Following lockdowns across the globe and a reluctance to use public transport, many people have started to work from home. This trend is likely to continue as companies, and online businesses save on office rental, using remote employees instead. Likewise, if you're looking to start your own business, you are likely to be working from home.
Working from home can be an enormous time-saver (think no long commute). But, if you develop the right habits, you may also find that your productivity is vastly improved.
How well you handle remote work will depend very much on your personality, your attitude, and the preparations that you have made to work from home. Read on to find out how to create a productive work environment at home.
How to Create a Productive Work Environment at Home
A designated workspace will help you to focus. The best situation is, of course, to have your own home office. However, if you are not that lucky, it is still essential to make a space where you can go to work.
Choose a space anywhere but in your bedroom. It is never a good idea to work in an environment designed for rest. The kitchen table or a hallway desk is not ideal, but it may be the best compromise.
Make your workspace professional so that you are mentally prepared to work when you approach your desk. Kit your space out with all the equipment you need to do the job. You would not expect to work in an ill-equipped office, so why accept it at home? Make a place to put your stationery and digital devices and invest in a comfortable chair.
Most people need a quiet place to concentrate and focus, so look for the most tranquil space in the house and, if you can, close the door. For example, if you are on the phone or video conferencing during the day, a closed door can keep things professional.
In today’s world, clients and colleagues have become accustomed to hearing kids and pets when video conferencing, but it’s best to keep background noise and intrusions to a bare minimum.
Ensure that the area you choose for your online business is well ventilated and has plenty of light. Not only is poor lighting bad for your eyes, but it also affects your mood. Dark and dingy places can leave us feeling out of sorts and unproductive.
Research from the UK has shown that productivity increases when plants are introduced into the office environment. So a couple of potted plants strategically placed in your home office may help you get a little more online business done over the day.
Make Time for Breaks
Fresh air and exercise are good for both your physical and mental health, so make time for work breaks. Even if you are only taking a short walk, activity is essential and will help you to improve your productivity.
If you can’t get outside, take a lunch or coffee break. Clicking over to social media pages can hardly be defined as a break, so make a point of taking a break from your routine. Step away from your desk. Time your breaks to give yourself a rest and come back refreshed and more productive.
Keep Regular Hours
Many people find that working from home intrudes on their personal life. Keep regular hours when you work from home. Set up a routine. Go to work at the same time every day. Schedule regular meetings with your teams. If you are used to taking exercise in the early morning, continue with your routine. If you always had lunch at a regular time, keep this up at home. Set up work schedules and stick to them.
By the same token, don’t allow bad habits to creep in. For example, don’t break from your online business to watch television or play computer games. These bad habits can sneak up on you.
Setting a routine will help you maintain a work-life balance and avoid working into your leisure time. Flexibility is, however, one of the positive aspects of working from home. So, if you must work a little late or start earlier to fit in with the time differences of other online businesses, reward yourself with time off later in the week.
Download an automatic time tracking app so that you can monitor and stick to your schedules.
Set Rules and Boundaries for Shared Spaces
When you work from home, others may not take your work seriously. They may not appreciate that you have a regular work routine as they do. Your friends and family must understand that you're at work even if you are in your home office.
Make sure that children returning from school in the afternoon understand the ground rules. Make the rest of the family aware of your requirements during your online business working hours. Don’t let family members get used to believing that you are available to do various tasks throughout the day.
Your family, your colleagues, and even your boss must know your boundaries.
Establish a Routine in the Morning, or Evening
If you want a productive online business, a routine is essential. When you allow your routine to flag, the hours whittle away, and productivity goes out the window. Some people work better in the morning and some in the evening, so whatever suits you, base your routine around this.
Whatever your routine was when you commuted to work, keep at it. Maintain your grooming and dress sense. Working in your pajamas every day may seem like fun, but it detracts from the workday experience, and it’s hardly conducive to professional video conferencing.
Start every day by looking at your routine and prioritizing your tasks.
Do Not Forget Your Social Life
Many remote employees, especially extroverts, find that working from home deprives them of the social interaction which they so enjoyed in the office.
It is easy to become isolated and disconnected when you stay at home every day. Communication is key, and remote teams can help one another by staying in contact. Ensure that you meet your colleagues regularly, even if it is only via video conferencing.
Are People More Productive Working From Home?
According to research carried out by Airtasker, working from home is more productive than working in the office, and it isn’t by a small margin. Remote workers contributed an extra 1.4 days per month to the business.
What is the Most Challenging Part of Running an Online Business From Home?
Since remote employees have different personalities and habits, challenges will also differ between one and another. For example, an extrovert may find it challenging to work without the social interactions of the office. In addition, some remote employees may find focusing and prioritizing difficult, and others will find setting boundaries difficult, which may lead to a compromised work-life balance.
Is Working From Home Less Stressful?
The jury is still out on this one. However, SAP studied stress levels at the beginning of the lockdowns and found that people found the circumstances very stressful.
We could argue that those were unusual times as parents and their children were forced to stay indoors and work from home with little preparation – too many people in too small a space. We’ve moved on from there, and with the right preparation and mindset, working from home should be a lot less stressful. Apart from anything else, you’re cutting down on the daily commute. You’re in a familiar environment, and you have the flexibility to choose your hours.
Remote working and online business have become a new reality. You can be more productive and happier working from home, but it takes some planning.
Ensure that you have a comfortable, professional place to work and set boundaries that protect your work-life balance. Find ways to keep regular contact with your team and take breaks throughout the day. Stick to a routine, and you’ll soon become accustomed to your new way of working.