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How to be productive while working from home

For most of us, home office is a new situation. We usually do not associate home with work.
Working from home does not just mean a change in location but also a change of our daily patterns and routines, the people we are surrounded by and new distractions we have to deal with. The following tips and tools might help you to have an easier start into your new day-to-day working life and make remote work effective and enjoyable.

1. Set-up

Separate your professional life from your personal life. Separating your work space from your living space is important as habits are linked to space. Choose a dedicated and quiet spot in your apartment or house where you can set up your workplace. Having a dedicated workspace, it will be easier to be productive and to find a clear end in the afternoon. It can be more tricky working from a one-room or shared apartment. Talk with your roommates before deciding on your work spot, maybe a specific side of your common dining table or a corner in the living room where you can set up a small table. Secondly, think about the technical equipment you need. Is your laptop enough or do you need a mouse, a keyboard, a screen, or headphones to work properly?

HO Mathias

2. Establish a routine

First of all, to start a fresh and productive day: change out of your pajamas and get dressed. Try to stick with your routine as much as possible. If you’d normally bike to work, do a little home workout. This is important to have some kind of structure for orientation. Signal your brain that things are going on – just in a different way. Your brain benefits from creating routines and patterns. A daily routine helps us to minimize the uncertainty and have a greater sense of control. A part of our brain, called the pre-frontal cortex, controls functions like abstract thinking or emotional control. The more we use this part the more tired is our brain, which affects our ability to be concentrated. If our brain recognizes a routine, it stores the routine in our habit centers and as a result we create new space in our pre-frontal cortex. (Stone, 2019) By the way: as mentioned before, habits are linked to space. Changing your work place from office to home is a great chance to establish some new routines that you always wished you had.

3. Organize yourself

Keep your workspace clean and organized. What we often fail to consider is that our own person can become the biggest disturbance if we lack self-discipline. Being self-organized is important to identify the most efficient path to achieve your goal. Set yourself not only work-related goals, use your time at home to get things done you never had the time to do during your regular days at the office.

Avoid procrastinating! There is always something that manages to distract you, whether it is our phone, friends, or poor time management. A daily routine with small successes on our to-do list will be more efficient, motivating and satisfying then taking on too much.

Stick to your work schedule

Determine exactly when you are done for the day! Try your best to stick to your regular working hours. Start on time, avoid to sleep in, and set yourself deadlines to work more disciplined and motivated throughout the day. Having a clear schedule can help you to separate your time at home between work and other activities in your free time. Productivity does not measure the number of hours you sit in front of your laptop but the amount of work you establish over the day. Productivity is closely connected to your job satisfaction, being able to tick off tasks on your to-do list will increase the likelihood to be happily fulfilled by the end of your work day.

Have regular breaks (for your brain)

Plan clear breaks to stay concentrated and stick to your regular meals. Focus on the positive sides of the situation: maybe you finally have the chance to try out some new recipes instead of preparing your lunch the evening before or eat out during your lunch break at the office. It is much healthier to take a real break from work instead of having lunch in front of your laptop. Take a ‘real’ break, just as you would do, when you were at the office: ideally 45 minutes for lunch and 10 minutes for a short walk or quick stretch.

Home Office Simone B
HO Fari

4. Communication

Be disciplined during digital meetings

Online meetings do not only require the right online tool, but the discipline of each participant during the meeting. Not being face-to-face with other participants is an easy attempt to distract yourself by checking your phone or your e-mails. To avoid that an online meeting ends in frustration, make sure that everyone has their say and get themselves involved in the conversation. To identify different people with different roles can be better for the engagement of the participants and to avoid poor time management. Choose a moderator, who leads the meeting and introduces the agenda. Another role may include a note taker, who summarizes the key points and e-mails them to everyone after the meeting.

Stay connected with your colleagues

Be in regular exchange with your colleagues. Working from home does not mean that your daily dose of small talk with your work colleagues has to stop – it’s quite the opposite actually. The more physical distance there is, the more communication is needed to feel a sense of purpose and belonging to our colleagues and employer. Make a call, rather than writing an e-mail, call your colleagues not just for the exchange of important information but also to check-in on them every now and then.

5. Health

Boost your immune system

To boost your immune system, be active during your time at home. Go for a walk and get some fresh air, do a home workout or enjoy the first sunrays on your balcony or in your garden. Working from home can drain our daily energy. Make an extra effort to move, eat, and sleep healthily. Our tip for extra motivation: download a fitness app, such as the Runtastic App or Nike Run Club to set up a group challenge with your friends or colleagues. Track your daily walk or run to not only improve your daily movements but to reach a shared goal together with your group.

Don't be too hard on yourself

Distractions close to your workspace should be avoided as much as possible. According to research, after being distracted it takes about 25 minutes for our brain to refocus on our task. (Thorne, 2020) While most of us have our routines and methods to avoid distractions in our regular work space, the home office situation is new to most of us and holds new sources of distraction. Unforeseen situations can always arise and all kinds of unexpected events can tempt us to lose our motivation for the day. It is important to recognize the flexibility of working from home. Sometimes it is smarter to pack up for now and come back to the desk with a fresh mind. It is only human that we cannot always work at 100% capacity. The 80/20 rule of the Pareto Principle can be applied for a better time management. Simply explained, 20% of your efforts end up producing 80% of your outcomes. To focus on your 20% capacity, instead the entire 100% three key steps have to be followed. Start your work by identifying your daily key goals, prioritize your tasks, and protect your most important activities from your least important activities.

Are you interested to gain more knowledge about remote work and are you motivated to start learning online? LinkedinLearning provides you with online courses, videos, and learning paths about time management and efficiency to work successfully from home.

HO Cornelius H


_Ida Fork is Corporate Communications intern at MetaDesign Berlin