Working from home? Here’s how to create a productive work environment

MindsetCategory
10 min read
Kenneth Ang

On many levels, working from home sounds great. Not having to ride in overcrowded trains saves you frustration, money and time. Moreover, a whole host of free tools make it real easy to check in with office teammates or clients. 

In a home office, however, it's easy for you to become your own worst enemy. Because when you're not surrounded by coworkers, you're free to yield to your impulses when no one's watching. There’s certainly less compulsion to get stuff done.

Given such a challenging environment, let’s look at some ways for you to stay productive while working from home.

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1. Seize the day!

Instead of starting with a vague plan, create a daily schedule. Draw up a digital schedule or jot it down with pen and paper, and then stick it in up in a visible place. 

The key factor to working successfully from home is being able to organise things effectively. You need to keep track of things that you have to do without overcomplicating them. Start by creating:

  • Filing systems
  • To-do lists
  • Your weekly schedule

Working from home also means that you are vulnerable to distractions and procrastination. The television, your bed, pets, family members and the fridge are just some of the distractions in your home that can affect work. 

The best thing to do is to prepare ahead. Have all the food that you will need, plan your kids’ activities ahead and stay in your defined work space to remain focused.

2. Declutter

Home office with a desk and couch

When working from home, we are all faced with some form of clutter all day, every day. 

Besides the physical clutter, mental and digital clutter have taken over many aspects of our lives. 

If the first thing you do every morning is check your phone, you're likely waking up bombarded with cluttered inboxes and messages. Once you’re out of bed, you will probably find yourself walking through a whole clutter of household chores.

Clutter can negatively affect your mental well-being and even lead to depression. What’s worse, clutter can lead to procrastination.

Turn off notifications

So start with limiting 'mental clutter.' Turn off all notifications during your working hours. Close unnecessary web browsers, and move your phone to another room. Then set a timer to help you stay on task and get to work.

Make time for decluttering

Schedule decluttering daily by taking 10 minutes a day to declutter. Make it a point to tidy up your desk at the end of each day and then move on decluttering other parts of your home. By making decluttering part of your daily routine, soon it will not feel like you are decluttering; it will become a natural part of your day.

Deal with physical clutter immediately whenever possible. Manage what comes into your workspace and home, and deal with it before it becomes clutter. 

This applies especially to people working from home right now who rely heavily on online shopping. Shop intentionally, rather than randomly, as such online purchases can bring in clutter.

Clean your digital desktop

Finally, clean up your computer. A decluttered computer is possibly more important than decluttered filing cabinets, especially for professionals. Spend an hour setting up digital folders to keep things organized on your computer.

3. Define your work area

Although it might be tempting to stay in bed or head to the sofa, it’s best if you set up a workstation. If you don't have a desk, you could use your dining table. Besides making you feel like you're at an "office," this helps you:

  • Maintain good posture
  • Avoid distractions
  • Leave your work behind at the end of the day

This workstation is where you will set up your computer, stationery supplies, reference materials and all other work-related things. Try to set your workspace away from your television, bed and all other possible distractions.

Two empty chairs in a cafe

Whether it’s a certain table, chair or local coffee shop, have a place you go specifically to work. It will help you get into the right frame of mind. 

4. Set your work hours

Just because you're not commuting and going into an office doesn't mean you should skip your weekday morning routines.

Develop rituals and have a disciplined way of managing the day. Schedule a start time and end time. 

 

Though this may sound rather trivial, this will help you mentally prepare for the day ahead and get into the "work" mindset.

Set a specific time for work. If your work does not require you to work certain hours, then you should create a timetable for each day’s activities. You should set time for work and time for yourself and your family. 

For example, you may need to set your work schedule around your children’s naps or caregiver’s schedule. This way, you can work effectively without interruptions.

Above all, avoid procrastination. Putting off work until later is a powerful enemy of a person working from home. Plan to get your least favourite tasks out of the way first.

5. Health is wealth

Sitting all day isn't healthy even if you're at the office. But working from home means you skip your commute and have fewer reasons to get up from your chair throughout the day.

That’s why it’s important to invest in ergonomic furniture for your office. 

