Anyone who has had to spend more than a few months working from home will know that it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are some downsides, and productivity isn’t always what it should be, with home/life distractions and lack of motivation. Even though recent studies have shown that people who work from home tend to be much more productive, the opposite can be true as well.
Keep in mind that many recent studies showing increased productivity mostly take people into account who have recently started working from home. So the long-term effects aren’t as well documented. Older studies have also found that people find more ways/reasons to distract themselves at home, especially when the work is kind of boring or repetitive.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are surprisingly simple techniques and habits that will help increase productivity and motivation while working from home.
1. Keep to a Regular Schedule
The hardest part of working from home is that inevitable work/life blend where the line between the two becomes blurred. Lots of people fall hard into this trap and end up working a lot of overtime – that they usually don’t get paid for. Others struggle to get through their work for the day, and productivity suffers.
This happens because they don’t set up a regular schedule and stick to it. People are creatures of habit, and having a schedule helps with maintaining motivation and getting productivity spikes.
Not everyone’s schedule has to look the same, however. Some people get more work done in the mornings, while others work better in the afternoons. Quick intermittent breaks are helpful for some, but others prefer working through a good block of hours before taking a break. The key is to find what works and to stick with it.
2. Set Hard Limits on Social Media
Social media is one of the biggest distractions for people who work from home. It’s all too easy to open up a new tab or click on an app and scroll away for a few minutes. Those minutes quickly add up into hours of work-time wasted. Not to mention the constant disruption to workflow, which can be aided by helpful short breaks, but constant social media interruptions aren’t constructive.
3. Get the Important Stuff Sorted Out First
The least thought-about but essential things need to get set up, so the work goes smoothly going forward. This includes having a good setup with the right size desk and an ergonomic chair – no hunching over while sitting on the couch. It’s important to have an office space set aside that is used for that purpose only (if possible). This helps with getting into that mind-shift to go from work to home life and vice versa, as it’s essential to keep the two separate.
The other important thing is security – this tends to be an afterthought for many people. In addition to getting all the necessary work tools installed, cybersecurity has to get some attention too. Most companies should have protocols in place to offset WFH security threats, but employees still have to do their part.
Tools like NordVPN Teams, for example, lets employees access company resources safely via a secure encrypted connection. But that only works when people actually turn it on and still apply other safety habits to stay protected. The antithesis to this is having the systems compromised, important data stolen or corrupted, and financial/reputational loss for the company.
4. Leave the House
Don’t laugh; it’s too easy to turn into a pajama-wearing homebody that eschews social events in favor of snuggling up on the couch at home. With no “valid” reason to go outside, i.e., commuting to work, people can decide to just stay home all the time. That’s a mistake, though, because heading outside helps people get into a different headspace and clears away stress.
Head out of the house at least a few times a week (and not just to get groceries) to relieve some of that internal pressure and negative thoughts or feelings. It can work wonders for productivity.
The Bottom Line
This pandemic has created changes in the way people work, as everyone needs to adapt quickly, and it might even change how people work forever. While working from home might not be for everyone, the general feeling about being able to work from home has been very positive. But it’s important to adopt good habits and maintain motivation to keep things going smoothly.