As companies go global and employees become virtual, more of us find ourselves working at home. Some find this is cause for celebration — no more commutes, cubicles or tepid coffee! But when you work from home, the responsibility is all on you. No one is clocking you in or out, or checking your work. You need to be self-motivated and highly organized.
Many people stuck in offices and cubicles disparage the home-office crowd as a bunch of layabouts pretending to work, but studies show that those who work from home may actually be more productive than their commuting counterparts.
1. MAKE ROOM
If you have a choice, put your desk somewhere other than your bedroom. You don’t want your brain’s work and sleep wires to get crossed. A dedicated room that can act as your home office is ideal, but even a nook or large closet can often do the trick.
2. SET A SCHEDULE
When you work from home, it’s tempting to sleep late and then work until whenever, but this is not the path to productivity. Our brains like regularity, so set your alarm clock to get up at the same time every day (preferably early). Do some good exercise or meditation, and start the day with gusto. You might even want to take a walk around the block before you start working, not only for the exercise but also to create a mental demarcation between your home and work life.
3. MAKE YOUR BED
This simple act may correlate with happiness, and it starts your day off on the right foot. But it is especially important to keep your home tidy and at least somewhat organized if you will be working there. Plus an admiral wrote an entire book about how important it is, so maybe you should do it.
4. TIDY UP YOUR DESK
If you don’t keep your desk area organized, your work stuff will flow over into your home stuff and vice versa. You don’t want your house to look like the office on The Office, but invest in a small filing cabinet if you need one. Every month, go through old papers and recycle or file what you don’t need. You don’t want to be featured on the next season of Hoarders: Home Office Edition.
5. TAKE BREAKS
Research shows that we are most productive in 90-minute spurts of creativity, interrupted by short breaks of either relaxation or exercise. Your own body clock may work differently, but the best thing about being at home is being able to get up, stretch, walk around a little—even catch a few z’s if you need to. If you do decide to take a nap, make sure not to go past 20 minutes or so (set an alarm on your phone or clock).
6. MAKE PLANS FOR AFTER WORK
Working from home has huge benefits, but let’s face it—you get a little lonely. If you are going to go on social media, schedule it into your day, such as “10 am: 5 min. Facebook break.” Otherwise you will get lost in the ultimate time- and productivity-sucking vortex. If you make plans with friends for dinner or the weekend, you can focus on your work, knowing you’ll have the opportunity to socialize later.
7. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF NOT BEING IN AN OFFICE
You get to be in your happy place all day, so make the most of it. With no coworkers to quibble over your musical taste, you can play tunes in the background while you work. Since you have a full working kitchen at hand (presumably), save money and eat more healthily by making quick salads and sandwiches instead of going out for lunch. And though we encourage you to get dressed—you can still wear anything you want—and that beats “office casual” any day.