Working from home productivity tips

Working from home is a simple way for startups to cut costs, but productivity can suffer. Learn how to keep output high in your own home office with these productivity tips.

One of the keys to making a new business work is keeping costs down until the operations gain adequate traction. This requires flexibility, innovation and looking beyond traditional models of working. One way to eliminate the costs of office rent and travel, and save time is to work from home.

Working from home has never been easier. With cloud-based tools such as Skype, Google Docs and others, new businesses now need to justify investing in offices and travel. However, making it work needs colossal amounts of self-motivation and discipline – there are plenty of distractions to tear you away from your work. Here are some tips to ensure that working from home is productive and effective.

Home office environment

  • Recreate the work environment
    Try to avoid working from the kitchen table or the couch. Find a space in your home that you can exclusively use as your workspace with your desk, computer, printer and any other equipment you need. Make this work area as quiet and comfortable as you need it to be, with good lighting and heating.

  • Get rid of the clutter 
    A clear desk can lead to a clear mind, allowing thoughts and processes to flow smoothly. It also saves time with things coming to hand more easily. Remove anything you don’t need for your work.

  • Don’t ignore ergonomics
    You can’t be productive if you’re not comfortable. Research the sort of chair you need and adjust its height so that you are not slouching and straining your back or neck. Long term aches, pains and fatigue are often caused by poor posture in the workplace.

  • Dress for success
    It can be tempting to ignore your appearance and spend all day in your pyjamas or a tracksuit. But it can take you out of work mode, leaving you open to distractions. According to Dr. Karen Pine, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire and fashion psychologist, "a lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it's 'professional work attire' or 'relaxing weekend wear', so when we put it on we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning."

Work schedule

  • Set your work hours
    Treat work like you are in an office and maintain regular hours. Be firm with yourself and others that during work hours you will not have time for a chat with mum or a coffee with a friend. Communicate your hours to your clients and manage expectations so that they are aware of your availability. You have the flexibility to set your work hours. Stick to the time you have set as an end point, and enjoy yourself. Just because you don’t have to physically leave the office doesn’t mean you don’t mentally need to switch off. 

  • Set yourself daily tasks, prioritise and track your time
    Take some time each morning to plan your activities and be aware of how much time you spend on each task. If you’re doing client-based work, make a note of the time spent on each client and maintain a timesheet. Different activities have different priorities. Complete your most important tasks first. Batch your emails and telephone calls so that you don’t spend all day responding to them. Set aside time slots throughout the day to catch up with your correspondence.

Work efficiency tips

  • Minimise sources of distraction 
    It is very easy to get distracted when you work from home. Turn off anything that might distract you during the hours you need to concentrate and focus on specific tasks. You might put your phone on airplane mode, turn off social media and messaging notifications, and download concentration apps like Self-control, Anti-Social, and Rescue Time.

  • Use available technology to increase productivity 
    There are plenty of apps that can manage your calendar, meetings, to dos, notes, finances and documents. Use them. Some of the most popular apps are Evernote, Fantastical 2, Due and Dropbox.

Find the right balance

  • Make sure you take regular breaks 
    Taking frequent breaks can increase productivity and creative thinking, and prevent stress and exhaustion. A short walk or run around the block, or a trip to the shops might be a good way to rejuvenate yourself. You might want to try the Pomodoro Technique which forces you to work in 25 minute modules with a 5-minute break after each module.

  • Avoid loneliness
    One of the key drawbacks of working from home is that it can get very lonely. There is no scope for a watercooler chat so it’s important that you set aside time for some social activity. Plan to attend a weekly networking event, meet with your clients in a cafe, go to the gym or join a class – anything that involves interaction with other people. Without that extra effort home working can be very isolating.

  • Consider a combination 
    For many people, working from home day in and day out can be very isolating and lonely. Consider using shared spaces like WeWork and CentralWorking, that allow for the flexibility of home working and the social, collaborative aspect of being in an office environment. Of course, there is a cost associated with using such spaces, limit your usage to once or twice a week to get the best of both worlds.

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