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A Guide To Staying Productive When Working From Home

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April 26, 2021

While it is easy to be productive when you are at the office, it can be difficult to concentrate and get work done on time when you are working from home. 

In our current context when a pandemic is raging outside, staying home for months takes a toll on our focus and motivation. Though some people do find remote work more convenient than working in the office, for many others, productivity goes down when they work from home due to distractions of the household environment, especially for those with children. 

With so much uncertainty of the future, we have no option but to acclimatize ourselves with the new normal life, though it may seem hard in the beginning. Here are some suggestions that can help you to stay productive and maintain your work-life balance when working remotely. 

1. Select a specific workspace

With the right setup, you can be more organized and productive and get more work done in less time, enabling you to get out of your home office and spend more time with your family.

As every home is different, it is better to make the best use of the available space.  Your workspace can be a separate room or even a small table by the kitchen. While choosing a workspace, it is better to keep some characteristics of the space in mind that can help you to concentrate on your work better:

  • Away from noise: According to a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers, the majority of the workers can concentrate better when the noise decreases. So it is important to select a space away from noisy environments such as the living room, to keep your focus undisturbed.
  • Well Lit: Lighting is directly related to a person’s mood and focus. Besides, a well-lit space reduces strain on the eye. A person’s performance can be significantly affected if the workspace is too dark or too bright. So make sure your workspace is well lit. A recent study shows that natural light is important for the soundness of the mind and better performance. So try to choose a space beside the window as your workspace. If it is not possible, at least choose an artificial light that does not cause strain on your eyes.
  • A desk: It may seem tempting to work in bed or on the couch while you are at home. Because no one is watching you. But it can actually hamper your productivity and ultimately have a negative effect on your performance. So it is better to choose a desk which can give you a feel of the office at home. Besides, it will also help you to be more organized.
  • Everything within reach: You do not need to completely disconnect yourself from everything while working. Try to choose a workspace where everything is within reach.

2.  Organize your workspace

An organized space reflects an organized mind. Since you have to work for long hours in a remote office and it is easy to be distracted while working from home and get stressed, it is better to organize your workspace to keep track of your work and save time. Moreover, in an organized space you will have to spend less time looking for things. An organized workspace will also help you to be more productive and focused.

You can organize your workspace in your own style. You can keep it simple consisting of your laptop, papers, and other necessary items, or add some colors by using plants, small showpieces, photos of your loved ones, etc. You can use sticky notes to keep track of your daily tasks and it will also help you to make your workspace a bit colorful. Sticky notes are also very handy during brainstorming.

Make sure to keep enough breathing space on your desk so that you don’t feel overwhelmed seeing the pile of paper in front of you. Customize your workspace according to your own style to feel comfortable working there.

Working in a comfortable workspace will also have a positive effect on your mind, keeping you positive and motivated throughout the day. Keep a bin near your desk to throw anything useless there.  


3. Establish specific working hours

Although working hours are more flexible when you are working remotely, it is better to stick to certain working hours. Maintaining a schedule will help you to stay focused and get your work done on time. Maintaining a specific work schedule will also help you to maintain consistency and make any plan beforehand. More importantly, without a certain working hour, your work could spread all across your waking hours causing an imbalance in other areas of your life. 

Try to find out when you are most productive. If you are a night owl, then it is better to work at night and vice versa. But it is also true that the company meetings will not be scheduled according to your active hours. Thus make a schedule to keep a balance, so that your productivity does not drop when working from home. Using a calendar to schedule your work is an effective way to keep track of your tasks and deadlines.


4. Get rid of distractions

According to Harvard Business Review, an employee gets interrupted 50-60 times a day on average and 80% of these interruptions are unimportant. According to research conducted by Mckinsey & Company, nowadays people spend less time in their flow state where people are upto five percent more productive. 

In a home office, it is even harder to concentrate as the household environment is not made for office work. To avoid distractions while working, you could follow the following strategies:

  • Turn off push notifications: It is easy for the human mind to get distracted because of push notifications, especially social media push notifications. According to a report, an executive receives 46 push notifications per day on average. So before starting your work turn off push notifications. If possible, turn on the airplane mood.
  • Let your family know your work schedule: Let your family members know when to not disturb you and when you will be available. Put boundaries, so that you can focus on your work better.
  • Avoid multitasking: Though in the modern world there is a trend of multitasking among employees, according to Psychology Today, even a quick check of emails and notifications can lead to 40% productivity loss. It’s better to avoid multitasking and focus on one task at a time. Batch check your emails and notifications at a predetermined time so that you do not get distracted during work.

5. Divide your working hours into time slots

Also widely known as the “Pomodoro Technique” where you break down your working hours into two parts: work and interval.

In the conventional Pomodoro technique, you set a timer for 25 minutes and work for 25 minutes straight without any distractions and then take a five minutes break and work for another 25 minutes afterward. Then take a longer break after every four sessions. 

A study shows that taking a short break in between your work helps you get rid of cognitive boredom which can occur due to working for long hours and helps your attention span stay on track. We usually feel demotivated when we have to work for long hours, even before starting. Implementing the Pomodoro technique will help you to feel rewarded every time you work for 25 minutes and take a break, keeping you motivated to finish your task.

If you have a longer attention span and think that the technique will not work for you well, then you can modify the time frame in your own way. For example, you can follow the 52/17 rule, where you take a break for 17 minutes after working for 52 minutes straight.

Experiment with your working hours and find the best technique that works for you. Also try to keep yourself away from quickly checking your social media during intervals, which will make it hard for you to get back to your work and concentrate again. Instead, listen to music or do some light exercises or meditate or simply do nothing to give your brain a rest during the break time, so that you can focus on your work fast, afterward.


6. Enjoy your breaks

In today’s world, the unhealthy obsession with success encourages us to be a workaholic and not take a break from our work, even for a day. But taking a break is as important as getting your work done. According to a report from University College London, taking breaks helps us to improve our memory, serves as an energy boost, reduces stress, improves health, and boosts performance and creativity. 

Taking a break from your work is important as it works as a reset button for you, keeping you motivated. If you push yourself too far, it will actually slowly deteriorate your performance and can eventually lead to burnout. Not taking a break can even have a negative impact on your focus and creativity. As a result, you will have little work done, despite working for long hours. 

Therefore try to finish your work on weekdays and within your scheduled time, so that you can spend quality time with your family in your spare time and weekends. After all, your well-being and your loved ones are important as well.

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Tithi Chowdhury is an undergraduate student majoring in Botany at the University of Dhaka. She is a Trainee Analyst at Future Startup and looks after our Collective Knowledge initiative where she prepares interviews and writes articles on interesting topics. She is a voracious reader and loves listening to podcasts in her spare time.

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