While pandemic-induced work-from-home arrangements have brought many disruptions to the usual 9-to-5 routine, any fear that these changes would drive down productivity has been widely dispelled. In fact, one study found that employee productivity has actually increased 47% since March 2020.
Free from both the dreaded commute and distracting co-workers, employees have spent the extra hours getting more work done or engaging in wellness activities. But there are also challenges. Co-worker distraction has been replaced by distractions from kids, family, pets, and even the laundry; many remote employees say they are unable to ‘switch off’ from work. And without the interaction of a communal office, as well as the expectation of being there physically (and appropriately dressed), some workers also find it hard to stay motivated and maintain a consistent routine.
Here are some top tips to manage your productivity when working remotely and to master a healthy work-life balance that meets your professional and personal needs.
Get dressed to work
Feeling fresh in the morning boosts your mood and confidence, which affects your interactions. Even if you’re literally working a few steps away from your bed, dress up for work. This gives your brain a cue that it’s time to shift to work mode. Sometimes, checking emails while still in bed can turn into a few hours. Before you know it, it’s lunchtime, you’re still in your PJs, and you feel (and look) a little rough around the edges.
Not only does getting dressed to work prepare you mentally, it also allows the rest of the household to make the association that your workday has started. This helps create boundaries between work and leisure time. And you don’t need to get suited up; wearing something comfortable yet suitable enough to leave the house in can make all the difference.
Separate personal and work tasks
Psychology Today has identified two types of employees present in every organization: segmenters and integrators.
Segmenters set clear boundaries and rarely let work and personal life overlap. They switch off from work when they get home, giving each part of their life attention at the required time.
In contrast, integrators blend their work and personal lives, whether by sharing all their personal joys and troubles with colleagues or talking shop at the dinner table. As a result, many integrators are prone to allowing home-life stressors to affect their work productivity and vice versa. Although positive experiences can benefit both work and home life, conflicts can arise and carry over to unrelated people, activities, and relationships.
Setting clear boundaries between your work and home lives is critically important for your mental health and relationships, reducing anxiety and minimizing the chances of burnout. Continually multi-tasking between home responsibilities and work without making a clear distinction between the two will lower your productivity, increase stress, and make it hard to focus.
Power tip: With Web Clipper, you ensure what’s important is clear at a glance, so it’s easier to separate work and personal tasks. Find your focus by saving articles, web pages, and screen captures with Web Clipper—full pages or just the parts you want, without distracting ads and sidebars.
Set reminders for breaks
A study by the United Nations has shown that 30% of people who work from home report feeling highly stressed, compared to 25% of those who work on-site. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, taking breaks, even when working remotely, will help you stay productive, boost creativity, and reduce stress.
Taking a break from work before making an important decision allows you to refocus. A mind shift away from work will help you disengage at the end of the day and return with a different perspective the next morning. Breaks during the day can be as short as 10 minutes at a time and help you to reset.
Take a walk
With no commute, water-cooler chats, or grabbing lunch out of the office, working from home can quickly become a sedentary affair. Taking a walk, stretching, or doing short indoor workouts not only kick-starts your energy, but can boost your productivity and overall wellness.
Taking care of your physical health is key to preventing burnout and reducing stress. Make sure you schedule time into your week for longer activity breaks such as a yoga class or gym session and include short intervals of activity throughout the day to boost your mood and enhance your focus. This could include walking while on the phone or playing outside with the dog.
Say no to distractions
When you work from home, distractions can easily eat into your day. Sure, you might not be discussing weekend plans with Jim in the next cubicle, but social media and chores can easily distract you, and before you know it an hour or more is gone. If you must engage with tasks that affect your productivity, make sure you set a time limit. If playing with your new puppy forms part of your break, set a limit so you know you will get back to work in 10 minutes.
Create a barrier by switching devices to silent mode and don’t turn on distracting media if you need to focus on deadlines and important tasks. Distraction can also lead to longer workdays which can result in less and poorer quality sleep.
Stick to your work routine
The disruption of normal routines can make coping with stress harder. Having an established routine helps beat procrastination, unnecessary multitasking, and low productivity. A routine is especially helpful in times of unpredictability, giving you a sense of control and helping you establish healthy habits. Remember, though, that your routine should include time for yourself, not only day-to-day work responsibilities.
Power tip: Create tasks to help you stick to your routine by setting reminders for the things you need to get done. Tasks allow you to keep the things you have to do connected to the information you need to do them, complete with priority flags, due dates, and reminders, to help you stay on top of your schedule.
Working from home requires discipline and focus, but it can have huge payoffs once you have an effective plan in place. Part of creating a healthy work-from-home routine is finding a balance between the two halves of your life: work and home. Set uninterrupted times throughout your day to focus on work, and use productivity apps to help you manage your daily tasks and meetings. Then, when those hours are up, stop, unplug, and focus on putting some life into ‘work-life balance.’