Working from home productivity guide
Struggling to get into a good flow while working from home? It might be time to try some simple productivity techniques. Productivity is an elusive, ever-changing state that depends on several factors, from your mood at any given moment, to the equipment you work with. To fire up your energy levels and boost your work from home productivity without burning out, it can help to take a holistic approach. Keep exploring this guide to find out more.
What does it mean to be productive?
Productivity is a measure of output. A productive person produces good quality work in a timely and efficient way. An unproductive person burns up time and resources with little to show for it.
Productivity is not always constant. It’s natural for us to fluctuate between being productive and unproductive throughout the working week, and even throughout the day — after all, we’re not robots. We are humans with complex lives, unique genetics and constantly shifting biochemistry. This means our moods and energy levels are always in motion, constantly affected by external and internal influences. A task that took you five minutes once might take you an hour next time. Fluctuations are inevitable, but maximising your work from home productivity is possible if you take the time to understand your own unique patterns of behaviour.
Are we more productive at home or at the office?
The COVID-19 pandemic set the stage for a world-wide experiment in remote working. Was working from home more, less, or equally as productive working from our offices? Research by the Office of National Statistics concluded that:
"Overall, individuals reported the main advantage of homeworking being an improvement to work-life balance. Another positive was a reduction in the time taken to complete work, which may be linked to most individuals finding there were fewer distractions when working at home compared with in the office."
Other findings reveal:
Work from home productivity is a personal thing. Some people prosper in the comfort of their own homes; others start to flag. If you’re one of the latter, making a concerted effort to boost your work from home productivity is a great place to start — but it’s worth noting that doing so has both benefits and risks to your health, wellbeing and quality of life.
What are the benefits of boosting your work from home productivity?
Whatever your reason for wanting to boost your productivity, it helps to know why it’s worth the effort. Being as productive as possible benefits both you and your company (or business, if you’re self-employed).
Benefits to you include:
Benefits to business include:
What are the risks of trying to be more productive?
Before you commit to boosting your work from home productivity, it’s crucial to understand what productivity really means. Being productive is not just working faster, or putting in more hours. In fact, there’s a real risk of burn-out if you approach work with this ‘grind til you die’ mindset.
Work-related stress can be caused by any number of things, from bullying and poor company culture, to having too much on your plate. A common cause of work-related stress is trying so hard to be productive that you neglect your own health. Putting in long but unproductive hours is known as presenteeism.
Presenteeism is a performance of productivity. It is showing up and appearing to work hard without much yield. This might happen if you:
Try to work even though you’re feeling ill
Work beyond your contracted hours
To avoid presenteeism, treat productivity holistically. Consider:
Are you being treated fairly? Does your employer expect too much of you without offering the necessary wellbeing support? If you feel pressured to work so much that your health is being affected, talk to your manager or HR department and, if necessary, seek advice from your GP.
Common reasons you’re less productive at home
If you’re struggling to get into the zone at home, the first logical step is to identify why. Do any of these common work from home productivity blocks sound familiar?
1. Distractions and noise with no rules
2. Messy or uninspiring environment
3. Poor set-up and equipment
Common homeworking set-up issues include:
4. Lack of daily routine and structure
5. You’re an extravert
These are some of the most common work from home productivity blocks, but you could be struggling to focus for any number of reasons. Working from home without a clean, inspiring environment, healthy habits, or good support from your manager or co-workers can all lead to a drop in productivity. Fortunately, there are lots of simple steps you can take to improve your work from home productivity.
Ways to boost your work from home productivity
Feeling demotivated? Can’t stop procrastinating? Before you give up on working from home, try these productivity boosting tips:
1. Create a dedicated workspace
Free up a weekend and spend some time cleaning, sorting out junk and clearing space for a desk, ergonomic chair and all your work equipment. You’ll need:
Install plenty of storage to reduce clutter and arrange your screens and equipment according to ergonomic principles:
You’ll be amazed by how much a clean, pleasant environment increases your ability to focus and enjoy work.
2. Develop routine and structure
Productivity requires momentum. Give your day pace and energy by:
3. Learn healthy habits
Keeping active can help boost your energy levels and improve work from home productivity. Regular, moderate activity may be just as (if not more) beneficial than infrequent high intensity activity. Try to practice both by:
4. Eat well
Research by the British Journal of Health Psychology found that adults who ate more healthily over a 13-day period had greater wellbeing and felt like they had more meaning and purpose at work. But what does healthy eating mean? Aside from getting sufficient calories for your age, weight, sex, activity levels and metabolism, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. Always seek expert advice if you’re planning to change your diet, but here are some general tips to boost your work from home productivity:
5. Keep active
Each week Brits spend twice as much time making tea (4 hours 37 mins) than they do exercising (1 hour 36 mins), according to one study of 2,080 UK adults. Being inactive increases your risk of health issues, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and — because of weaker muscles, you’re more at risk of back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. Being inactive also means you’re missing out on the feel good endorphins produced when you sweat, and the reduction in cortisol levels (the body’s stress hormone).
Productive people tend to be active. Try incorporating the following habits into your work from home lifestyle: