5 tips to improve productivity while working from home

The number of people primarily working from home tripled during the pandemic. What started as a necessity has become a popular preference among those whose jobs can be done remotely. According to Pew Research center, “among those who have a workplace outside of their home, 61% now say they are choosing not to go into their workplace.” 

The rise in remote work has afforded employees location independence, increased flexibility, and better work-life balance, amongst various other benefits. But working from home is not without its challenges. Lack of community and motivation, as well as distractions in the home, are just two disadvantages that have been cited as a risk to employee well-being and productivity when working from home.

We’ve put together a list of 5 things you can start doing today to improve your productivity when working from home.

1.  Try time boxing

Time boxing is a time management method where you schedule out your day, what you will work on and when. To begin, divide your day into boxes of time, with each box devoted to a specific task. According to Cal Newport, Author of Deep Work, “A 40 hour time-blocked work week, I estimate, produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” It can be tempting to deviate from the task at hand when working from home, but committing to your time boxing will keep you on track.

2. Turn off your phone notifications

On average, it takes 23 minutes to get back on a task after an interruption. Smartphone notifications are an all too common distraction when working from home. The average smartphone user receives over 46 notifications on their mobile device per day. Try disabling notifications for as many apps as you can while working from home. A Carnegie Mellon University and Telefonica study showed that participants who disabled notifications engaged less with their phones throughout the day. By turning off phone notifications, you can experience less disruption to your work day and improved concentration.

3. Design your environment

The wrong work from home environment could be hindering your productivity. As Ross Dawson shares in his book, Thriving on Overload, “Create a space in which you can be completely comfortable for an extended period. Be  sure the ergonomics are good, with a chair in which you can sit with a straight back or at a standing desk, with your screen close to eye height. Avoid using a laptop without an external screen, as you have to bend your neck to look down. Set up lighting that is comfortable.” Having a functional work from home set-up is conducive to consistent productivity throughout the day.

4. Batch your email processing

Constantly checking emails throughout the day is not only a distracting behavior, but can lead to task-switching. Research estimates that you can lose up to 40% of productivity when attempting to multitask. In fact, Fast Company reports, “a number of research studies have concluded that our brains are actually ‘dumbed down’ while multitasking.” Instead of checking for new messages regularly, establish a few times per day where you will review your inbox.

5. Refresh with regular breaks

As Ross says in Thriving on Overload:

We cannot sustain focused attention for extended periods; you need to rest your mind periodically.  The basic rest-activity cycle (BRAC) theory states that we go through regular cycles of alertness and relaxation lasting around 90 minutes. Others suggest shorter focus times: for example, in the Pomodoro technique you work for 25-minute stints with 5-minute breaks. See what works best for you. What is critical is substantially changing your state and activity during your breaks. Be sure to stand up, walk around, look outside, perhaps do some breathing exercises. Don’t browse news or social media on the same device you’re using for your work—that won’t refresh you.

If you’re working from home, give these tips a try to boost your productivity.

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