At the onset of the Covid pandemic, when lockdowns worldwide forced offices to close their doors, most people I know were quite excited about the idea of working from home. All of a sudden, you didn’t have to commute to and from work every day and you could keep your pajamas on for as long as you wanted to — unless when you had Zoom meetings.
Fast forward two years, and it has become apparent that working from home isn’t all that it’s cut out to be. Apart from suffering from boredom and loneliness, many people are feeling unproductive working from home.
Seeing that working from home is here to stay, though, I have compiled a list of 13 tips to help you regain your productivity.
1. Avoid Burnout
One of the major benefits of working from home, I initially thought, was that I would have a more flexible work schedule and more free time. If there’s one thing that I and countless other work-from-home employees have learned over the last two years, though, is that working from home often leads to longer work hours.
This is because the boundaries between your work and personal life start to blur when you work from home, which mostly results in longer hours behind your laptop and less free time to exercise, socialize, or play with your dog. Consequently, work-from-home employees often suffer from burnout. To avoid burnout and become more productive, aim to work less.
2. Find Some Joy
Despite my initial ideas that working from home would be fun and help me become more creative, it has actually had the opposite effect. Because of my long work hours, my life has become super monotonous.
Recently, when I once again found myself dragging my feet to my desk to face yet another day of just me and my laptop, I realized that I needed to get some joy back into my life. That day, I enrolled for a French course, which involves offline lessons in a group setting, and phoned my friends to reinstate our once-a-month book-club meetings, which had withered away during the pandemic.
3. Keep Fit and Healthy
It is much easier to be productive if your energy levels are high and you’re feeling good physically. Unfortunately, working from home has turned out to involve a less healthy lifestyle than I had before when I still worked in an office environment. This is because I had a fixed routine back then, which included going to the gym after work and packing healthy lunches.
When I started working from home, my discipline regarding exercise and eating well took a turn for the worst. It was only when I started gaining weight and suffering from low energy levels that I realized I needed to make a concerted effort to remain fit and healthy. Since then, I have scheduled four to five exercise sessions per week and have been vigilant about sticking to these. Also, I have become religious about putting aside some time each day to make a healthy meal.
4. Follow a Schedule
It can be tricky to remain organized and disciplined when you’re working from home. The best way to ensure that you stay on top of things is to create a daily schedule. By drawing up a schedule and sticking to it, you can gain a clearer idea of how efficiently you’re using your time. Deciding on timeframes for each task will also motivate you to work in a more effective way and will hopefully prevent you from working unnecessarily long hours.
5. Demarcate a Work Area
Part of the reason why people tend to become less productive when working from home is due to the blurring of boundaries between their work and personal life. To prevent this from happening, and to help you get into a “work” frame of mind, you need to demarcate a work area at home. Train your family members to not bother you when you’re in your “office,” so that you can get the necessary work done within the relevant timeframes.
6. Take Multiple Breaks During the Day
I have found that working from home has led to a more sedentary lifestyle than when I used to go to the office. This is because of all the sitting. When you are in an office setup, you get up to go to meetings, see clients, and have lunch. It is very easy to forget to take a break from sitting in front of your laptop when you’re working from home. This is counter-productive and very unhealthy for both your body and mind. Schedule regular breaks throughout your workday, during which you can take a walk outside, make a smoothie, or do some stretches.
7. Get Dressed as if You’re Going To Work
Although it was fun for a while to stay in my pajamas or wear my old tracksuit all day after I started working from home, the novelty soon wore off. I quickly realized that by not getting dressed for work in the morning, it took me far longer to get into work mode. Even if you don’t have Zoom meetings scheduled, get up at the same time each morning and dress as if you’re going to work. OK, perhaps donning a business suit at home is a bit much. However, I aim to look professional and presentable on work days.
8. Keep Your Sense of Humor
When you’re working alone from home, life can become quite dull and serious. One tends to forget that working together with colleagues in an office setting has its lighter moments. Whether you’re laughing at a joke someone has just told or smiling whilst listening to the office banter, such moments help keep your mind in a positive space. Ensure that you inject some humor into your work days by sharing a funny TikTok video with a colleague or friend, or finding something that makes you laugh.
9. Have an Online Happy Hour
When you stop working in an office setting, you lose a lot of comradery and companionship. It’s only since I’ve started working from home that I have realized how much it meant to be able to complain about a mean boss while waiting for the office kettle to boil or share a drink with colleagues after work now and then.
If you’re in a country where lockdown is still a thing, organize a virtual happy hour with coworkers once a week, during which you can meet online for a drink and chat. Even better, meet in the flesh if possible. It will get you out of the house and remind you that you still have a support system, which is bound to boost your productivity.
10. Stay Informed
When you’re in an office environment, it’s much easier to stay abreast of new developments in your industry. It’s a bit more challenging when you’re working from home. Ensure that you read new publications in your field, listen to relevant podcasts, and attend webinars. You can also continue with your professional development by signing up for online or offline courses.
11. Ask for Regular Feedback
Since you don’t see your manager or team leader as often as you would have in an office setting, it’s important that you ask for regular feedback. Doing so will ensure that you’re actually on the right path and will provide you with the necessary motivation to keep performing at your best.
Effective communication is often more tricky when you’re not able to speak with a person face-to-face on a regular basis. When you’re only communicating via email or messages, a relationship can easily erode. For this reason, it may be a good idea to try scheduling video calls with your manager on a regular basis if they’re willing and able to do so.
12. Stay Inspired
It’s easy to lose your inspiration and enthusiasm when you’re working alone from home. People tend to gain inspiration from other people. Make an effort to get out of your house as often as time allows so that you can network with others. By doing so, you get to hear about new and different ideas, plus you also have the chance to share your knowledge.
Staying in the loop and networking with other professionals, whether this is at a talk, symposium, or community initiative, will help to keep you energized, motivated, and inspired.
13. Take Some Time Off
I’ve already mentioned that you should keep a daily schedule to prevent working long hours. In addition, you should also aim to keep a Monday-to-Friday workweek if possible and to take your weekends off. Taking your mind and body away from work will replenish your energy levels, which is essential if you wish to remain productive. In addition, a happy personal life, which requires having the necessary time to spend with your loved ones, is also conducive to productivity.