you need your phone for work purposes.

Another option is to set your phone to ‘Work’ or ‘Do not disturb’ mode. This mode allows you to choose which apps can notify you during working hours. For instance, you might choose to keep your emails, phone calls, calendar and smart doorbell notifications activated, but switch off notifications for Facebook, Instagram and any other apps that ping during the day and distract you.

Take regular breaks

When working in the office, you might get up to make a drink or turn and chat to the person next to you, but you may find when working from home that you take fewer breaks and spend less time talking to people on your team. Take some time throughout the day to stretch your legs and get away from your desk and you’ll find it’s easier to keep your concentration.

Apply colour psychology

The colours you use in your home office could make a difference to your motivation at home. It’s thought that blue is the best colour for productivity, while green is often chosen for calmness and balance. In a creative industry, yellow might be a better colour as it stimulates emotion. You might want to avoid using red in your home office as this can create a sense of urgency, and might even make you hungry (hence many fast food restaurants use it in their own branding).

Make use of tools and software

Apps and computer tools are very beneficial to business people who work from home as well as those who are office-based. These tools range from time management and organisational apps to computer software such as task management programs and e-invoicing tools.

When working from home, it’s important that you can reach your colleagues easily and effectively. Video calling and conferencing tools can help with this, including Google Meet, Skype and Microsoft Teams. There’s further software that can help you and your colleagues to stay connected, particularly when collaborating on the same projects. These include, Asana and Slack.

For the most highly recommended tools, take a look at our guide on the top 15 remote working tools for freelancers. If you’re a business owner or employer who isn’t already utilising some of these, you can look to get them implemented to make your staff more productive and efficient.    

Has working from home increased productivity?

Working from home is something many of us had to adjust to during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is it actually better than working in an office when it comes to productivity?

A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management in the US found that a massive 77% of employees said they were more productive when working outside the office, while five in 10 staff members said they got more work done in less time or accomplished more in the same amount of time.

Another survey of almost 7,500 employees by global non-profit Catalyst had some perhaps surprising results around working from home. It revealed that when it came to being innovative, six out of 10 employees found it easier to come up with fresh ideas from home as compared to the office. They were also 75% more likely to be engaged and 68% more likely to be committed to their organisation when working from home.

This shows that productivity appears to be higher among home workers.

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