You can’t afford to have your productivity and health hindered by a poor workspace. Try to get an ergonomic chair or even a standing desk. Standing for a few hours while working will save your back and will make you more productive.

If you've gained an extra hour or two from not commuting, use that time to exercise, either by working out at home or going for a walk . A lunchtime walk may bring a fresh breath of inspiration.

Working at home can lead to an inactive lifestyle and weight problems. So make sure that you watch your diet and set some time for exercise. After all, your health is certainly part of your wealth.

6. Take regular breaks

Man walking along the waterfront

Working from home can be more isolating than working in an office. We do need to take care of our mental and physical health. At first it may be tempting to just dive into ‘work work work,’ but this is hardly sustainable and may lead to burnout.

Do instead take a five to 10-minute break every hour. Perhaps, do some quick stretching exercise, or a quick five-minute ‘office exercise’ routine.

Consciously making and eating lunch can recharge you to do better work. Don't think you need to be working 100% of the time while you're home to be more productive.

Finally, be careful not to snack too often. Keep your regular eating habits: breakfast, lunch and dinner, and avoid the kitchen at all other times.

7. Draw home boundaries

Let your friends and family know about your home working hours. In order for you to work effectively, inform them of the hours you work, and not to call you unless it’s important. Make sure that they understand and respect your working hours.

This also means setting boundaries for kids, pets, family members or roommates. Try to keep the boundaries friendly and playful, but make sure you stick to them. 

Home office with a desk and couch

One fun idea is to make a sign for the door of your office that indicates whether you’re working or not. You can even have your children help you make the sign so they feel they’re not being left out.

Hang this sign on your office door. "Danger: Man/Woman at work.” Kids, no matter what age, will understand the message and enjoy playing along.

In addition, use an “out of office” reply to messages during certain hours of the day to allow you periods of uninterrupted work.

8. All the right stuff

Finding the right tools to keep you, your team and clients connected is important for staying productive at home.

Use Slack to keep conversations going remotely, Trello to keep you organized around deadlines and Zoom to make remote meetings more productive

Getting the right stack of support tools to fit your work style does make a big difference.

Businesses of all sizes need an easy way to collaborate with work from home employees and distant clients on important issues, events and projects.

Microsoft 365 from GoDaddy offers such an integrated solution, including free automatic updates of all your favorite apps.

Man meeting with two people on Zoom

Now whenever you update sale campaigns and start to plan promotions, those who need to know are informed and able to collaborate online. 

A planning calendar accessible by all necessary parties can make sure everyone is on the same page.

Even better, the Online Essentials and Business Premium plans of Microsoft 365 from GoDaddy include Microsoft Teams, the popular conferencing software for all-day teamwork.

9. Unplug the day

The biggest struggle with working remotely is unplugging after work.  

For many of us, the daily commute home is our chance to turn off our work thoughts. Now that you’re no longer commuting, create your own ‘end-of-day ritual.’

Firstly, turn off your computer, and keep it out of sight. Then you could exercise, meditate, do yoga, go for a walk, or just have a cup of tea — any activity that is specific to the ritual.

Let this end-of-day ritual serve to change your state of mind. 

Because the most important part of a commute is not the physical distancing from work, it’s the mental distancing. 

Create a mental distance that allows you to relax and enjoy the rest of your day ‘away’ from work.

10. Reward yourself

Finally, celebrate your wins! If you’re working from home for the first time, it might be a challenge to adapt to this new way of working.

Take time to reflect on what you have achieved and what you’ve done well and congratulate yourself! After all, everyone deserves a pat on the back for a job well done.

Do remember too, that rewards don’t have to cost anything – you can get pleasure out of the most simple things if you allow yourself to really enjoy them. Go to a concert at the park. Try a new exercise class. 

Of course, you can also reward yourself with other things too such as:

  • Start a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try
  • Take up a new sport 
  • Have an evening out with friends

So the next time you have a task to do that you aren’t looking particularly forward to, do pick a treat for yourself – and reward yourself for a job well done.

The bottom line on working from home

Shifting your work environment to your home may seem like a big job at first. However, with a few simple adjustments to your routine and space, you’ll find you can still have a productive work day. Find what works for you and your family by trying out some of the above tips.

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