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orking from home can be a blessing, especially if you've dreamed of ditching the commute and office cubicle. But a home office can also mean more distractions, less structure, and ultimately, less productivity. It’s likely that the future of work for many will involve at least a hybrid work schedule, so it’s essential to keep your productivity up on the days when you’re working from home.  

Whether the coronavirus pandemic lockdown forced you to work from home, you started your own home business, your employer implemented a hybrid model, or other circumstances caused the change, it's easy to lose effectiveness working from home. There are changes you can implement to help you stay on top of your game while working. Here are some tips on how you can stay productive while working from home.  

1. Discuss a schedule with your family

Depending on your family's makeup, other people could be home while you are trying to work. Whether it's a spouse or children, caring for or sharing space with others can often keep you from being productive. While you no longer need to worry about annoying coworkers, sometimes the people in your household can be just as troublesome (if not more).   Set time aside to discuss your work schedule with your family. You may need to adjust when and where you work to accommodate other family members and their schedules. If you have kids who are home during the day, you may need to adjust your work schedule, so your spouse is home to care for children. Paying for childcare is another option to consider if you can't get your work done with kids at home as a remote worker.

2. Create a dedicated workspace

When you work from home, every room can become your home office. While you may be productive from anywhere in your house, it also makes it more difficult to turn off work at the end of the day.   Having a dedicated workspace, whether it's a home office space or just a specific area of your home, allows you to "clock in" and "clock out" every day, which can lead to increased productivity while you are working. There's a psychological component to walking out of your home office and leaving the worries of your job behind for the night that will lead to increased wellbeing. Having a workspace also creates motivation when your day starts, like flipping on a switch that says it's time to focus on work. This will help keep your home life and work life separate, which is important for your mental health.  

3. Set work hours

It's also a good idea to set dedicated office hours each day. There may be times when you'll need to adjust your schedule to accommodate customers, clients, or even everyday life. Having a set schedule helps you create a healthier work environment at home. And at the end of the workday, you can turn off the lights and move on towards other aspects of your life.  Your work hours don't need to look traditional, like a nine to five job, even if you work full-time. If you're a morning person, start and end your day earlier. Some people prefer to work at night or even split up their workday. Find office hours that work for you and stick to them as much as possible.  

4. Take breaks

It's easy to get caught up in your work and forget to take breaks. You'll stay more productive, though, when you get up and walk away from your computer screen throughout the day. Use the time to walk around, stretch, refill your water, refuel, tend to personal matters, or even scroll social media briefly. Do whatever you need to do to rest your brain and forget work for a few minutes. Home working has the potential to keep your life in order a little bit more.   Try to take shorter breaks throughout the day, but also mix in a longer break now and then. Go for a walk. Connect with your kids or spouse if possible. Enjoy lunch without worrying about work matters. Allow yourself to unplug for 20 minutes or longer. You'll likely find yourself more productive when you do return to your work.   A common strategy is called “batching” where you work for 25 minutes then take a five-minute break (or a 50-minute work sprint with a ten-minute break). This strategy can help you with remote work because it designates a specific time frame for staying focused and one for letting your mind wander. Batching has been shown to lead to increased productivity.  

5. Eliminate distractions

One of the biggest obstacles to work-at-home productivity is digital distractions. When you work at home, everything is at your fingertips all day. It's easy to get caught up in checking your social feeds or inbox every few minutes.   Eliminating distractions may call for extreme measures depending on how ingrained these habits have become. You may need to keep your phone in another room while you work or delete any apps that typically cause distractions to spend less time scrolling social media. Log out of your accounts and remove them from your bookmarks. Several mobile apps and browser extensions can help block certain websites and apps during specific periods. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible to stay productive throughout the day.  

6. Make a to-do list

Everyone is familiar with the idea of to-do lists. Make a list of things you want to accomplish during the workday. As you complete tasks, cross them off the list. The concept is nothing new.   Most people, however, tend to overestimate how much they can get accomplished in a day. Instead, try to pare down your list to the three or four most important tasks you want to accomplish. A shorter to-do list will help you stay on task and not beat yourself up at the end of the day if you don't finish.  

7. Learn to meal prep

Meal prepping may not be on your radar if you work at home. After all, you probably have access to a kitchen and a fridge full of food 24/7. Making lunch or snacks can take up valuable time and keep you from staying focused on work. You eliminate much of the work required to refuel throughout the day by making meals ahead of time. Planning ahead can also help you eat healthier than you would normally. Instead of opting for something convenient, you can carefully plan out food for the week.  

8. Have a life outside of work

Work is something you do. It's not who you are. Don't let work overtake the rest of your life. Many people choose to work from home because of the freedom it allows. Whether you work at home because of the pandemic, a career change, or another reason, there's a good chance you chose to do so, hoping that it would free up more time and energy for other areas of your life. Follow that work-life balance goal.    Don't become consumed with work so much that you forget to enjoy your life. Spend time with your family. Travel. Go for walks. Take up a new hobby or renew an old one. There's more to life than work. When you realize that and spend more time outside of the (home) office, you'll probably find yourself more energized when you do return to work.

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November 2, 2021
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