In this day of advancing technology, it is becoming more common for people to work from home. With programs like Skype©, Facetime©, and GoToMeeting©, it is now possible to engage with colleagues “in person” while sitting in the comfort of our own living room.
While some might think that working from home would promote “more shirking and less working,” studies have shown that actually the opposite is true. An article by Forbes reports the findings of Stanford University professor Nicholas Bloom, who discovered that “employees who worked from home were quite a bit more productive in a given week than they’d been at the office,” citing an increase in productivity of 13.5%. That translates into an average of nearly an entire extra workday per week, all thanks to a change in scenery!
As a classroom teacher, it is impossible to instruct my students unless I actually go to the university. But there are many additional tasks that can be handled without leaving the house. Still, I have struggled to work effectively from home. As I assessed the problem, I realized that there are a few simple steps I needed to take in order to maximize my efficiency and productivity from home. Whether you are an employee or a college student, these tips WILL help you to become more productive while working from home.
CREATE A WORKSPACE ENVIRONMENT
Doing homework while lying across your bed or trying to write up a report for the boss while sitting in your comfy chair is not the best way to increase your level of productivity. To work most effectively, you need to emulate the posture and position that you normally use when you are at work or school.
For me, this meant getting out of my Lazy-Boy recliner and creating a comfortable, yet professional home office. My family gifted me with a beautiful roll-top desk for my birthday a couple of years ago, and the addition of an office chair, office supplies, and a bookshelf provided me with everything I needed to work efficiently from home.
Students can cost-effectively create a similar space for doing homework by scanning Craigslist or local thrift stores for a good used desk and chair set. Rearranging the bedroom to make an “office” space will be worth the effort, and the reward for sacrificing a corner of your room to an “office” will show up in improved performance and better grades. Sitting at a desk helps the brain to take more seriously the task we are performing, thus increasing productivity over the long haul.
CLOSE THE DOOR
I have eight kids, five of whom still live at home. We are a homeschooling family, so closing the door is important for my productivity. When the door is open, I am distracted every time someone walks by. Also, the natural rhythm of the household tends toward noise and organized chaos. This isn’t a bad thing. But it does tend to pull my focus from my work. Even as I write this, I hear my ten-year old daughter singing while she clears the breakfast dishes from the dining room table. It’s a lovely sound, and perfectly timed to make this point.
Just because the door is closed should not mean that you are inaccessible to the family. If anyone needs me for any reason, they need simply knock on the door and I’ll be available for whatever is needed. But it does remind the kids that dad is working and he shouldn’t be disturbed unless it’s necessary.
Sometimes, if the kids are being particularly loud, I’ll pop in a pair of headphones and listen to music or white noise (like the sound of a thunderstorm or waves crashing on the beach). I have found white noise to be particularly helpful when I am writing.
FOLLOW YOUR REGULAR ROUTINE
This is the critical piece for my personal “work from home” productivity success. I need to maintain the same routine when I am working from home as I do when I go to the office.
Most people don’t know this, but I’m a “sweatpants and t-shirt” kind of guy. When I get home from work, I immediately change out of my khakis and button-down shirts into sweats (or pajama pants) and a t-shirt. I’m just more relaxed that way, so it’s easy for me to dress that way when I am working from home. But I have discovered that my brain slides into a less focused, more relaxed mindset when I do this. It’s more difficult to concentrate when I am dressed more casually, and my output suffers because of it. At the end of those days, I look back on a day that wasn’t as productive as it should have been—and I get frustrated.
When I plan a “work from home” day, I follow the same routine that I do on mornings when I go to the office. I get up at the same time that I normally do (for me, that is between 5:00 and 5:30). I shower and get dressed as if I am going to the office. The most important part of this routine for me is to put on my shoes. There is something about putting on shoes that says to me, “You are going to work. This isn’t a casual day to lay around.” Some people may find this a bit silly, but don’t knock it until you try it!
When I walk into my home office dressed in my work clothes and close the door behind me, my brain clicks into “work mode” and I get more done than I do on the days where I stumble around the house in sweatpants. And when I lay down to sleep at night, I can look back with satisfaction on a day that was productive and fulfilling-the best kind of workday to have.
What are some of the tools you use to make your days more productive? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!