Anyone who’s ever worked from home knows that, while convenient, it isn’t the dream that it’s always made out to be. Working from home can impact your efficiency, focus, and your general health—not to mention how hectic it can be if you have kids at home! But there are always new techniques, tasks, and routines to show you how to be productive at home, in the comfort of your home office.
How to be productive at home: Make changes in your office
This may seem like a simple idea, but in order to reach your ultimate level of home efficiency, you’re going to need to design for it. That means making changes not just in your morning commute, but in your office setup, daily schedule, and even in your home living spaces.
There are two different places to begin the process. Some people have a home office that has collected dust for years, and reaching peak efficiency will mean making a few small tweaks to the space. Others will have to create a space from scratch, which can be tougher to do but offers more flexibility overall, so making decisions for it might actually be easier and quicker.
In order to find the solution to the great question of “how to be productive,” you’ll want to start by creating a daily routine that mimics your office routine. The path from your kitchen to your desk, for instance, should feel like the equivalent of the path from your house to your work’s headquarters: so no texting while walking! Dress for the day like you would dress for the office, have your lunch prepped for your 12:00 break, and get ready to check in with your ergonomics. Add a lumbar or seat cushion to your desk or makeshift workstation for extra comfort: you’re working from home. You’ve earned it!
If you already have a home office, let’s talk about making some changes that’ll help you focus while working from home. Creating an ergonomic office will improve your efficiency, which means that you’ll put in less time and effort for the same amount of work—so your overall productivity should increase over the day.
Creating ergonomic efficiency
An easy way to lose time while working from home is by losing time around your mid-day meetings. If you’re setting up anew for each one, you might be losing five or ten minutes before every single meeting, which adds up! Instead, check your posture at your desk, and make sure it includes your webcam.
To be efficient in your home office, your feet should be flat on the floor or on a stationary footrest, with your knees and elbows at about a 90-degree angle. Your back should be straight and supported on a task chair, and your seat shouldn’t touch the back of your knees.
Most of us spend all day typing, so you’ll want to make sure your arms aren’t too far away from your body; reaching for your keyboard is a common error that strains the body over time, contributing to midday fatigue. For laptop users, a separate keyboard is essential for working at home—leave your laptop typing for writing in cafés and looking up recipes in the kitchen!
Most importantly, you want to figure out how to be productive from your monitor’s standpoint. Make sure that the top of your monitor is at or just below eye level, and tipped up slightly so it’s easy to see the whole screen. If your monitor is at the right height, it should be easy to slip right into a web-based meeting with a webcam on top of your screen. If not, add a monitor stand or monitor arm to your desk to get it up to the right height.
(As a side benefit, having your monitor at the right height helps you look more professional in online meetings and interviews, as your face won’t be distorted at an upward angle.)
Up your ergonomics for long-term home office efficiency
If you’re looking at how to be productive and how to keep being productive, your main task is simple: move!
When I redid my office at the end of last year, I snagged a lightly-used, high-end office chair for a fraction of its original retail price. In its instruction manual, it gives a few ergonomic tips—and the first is to change your posture every hour.
That’s right. Most of us splurge on a comfortable task chair so that we can set our chair just right and then forget about it for years, so much so that one of the greatest shared office sins is adjusting someone else’s chair. But what we’re actually paying for is the ability to do just that!
So, make sure you move regularly, and take a minute to slightly change your position every time you sit back down. Opt for a new office chair that lets you change the tilt of your chair by a couple degrees, and has the right size of seat to let you move forward or back. Not only will it feel better overall, but the small changes will spread out your stationary pressure points, making it easier for you to focus on the task at hand.
There isn’t anyone else to mess with your chair in your home office, so embrace your opportunity to sit differently! Or, for those with long days that seem endless, think about how to be productive without a chair, too. Invest in a sit-stand desk to force yourself to change your posture throughout the day. If your days are blurring together, you can even integrate your sit-stand desk into your schedule, keeping “standing” hours for certain tasks and “sitting” hours for others, as if you were switching from your office to a conference room and back.
Create patterns that help you be more productive
I’ve talked on and off about the importance of daily patterns in this post, so let’s finish off this guide on how to be efficient with a little more pattern-building and mindfulness.
To up your productivity in your home office, it’s important to minimize distractions. Some of the ways that we do that are physical, like having a monitor that’s at the right height or a chair with a great cushion on it. Others are routines, such as setting your Fitbit Move Alert to remind you sip some water and stretch at your desk, work to prevent future aches from distracting you.
Others still are environmental, or wellness-based. This includes using an after-work meditation session to keep you from bringing work problems to your dinner table, or taking a break with a few colleagues over Skype.
For post-work meditation, I like using tech toys like the Muse S Headband, which helps you settle your mind, even as a meditation newbie. For mid-work focus, I rely on something different: ambient background music, to help block out other work conversations happening in the same house. A little white noise or instrumental music can make a big difference for your ability to focus.
When there’s more than one person working from home, increasing your efficiency sometimes has extra steps, so be ready to make some small changes until everyone at home is happy. Efficiency comes from knowing your job well, but it also comes from minimizing distractions—like the ones that come from your home, office setup, and body.
If you’re ready to get productive in your home office, begin your search by browsing the complete home office at Best Buy.