We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel after the past year of significant changes to our daily routines due to social distancing. A big change that will likely last beyond this year is the number of people that are working from home. Over 26% of the U.S. workforce is likely to work remotely through the end of the year. Businesses have realized that their employees can actually be as much as 47% more productive when working remotely as opposed to commuting to the office. Work satisfaction has also increased, resulting in up to 50% lower attrition rates. The trend looks to be here to stay.
The novelty of working from home may have worn off a little, though, and many remote workers are looking for ways to boost productivity and make their new routine a bit more manageable. Following are some tips that can help make that happen.
Choose the Right Equipment
For many of us, the look and feel of our home office is a far cry from the corporate office we are used to. More comfortable surroundings are enjoyable, but the lack of functional equipment can make working productively more difficult.
The office chair is a great place to begin. Most commercial offices spend a significant amount of money to make sure employees have ergonomic and comfortable chairs. Your home office should get the same treatment. It doesn’t have to be an expensive commercial model, but your body will thank you for replacing that kitchen chair with an adjustable office chair.
Another factor in ergonomics is monitor height. Many employees have been sent home with a laptop. The attached screen makes them easy to tote around, but most really don’t provide the best viewing angle for prolonged use. Ideally, the center of your display should be 15-20 degrees below horizontal eye level when you’re sitting in front of it. A laptop riser and an external keyboard and mouse are an easy way to raise the viewing height of your laptop screen. Even better is a larger external monitor or even two if your laptop supports multiple monitors.
Speaking of keyboards and mice, be sure to pay attention to how your hands feel at the end of the day using the keyboard. Poor wrist and finger angles can really take their toll. A new keyboard can be an inexpensive way to make all that typing a little more enjoyable.
Depending on your environment, noise-cancelling headphones can be another productivity booster. By filtering out the noise of housemates, barking dogs and lawn crews, they allow you to peacefully focus on the task at hand.
Find the Right Space
There is a lot of personal preference involved in this one. While we’re all happy to escape the cubicle, ideas of the perfect workspace vary. Some remote workers prefer to have a dedicated workspace solely for job-related tasks, while others find that being able to work from a desk, bed, kitchen table and even the patio is a good way to break up the workday. Try some different options and see what works for you while paying attention to lighting, distractions and the ergonomics we just mentioned.
Keep Your Area Neat and Focused
If you do decide to work from a desk, make it your “office” space and try to keep it clear of clutter. There’s nothing wrong with a few fidget items if that’s what helps the thought process, but too many distractions can make staying focused difficult. Keeping your workspace organized can also reduce the risk of that accidental spill on the keyboard!
Find an Alternative Space
Some remote workers find the best place to work from home is not at home at all. For many, anyplace with a good WiFi connection can serve as a great workspace. The distractions in a public space may actually be easier to overcome than of all the other things you could be doing at home. Savannahians could try working from Blends on Broughton Street for a day to see if it works for you. Don’t forget the noise-cancelling headphones mentioned above!
Work Now, Socialize Later
Focusing applies to digital clutter as well. We are all much more prone to visit personal online media when working from home than we ever would be in an office environment. Watch out for the hazard of getting drawn into social media in particular. Social distancing has made social media even more appealing as a way to stay connected. Checking in may seem harmless, but if you find yourself trying to get back in the productive groove half an hour later, it’s time for a change.
Turning off social media during working hours is probably the best option. Try to make it a habit to only check personal sites during non-work hours or predetermined break times. Keep those tabs closed otherwise. Also turn off alerts for social media. It’s difficult to ignore even the least interesting posts when they are popping up in front of you.
Know that you’re not alone in combating the lure of social media. Several companies have even developed software to help! Freedom is one such program that allows you to customize a list of sites you want to block. RescueTime is another that not only aids in blocking sites, but also provides some excellent tracking and feedback to help you understand just where that productive time is going. There are quite a number of options out there, both for PCs and mobile devices.
Structure Your Day
Knowing when to switch from work to play can be a little more difficult when working remotely. One of the most commonly referenced ideas for boosting work-from-home productivity is to structure your day in much the same way as you would working at an office. You can obviously skip the commute, but maintaining the rest of the schedule can help a lot. We’ve all heard the jokes about working in pajamas this past year and the idea can be tempting. There’s a lot to be said for a shower and getting dressed before starting your workday at home, though, even if the dress code is a little more casual and comfortable than it would be at the office. Arriving on time can also make you more comfortable with shutting down on time. After a year of remote work, some employees have mentioned less of a dividing line between work and personal time. Logging off at a set time is important, too.
Make Use Of Sticky Notes
Whiteboards and note boards are ubiquitous in a commercial office setting and with good reason. They allow for a regularly updated list of tasks to be scanned at a glance. Whichever you use, try creating three columns for to-do, in-progress and done. There are also electronic versions that allow you to put sticky notes on a screen, but the conventional way just seems to grab your attention more.
Take a Break
We’ve talked about a lot of external influences that hinder productivity. Keeping yourself in top form is important, too. Taking a short break can be a great way to regain focus. At a minimum, get up and stretch every so often—set a timer or use a fitness app if you need to remind yourself. Making a little time to get outdoors for a walk is an even better idea. If you’re here in Savannah, a walk along the riverfront could really help you get back in the productive groove! If you’re an Upper East Riverite, you’ll soon be able to complete that jaunt with a stop at Geo. Meyer House for a midday pick-me-up. You could also make some time for a workout or a yoga session at one of Savannah’s many options, such as Meg Shuba Yoga on Drayton.
The best thing about being productive when working from home is that it allows more time to enjoy your surroundings. In Savannah, that’s a big plus, given how beautiful, vibrant, and engaging our city is.