Working from home is awesome ... right up until the cat throws up on your computer and your neighbor, who you can only assume is building a time machine, starts firing up all sorts of power tools and noisy machinery across the street. Mix in your kids needing help with distance learning and it can quickly become overwhelming and frustrating.
For many modern professionals working from home every once in a while is a luxury that our respective companies afford us, but with the current environment, most companies that are able to have employees work remotely are opting to do so.
Which environment actually allows us to be more productive: the home office or the office office?
In the office office, your coworkers often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, heads-down work done. They drop by your desk, engage you in conversation, and invite you to lunch. The social benefits of a workplace are definitely nice to have, but they can become a challenge if you're easily distracted.
At the home office, however, I find that it's easy for you to become your own worst enemy. Because when you're not surrounded by coworkers, you're free to drop those pesky inhibitions. At the home office, no one's watching. You don't necessarily feel that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. (Also: You don't have to wear pants.)
Below are some tricks & tips for keeping you productive!
Get started early.When working in an office, your morning commute can help you wake up and feel ready to work by the time you get to your desk. At home, however, the transition from your pillow to your computer can be much more jarring.
Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you'll prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.
Pretend like you are going into the office.The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there's no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting.
When working from home, do all the things you would do to prepare for an office role: Set your alarm, make coffee, and wear nice clothes. Internet browsers like Google Chrome even allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top -- for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work.
Structure your day like you would in the office.When working from home, you are your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out.
To stay on schedule, segment what you'll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Google Calendar makes this easy.
Choose a dedicated work space.Just because you're not working at an office doesn't mean you can't, well, have an office. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch -- spaces that are associated with leisure time -- dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work.
Make it harder for yourself to mess around on social media.Social media is designed to make it easy for you to open and browse quickly. At work, though, this convenience can be the detriment of your productivity.
To counteract your social networks' ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and, according to Fast Company, log out of every account. You might even consider working primarily in a private or, if you're using Chrome, an "Incognito" browser window. This ensures you stay signed out of all your accounts and each web search you conduct doesn't autocomplete the word you're typing. It's a guarantee that you won't be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day.
Commit to doing more.Projects always take longer than you initially think they will. For that reason, you'll frequently get done less than you set out to do. So, just as you are encouraged to overestimate how much time you'll spent doing one thing, you should also overestimate how many things you'll do during the day. Even if you come up short of your goal, you'll still come out of that day with a solid list of tasks filed under 'complete.'
Use technology to stay connected.Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the larger operation happening in the office. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to check in with coworkers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture.
Match your music to the task at hand.During the week, music is the soundtrack to your career (cheesy, but admit it, it's true). And at work, the best playlists are diverse playlists -- you can listen to music that matches the energy of the project you're working on. Video game soundtracks are excellent at this. In the game itself, this lyric-free music is designed to help you focus; it only makes sense that it would help you focus on your work as well.
Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you.Of course, you might be working from home but still have "company." Make sure any roommates, siblings, parents, spouses, and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) respect your space during work hours. Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you're home.
Take clear breaks.It can be so easy to get distracted as a telecommuter that you avoid breaks altogether. Don't let the guilt of working in the building you sleep in prevent you from taking five to relax. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, however, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house.
Interact with other humans.Remember: You're working from home, not the moon. Interacting with other people during the day is allowed, even if they're not your coworkers. In fact, it's a good idea to see another face during the day when most of your work day is solitary.
Pick a definitive finishing time each day.
You might be under the impression that working from home establishes more work-life balance, but be careful with that assumption. Working from home can also feel like being at a casino -- you can get so caught up in your activity, in a relaxing environment, that you lose complete track of time.
In lieu of coworkers, whose packing up and leaving the office reminds you to do the same, set an alarm at the end of the day to indicate your normal work day is coming to an end. You don't have to stop at exactly that time, but knowing the work day is technically over can help you start the process of saving your work and calling it quits for the evening.