More people than ever before are working from home. In fact, 43 percent of U.S. workers said they spend at least some time every year working from home in a 2017 Gallup poll.
There are a number of reasons why working from home has become such a popular option, from cutting down on transportation costs to boosting productivity and efficiency.
But remote work is not totally free of obstacles. For many people who work from home – especially those who work from home full-time – maintaining productivity can be a struggle. Offices are designed to promote focus. Our houses? Not necessarily.
Here are five ways to beat back distraction and stay productive while working from home:
1. Structure Your Days in Advance
Waking up, working, and going back to sleep day after day in the same space can bring cabin fever on pretty quickly – especially if you’re stuck in a small New York City apartment. Using a calendar to plan your days and even weeks ahead of time is a great way to ensure that you’re not only getting work done but also doing other things outside your home, like exercising and spending time with friends and family.
Making sure you have things to do outside of work not only gets you out of your home, but also gives you something to which you can look forward, motivating yourself to get your work done for the day.
2. Eat Well
Those who work in office buildings may have the option of eating in a cafeteria or choosing from a myriad of neighborhood restaurants when lunch time rolls around. Those of us who work at home don’t have it so glamorous.
It’s easy to raid the pantry and snack all day, but that doesn’t contribute to productivity – or your health.
Eating a balanced diet can actually boost productivity. Moreover, preparing meals in advance can save you a few hours every week. That’s a big chunk of time, especially if you’re freelancing and working on tight deadlines.
That said, old habits die hard. Be sure to buy healthy snacks to munch on during the day when the craving strikes.
3. Get Some Fresh Air
As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to get cabin fever when you’re in the same place all day and night, so it’s crucial to get some fresh air when you can. Try waking up early and going for a walk before your work day begins, or take a break in between projects.
According to Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, taking a break can reenergize you when your productivity is slipping. Schedule time for a run, walk, or gym session each day and try to stick to it. Treat your breaks just like any other work task and get them done. You’ll be happy you did.
4. Create a Working Environment in Your Home Office
The place you choose to work is entirely up to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room in your home, you might work there and keep it as a separate study. If you don’t have that luxury, you can get creative and turn part of your living room into a dedicated workspace.
The essentials for a productivity-oriented workspace are:
- Good lighting: Don’t skimp on the lamp or lighting in your room or at your desk.
- Ergonomic chair and desk (or standing desk): Make comfort a priority; you’re going to spend most of your day in this spot.
- Accessibility to the things you need: This includes anything that is fundamental to your daily work, i.e., equipment, tools, devices, cables, etc. The specifics will differ depending on your profession, but make sure whatever you need is within reach of, or as close as possible to, your workspace.
5. Build Strong Habits
Create a daily routine that will help you do your tasks in a timely manner. For example, remote worker Jana McDonough says this can be as simple as getting up every morning and putting on jeans. She claims that wearing sweatpants makes her feel sluggish, but the jeans get her in the right productive mindset.
Think of your current working arrangement at your home and ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable when I’m working, or would I rather be sitting/standing somewhere else?
- Do I have everything I need within my reach, or do I regularly have to rummage around my home to find things?
- How often do I go outside each day?
- How often do I stretch or exercise each day?
- Do I have a daily routine, or do I just get up and work on the next thing on my to-do list?
Use these questions to help identify some potential productivity bottlenecks in your current home office. You can then implement any of the above five tips to ensure you’re making the most of your working hours at home.
Stephanie Sharlow is the chief editor of DesignRush.