Remote working and working from home have really taken off in the last few years. With the recent pandemic of COVID-19, many people have been forced into working from home against their will. Some people are going to hate it, others are going to see it as a blessing in disguise.

Whether you are working from home by choice or not, the switch from a commute and an office and coworkers to working from within your home can be a little daunting. Not just that, it can take a while to find your rhythm when you are trying to earn a living in a completely new environment.

Whatever your situation, you can make it work. Here is how to be productive working from home in the seven most effective steps…


Create a Dedicated Workspace


Just like you would normally get up and go to a specific place that you call ‘work’ each day, it is important to create this place of ‘work’ if you are now working from home. This allows your mind and body to get into the zone and to not create a problematic blur between your work and the rest of your life.

Do your best to find a spot in your home that is just for work. And don’t carry your work anywhere else – problems start to arise when you work in places like your bed and your sofa. If you end up working in these places, it is very common to be in the ‘work mindset’ when you are trying to sleep or when you are trying to relax and watch TV. Even though you are now working from home, it’s important to maintain that ‘work/everything else’ separation.


Set Boundaries


The next point ties in very closely to the previous one: set boundaries. These tend to come in two main forms:

  • Boundaries with other people – if you have kids at home or anyone else who might be a distraction, it might be worth setting boundaries so they know when work time is and when relax/playtime is. You can set soft boundaries which indicate ‘I don’t mind being infrequently disturbed’, maybe shown by a door open to the room that you are working in. Or you can use hard boundaries which clearly tell everyone else ‘Do not disturb’, maybe shown by a closed-door to where you are working. Whatever your boundaries are, make sure to communicate them with other people.
  • Boundaries with yourself and your work – you may be surprised that working from home tends to pose more of an overworking risk than an underworking risk. Why? Because it is so easy to do just one more thing on your list and be late for making dinner. It’s easy to keep updated on situations or emails while you are watching Netflix. Just as you might normally go to work 9-5 and leave work at work, it is important to do a similar thing when working from home. Set a time with yourself for when you are going to call it a day and stick with it. Your peace of mind will thank you for it.


Take the Opportunity to Switch Things Up


Starting to work from home may be the blessing in disguise that you never knew that you needed. It is an opportunity to switch up your routine, try things that you may have never done during work hours and to integrate some healthier habits into your new workday – even if it is just temporary.

If you are now working from home, you no longer have a morning and evening commute. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to jump into work earlier, you can finally start that 10-minute morning meditation practice that you’ve always wanted to do or get your gym session done at the start of the day rather than the end of the day. After work, you can take a walk into nature to reset, spend more time with the kids or just take more of a note of all of the familiar joys around you.

Not having a commute and having a fresh workday slate is the ideal opportunity to try some new things and start building some positive habits.


Schedule Everything


After spending the last few years or so working from home, one of the things that I have realised is that to-do lists are, in fact, your friend. This doesn’t just apply to work things either, it applies to pretty much everything.

Errands that you need to run, chores that you need to complete and even reading for pleasure go on to my to-do list because if they don’t, they quite often get neglected. When your to-do list is exclusively filled with work-related tasks, it is very easy to stretch these out throughout the day and spend longer on them than you need. You should stay disciplined in order to allow for freedom outside of your work hours.

Life, just like work, still needs ‘doing’. That’s why life also needs a place on your to-do list, especially in a very flexible environment like working from home.


Get Dressed


Getting dressed is probably one of the most underrated ways to keep yourself productive whilst working from home. If you are completely new to this whole thing, I actively encourage you to spend your first few days in your pyjamas – it’s what you’ve always wanted, right?

After a few days of smelly PJs and minimal showers, you might start to feel a bit of brain fog and demotivation kick in. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. Sitting around in your underwear might be comfortable, but it keeps you in that sleepy/relaxed mode and certainly doesn’t activate ‘work mode’.

You can make big strides in your productivity by simply getting dressed and telling yourself that it is now time for work. You don’t have to completely suit up to work at your kitchen counter, you just need to get dressed in some shape or form. These physical cues that you give yourself are hugely important for a smooth transition to working from home.


Get Plenty of Fresh Air


Although you may or may not have gotten much fresh air when you weren’t working from home, now is the ideal time to start getting some of the good stuff. Working from home can give you cabin fever if you stay enclosed within the four walls of your home office, whatever that may look like.

Not only is fresh air and walking extremely good for you, but they’ll also keep you sane and at your productive best. Who knows? You might even enjoy it so much that you make it a permanent thing.


Protect Yourself Against Loneliness


This is perhaps one of the most important things that you need to be aware of, whether you are just isolating yourself temporarily from all shared workspaces or you are thinking of making the move to working from home permanently.

Gone are the break room chats and the serendipitous watercooler conversations that would previously keep your social meter topped up throughout the day. Now it’s up to you to prevent against loneliness that can all too easily creep in when you spend an extensive amount of time by yourself.

A good place to start is to stay connected with your co-workers, whether that be meeting them for lunch every so often or using things like Zoom/Hangouts to stay connected. Outside of work, make sure that you are scheduling plenty of time to see friends and loved ones so that no days go by where you haven’t gotten to interact with a single human. This might sound like the dream to some introverts out there but we are all made for social interaction. Don’t let loneliness and complete isolation start to creep in.


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