Updated: February 18, 2021
Working from home is nothing new. Online freelancers have been doing it for years. But for those who are used to working in an office, this pandemic has made it necessary for them to adapt and learn how to be productive at home, to accomplish work without the efficiencies that a corporate environment provides.
Even as this public health crisis recedes, it’s less likely that we’ll go back to how it was before. Especially that companies and workers have now discovered and experienced the benefits of running a work-from-home setup.
For businesses, this could mean less office space requirements in the future. They could move to a smaller space with lower rent; or repurpose the utility of some work areas. Meanwhile, for employees, it may now possible to request to have variable work arrangements. They can save hours from commuting, which can then help minimize their expenses and allow them to save money.
As I’ve seen from friends, many created makeshift home offices, which isn’t optimal if their work-from-home setup continues for the long-term. Several friends also struggled with being productive at home. With the television and the bed just a few steps away, the temptation to procrastinate is stronger than when they’re working in the office.
So, what can you do to make yourself productive and efficient while working from home? Here are several tips that online freelancers swear by.
1. Set up a dedicated space.
It’s important to have a physical separation of your work and home life. This means designating a specific area or corner at home where you’ll set up your home office. Don’t work in your bed or at the dining table. Working in the patio or the living room can be tempting, but avoid these as well.
Having a separate room, which you’ll set up as an office is ideal. But simply putting a desk in a corner and making it look like a cubicle will also work. Additionally, you can put up dividers such as small shelves or plants around the space to physically mark the territory as your home office.
2. Make your workspace ergonomic.
Comfort is important, as well as having proper posture when working. Use a desk and a chair with standard heights so they compliment each other even if they come from different sets. However, if you have the budget, investing in a good office chair with adjustable height, armrests, and lumbar support should be your priority.
It’s also essential to maintain proper monitor height. Look straight ahead while sitting upright; your eyes should be 25% to 30% below the top of your monitor screen. This will keep your shoulders level and you won’t need to hunch your back when working. If you’re using a laptop, then it will be necessary to buy an external keyboard and mouse so you can raise your screen to the proper height through a laptop stand.
Moreover, work-from-home means a lot of online meetings. So, make sure that your workspace has good lighting. Invest in a led lamp or ring light if necessary. Not only will it make you look good in those Zoom meetings, but you’ll also see well when you’re writing or reading paper documents.
Lastly, be conscious of your cords and power outlets. Secure the cables to make sure nobody will accidentally snag or trip on them, especially if you’re using extension outlets. If you have children or pets at home, then keep those cords securely out of sight.
3. Create a work routine.
One advantage of working from home is that no boss is breathing down your neck. However, this shouldn’t make you complacent about your working hours. It’s important to set a daily work routine, which should include meal breaks and quick rests.
For instance, in my case during the lockdown, I would normally start work at 10:00 AM and then have a 30-minute lunch break at noon. I continue work from 12:30 PM until 3:00 PM and then I take a 30-minute break. Finally, I wrap-up everything and plan for the next day between 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM.
In addition to the work routine, I’ve also created a before and after work ritual, which allows me to transition into and out of the busy work mindset. In the morning, I have my daily mindfulness practice to help me become more focused for the day, and then a brisk walk or some physical activity at five in the afternoon.
In the evening, I avoid doing any more work and just spend it with my family, or talking to friends online, watching Netflix, or any other relaxing and enjoyable activities. I discovered that it’s good for our mental health to have a clear time boundary between professional and personal affairs when you’re working from home.
4. Get everyone on board with your schedule.
Most of us are not alone at home. And we need to get our family and/or housemates on board with our work schedule. You don’t want loud music to suddenly play in the background while you’re doing a work presentation, or be asked to run an errand while you’re busy typing a report.
Give everyone at home a copy of your work schedule and diplomatically ask for their cooperation. If necessary, discuss among yourselves and align your daily routines to avoid conflicts. For instance, I put up a “Quiet Please” sign whenever I have an online meeting to inform everyone to keep the noise down; and then I listen to music on my headphones at other times to allow them to be as noisy as they can without distracting me while I’m working.
5. Dress for the job.
Finally, working from home doesn’t mean working in your pajamas. From experience, I have better productivity when I take a shower and dress up as if I’m going to the office. I have friends who even put on makeup even if they don’t have any online meetings. Doing such rituals will help set your mindset about work.
We all work differently, so above all else, figure out the work-from-home setup that works best for you. Use these five tips as your starting point, but don’t be afraid to adjust and customize accordingly until you discover the best arrangement that will help you become productive and efficient at home.
This article also appeared in Moneysense Magazine. Get your digital copy of the issue here.