How to be productive and efficient when working from home

By Robert Half on 12 March 2020

For many of us, the idea of working from home is very appealing. After all it means spending more time in your comfortable and relaxed home environment. The downside is that there can also be plenty of distractions, and it’s easy for your focus to stray from the tasks at hand.

Taking a planned approach can be the key to success.

At first glance, working from home can seem to offer plenty of benefits. There is no need to wear business attire. You can save time – and money – on transport to and from work. And it can feel as though you have more scope to fit in personal and family commitments.

It sounds great, right? But there are downsides to manage.

The fact is, a home environment can offer plenty of distractions, and without the support and motivation of a workplace team, it can be easy for your quality of work to slip. Falling behind with tasks can fuel resentment among your colleagues, and even see your employer re-think the arrangement.

Worst case scenario, you could find yourself working late into the night to meet productivity targets. This can eat into family time, and potentially see you working longer hours than if you had travelled into the office.

This is why it is important to adopt strategies to maximise productivity, maintain a high standard of work, and reassure your employer that working from home won’t impact team morale or your personal efficiency.

Tip 1: Explain the situation to your family

Working from home can seem especially convenient when you have children or elderly relatives to care for. However, it’s important that each family member realises you are genuinely working, and not just having time off from work. Explain to your family the need to give you some space – and quiet time – while you are working. Setting up a dedicated work space that’s separate from family activities can help to minimise any distractions, letting you stay focused.

Tip 2: Start your day, end your day

When you work from home, it can be easy to find yourself working longer hours than normal, and this can lead to burnout. Minimise this risk by taking a disciplined approach to your workday. Aim to mirror the hours of your office. Set a start on time, and begin your daily routine. Stay focused, and when you workday is over, shut down your computer, and leave work matters behind for the day.

Tip 3: Set work boundaries

Working from home doesn’t have to mean you are available 24/7. Set firm boundaries with your employer, co-workers and other business contacts regarding your availability. Be mindful of when you respond to emails and phone calls. If you don't want to answer emails after business hours, let your employer know this. Then resist the urge to continually check your email.

Tip 4: Eat mindfully

Proximity to the fridge is an occupational hazard for anyone working from home. Without the formal routine of your workplace, you may find yourself snacking more frequently to break up the day or compensate for the loss of social interaction with co-workers. Healthy eating will keep you energised and focused on the tasks ahead, but watch out for repeat trips to the fridge – it won’t benefit your health or your productivity.

Tip 5: Mirror the workplace routine

Just as in a formal workplace, it’s important to take scheduled breaks when you work from home. This can recharge your energy and clear your mind. Be mindful about break times though – keep them short to stay refreshed without falling behind.

The opportunity to work from home can seem liberating, and it’s possible to make a success of it if you don’t let the freedom go to your head. Create smart practices around your daily schedule and the use of your time. Help your family understand that what you are doing is meaningful, paid work, and aim to prove to your employer that you can be just as productive at home as in the workplace.

If you can achieve this, working from home can deliver a range of benefits for you, your employer and your family.

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