How to stay productive at home

Working from home is becoming the new reality for a lot of people right now. But as many of us are spending more time at home in general, how do we stay productive at work without getting distracted by home chores, TV or other people in the house?

Here are some tips for staying productive while working from home:

  • Stick to a routine
  • Separate your workspace from your homespace
  • Declutter your environment
  • Take regular breaks
  • Keep up communication
  • Celebrate your productivity
  • Remember to log off

Stick to a routine

It’s easy to slip into habits like staying in your PJs when you’re not leaving the house, but it’s important to stick to your usual routines. Make sure you get dressed for work - it will put you in the right mindset and help establish when you are ‘in the office’ versus when you are relaxing.

Set a schedule and stick to it. Do you start early and finish early? What time do you take a lunch break? Do you want to set aside twenty minutes for a re-energizing walk? Decide on a timetable that works for you and try to stick to it. When you divide your day at home the same way you do at the office, you'll be able to better organize your time and get the most out of each hour.

Separate your workspace from your homespace

When setting up your workspace, try to think about your needs. It’s great to have the option of working from the sofa, but if you need access to your phone, computer and a notebook, it’s much better to have a surface or table to work at. This will help keep you organized and get you into the right headspace for working.

It’s also a good idea to make your work area a dedicated space, however small or big. It may not be physically separated from your living room, but psychologically it will help you compartmentalize when you are working and when you are not. Creating a separate space also makes it clear to your family or roommates that while you're sitting at your desk, you shouldn't be interrupted.

And the reality is you might not have a spare room or a large area to work in. We get it - it's not ideal. In these situations, small things like playing certain music, lighting a candle or changing into non-work clothing can help you find that work/home separation.

Declutter your environment

Once you have your home office set up, make sure to keep it clutter-free. A working area that's clear, practical and structured will make it easier to focus on work-related tasks. If you have non-work reminders around you (like empty coffee mugs that need to be cleaned or nearby piles of laundry) you’ll be distracted from what you really need to be doing.

Take regular breaks

The average person can only concentrate on one task for around 45 minutes, so it’s recommended to take regular breaks to give your brain a rest.

Methods like the Pomodoro technique, where you work intensively for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, can help keep you on top of your breaks.

Getting some fresh air in a garden or balcony is great if you have access, but getting up out of your chair, stretching and generally moving your body works wonders for keeping productivity high while working from home. It can also lift your mood and give you a fresh perspective on what you’ve been working on - a perfect solution if you’re feeling uninspired.

Keep up communication

An aspect of working remotely that can take some getting used to is the lack of daily physical interaction. Humans are social creatures, so when you're teleworking, it’s important to keep up these small (but significant) interactions - even if they are online. Grab a virtual coffee with a colleague, chat over email or host an after-work happy hour on Zoom. These small pieces of connection help you feel less isolated, which in turn can help you stay focused, positive and productive.

Celebrate your productivity

When you’ve completed something on your to-do list, take a moment to celebrate it. No need to jump up and down (though it would help get you moving!), but acknowledge your success. When you celebrate that you're progressing through tasks, however small, you'll get an instant mood boost...and it will help you keep track of how much you're actually getting done.

Remember to log off

This is one of the most important things to remember when working from home: log off. It’s easy to “do just one last thing” when you don’t need to catch a train home, but remember that sticking to your work schedule is crucial for maintaining your work-life balance (and, by extension, your energy and productivity levels.)

One way to keep yourself accountable is to establish an end-of-day routine. For example, in the last ten minutes of your workday, create a to-do list for the next day. This helps you understand what you’ve accomplished already, stop you from thinking about work in your downtime and get you ready to tackle that list tomorrow morning.