Article by Sam Radbil
More Americans are working from home now than ever before. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 50 percent of American workers have jobs that are “compatible with at least partial telework.” Technological advances have made it possible to hold meetings, collaborate with team members, and complete tasks in real time without ever setting foot in an office.
This is all great news for workers, but is it great news for productivity? When a roaming supervisor is replaced by a friendly TV, it can be hard to stay on task. How do you ensure you actually work when you’re working from home?
At, ABODO, we’ve fully embraced telecommuting. Several of our team members live hundreds of miles away from our Madison, Wisconsin, headquarters, and even those who do live in town have the option to work from home. Here are four tips for home office productivity that we, as an organization, have found helpful:
1. Get Dressed in the Morning
Early in his career, Pulitzer- and National Book Award-winning writer John Cheever maintained an interesting writing routine: Each day he would get up, shower, dress in a suit, and leave his apartment with a briefcase in hand. He’d take the elevator with the rest of the building’s businessmen, and when they got off on the first floor, he’d continue down to the basement. There, Cheever would remove his suit, hang it on the back of his chair, and write until 5 p.m., at which point he’d put the suit back on and ride the elevator to his apartment.
For Cheever, writing fiction was a job, and it deserved to be treated like one. Although you don’t have to go full suit and tie for your home office, getting dressed can help you concentrate and accord your work the respect it deserves. Taking a shower, combing your hair, brushing your teeth and wearing an outfit at least one level up from pajamas can make a huge difference in how you view your work. Plus, if any video calls come through, you won’t have to disable your camera.
2. Close the Door
One of the biggest enemies of productivity is distraction, and distraction tends to abound when you’re working from home.
But distraction doesn’t always take the form you might think – e.g., a droning television or a close-at-hand video game console. Often, working from home leads to multitasking. It’s tempting to try to do everything at once, to write that report while you wash your clothes and cook a delicious meal in your crockpot. You just have to pop into the store for a couple ingredients – and wait, have you paid your electricity bill yet?
Proximity to your domestic tasks can make it hard to focus on the work at hand. This is why it’s important to have a space dedicated only to the work you’re paid to do. A home office – or at least a corner of the room where you won’t be tempted to try your hand at baking a pie – can help you separate your home life from your work life. If you have a home office, close the door. If you don’t, find some way to physically separate yourself from your immediate surroundings. Noise-canceling headphones can work wonders.
3. Sit at a Real Desk
Your couch will call to you. Your easy chair will call to you. Your bed will call to you. Do not listen to them.
Sitting up improves focus, circulation, and – according to a 2009 study – “thought-confidence”: the belief that your thoughts are sophisticated and sound. Sitting at a desk is a subtle reminder to your wandering eye that you are, in fact, working, even though you’re at home. Also important: Sitting up while you work means you are less likely to accidentally sleep through your 4:30 p.m. conference call.
4. Set a Timer
In an office, the rhythms of a workday are set by outside forces. You get to work at the agreed-upon hour, you have meetings at set times, and you leave when it’s time to clock out. It’s easy to plan your tasks around these regular occurrences.
Things are a little looser when you work from home. Time can seem limitless, expanding to the horizon of your day. It’s easy to think that you’ll have plenty of time to do everything you need to do … later. Then, when 5:00 p.m. hits, you realize you haven’t finished anything.
A timer or an alarm clock is a good idea, as it allows you to break your day into discrete segments and budget your time accordingly. Maybe you only want to spend 15 minutes on email, but you need a longer chunk to brainstorm strategy for a team project. Setting alarms will help you proactively approach small, attainable goals, and the constant threat of the ding of the alarm serves as a spur to productivity.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.
Sam Radbil is a contributing member of the marketing and communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. In three years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees and raised more than $8 million in outside funding to help more than 500,000 renters find new homes each month.