At the same time, people who work from a home office also face a unique set of obstacles, including the absence of physical and financial resources found in larger workplaces, loss of structure, and isolation and the lack of motivation it can inspire.
Thus, the challenge before people who work from home is to figure out how to be productive outside the structures of a traditional office setting. Here are six strategies that will help you do just that.
1. Optimize your office
Arguably the most important factor in your ability to remain productive while working from home is your work environment. If at all possible, designate a space that is for work only, and do everything you can to enforce boundaries between your work and home life.
An office with a door helps; otherwise, you can try to create partitions by creatively arranging furniture or simply committing to not bringing any non-work-related materials into your workspace.
Once you've clearly defined the boundaries of your workspace, pay attention to the way the space is arranged. Do what you can to make the place aesthetically pleasing and physically comfortable through (for example) the use of quality lighting and ergonomic desk furniture.
And for the love of all that is holy, implement organizational systems that will allow your work to keep humming along (instead of losing half a workday to searching for an important document).
2. Invest in some greenery
In addition to enhancing the aesthetics of your workspace, plants have been shown to increase both happiness and productivity at work. In fact, one study found that people who work in visual range of household plants are up to 15 percent more productive compared to peers who didn't have exposure to greenery. Working near plants has also been shown to improve work performance and memory retention and contribute to a more positive mood.
3. Set boundaries with your family and friends
Anyone who works from home knows that one of the biggest obstacles to getting work done is disruptive (if well-meaning) friends and family members. Your work may be going along swimmingly, but then your spouse has a day off or your kid has to stay home sick from school--and bam, there goes your productivity. And then there are the friends who think that just because you work from home, you're guaranteed to be free for long phone calls or unexpected drop-ins at any hour of the day.
You may love these people, but if you want to remain productive over the long haul, you're going to need to learn how to set some boundaries. If your partner is home for the day, communicate up front about when you will and will not be available.
If a friend calls for a catch up, let them know that you're working and will need to call them back when you have time to chat. And if all else calls, it may be time to start screening your calls (and the doorbell) and simply letting advances go unanswered if you're in the zone.
4. Keep regular work hours
Both an upside and a downside of working from home is that it means you can work during virtually any time of the day or night. While flexible scheduling is a huge perk, the downside is that you might be tempted to work, well, at virtually any time of the night.
But frequent all-nighters are a death knell for productivity. Studies consistently show that the consequences of sleep deprivation include impaired judgment, poor concentration and focus, memory loss, and overall cognitive impairment--all of which will send productivity down the tubes. In order to ensure that you're getting adequate sleep, aim to establish regular work hours that end early enough for you to be able to unwind and get into bed at a reasonable hour.
5. Stay on top of your tech
When you work from home, you likely don't have a tech team on standby at all times. This means that it's up to you to make sure your technology is in working order. Otherwise, you risk tech issues that can blow out whole days (or even longer) of work time.
As much as you're able, try to invest in high-performing technology and learn at least a little bit about how to maintain it and troubleshoot common problems. And whatever you do, remember to regularly back up your system so you don't risk losing all your work.
6. Take breaks
No matter where you work, taking regular breaks is critical to maintaining productivity. This is especially true for those who work at home, however, because it can be easier to stay put. After all, you already have the creature comforts of home all around you, and there's nothing requiring you to step back from your work.
But turning away from work for a bit--even for just 10 to 30 minutes at a time--is critical for keeping your brain sharp and allowing you to think creatively. By all means, keep working if you're in the zone. But if you hit a slump, your best option may be to get out of dodge (if only for a little while).
Above all, it's helpful to approach working from home as an ongoing experiment in what does and does not enable your own productivity. While these strategies serve as a great starting point, ultimately it's up to you to determine the setting, structure, and scheduling that allows you to thrive in a home office.