Whether you operate a business out of your home or telecommute occasionally, you've probably struggled at some point with the multitude of distractions and temptations a home office offers.
There are benefits to working from home, of course: reduced travel time, savings on gas and meals, the comfort of working in your pyjamas (okay, try to avoid that one).
In fact, working from home can actually result in greater productivity--Workopolis found in their poll that 90% of people believe telecommuting actually makes them more productive. It can sure help you achieve that elusive work-life balance.
There can be distractions, though. The dog wants out. The laundry needs done. Your children/significant other/neighbors don't quite grasp the concept that working at home is still working and you're finding your time divided between actually getting things done and trying to fend off interruptions.
How can you make your home office the most productive space it can be? I've had to reevaluate my home office space since becoming a father last year and have found these tips super helpful:
1. Set Your Office Up for Productivity.
Wouldn't it be awesome to have a massive office with solid oak doors, impenetrable by the outside world, with a giant desk overlooking a quiet pond, or maybe a stand of weeping willow trees, disturbed only by the deer playing around the trunks...
Okay, that's not likely to happen for most people, but you can still design your home office with productivity in mind.
Try to stay out of trafficked areas and find a quiet corner of the house, if at all possible. Paint your space a soothing color you enjoy (green is supposed to be great for productivity). Make sure your space has a window, unless you enjoy the feeling of working in a cave. Put plants or a small fountain outside that window, if possible, to give yourself something non-distracting and peaceful to look at. Make enough space that you can have everything you need to get your work done easily at hand.
2. Keep Your Distractions Handy.
You're going to need brain-breaks once in a while. Maybe it's a book, or a game app on your phone, or a favorite musical instrument--choose your weapon. Keep it close by so you can reward yourself with short breaks, but tuck it out of sight. You don't want to be constantly tempted and find yourself staring longingly at it instead of working.
3. Get Comfortable.
Not so comfortable you're napping more than working, mind you. But it's awfully hard to be a focused, productive person when you're constantly straining to see your computer screen or rubbing your aching back.
Invest in a good office chair and make sure you're sitting in an ergonomically correct position at your desk. If you get really uncomfortable sitting too long, try a standing desk in one corner of the room. I don't particularly enjoy them, but some people swear by it.
Little things like an anti-glare screen for your computer can seriously up your comfort level, allowing to focus on getting your work done.
4. Invest in Light Exercise Equipment.
Pick up a set of resistance bands, light weights or even a small treadmill or step machine and keep it in your office space. Taking short breaks for exercise can help you shift gears, refocus and reenergize as needed throughout the day. Not to mention--it's just good for you. Your head and heart (and back, and shoulders, and knees...) will thank you for this one.
5. Declutter Ruthlessly and Often.
Things have a habit of collecting in home offices... all kinds of things--especially if you have kids.
Make it a habit to purge your home office of paper piles, half-read books, coffee cups, knickknacks and whatever else is taking up space and not serving any purpose.
Resist the urge to use that space as storage--and fight off anyone else in your home who sees that nice clean space of floor as a potential home for those boxes of old clothes and books they're too lazy to carry to the basement. You can't get your work-from-home groove on with a clear, focused mindset when you're surrounded by junk.
6. Take Eye Breaks.
This sounds small, but you'd be surprised how much difference it can make! It's hard to remember to do it regularly, so make a real effort here and see how it works for you.
Reduce eye strain by following the 20-20-20 rule. Every twenty minutes, stop looking at your screen. Stare at something 20 yards away and hold it for 20 seconds. Your peepers will thank you.
7. Work with Purpose.
Make a list of tasks you need to complete every day--and then do it. Make sure everything you need to get your work done is available to you, whether in your office or on the computer. Cross items off the list as you go.
8. Get Tough with Distracting People
There may be people in your life that, as hard as you try to remind them gently, just don't get it--that working from home still means working!
Whether it's a chatty neighbor, or a friend who just likes to pop by, or your mother-in-law calling incessantly, teach yourself to politely but firmly disengage. Don't answer the phone or the door; it's really as simple as that. Once you've let people know your work hours and that you are unavailable, there's no need to apologize for being unavailable for anything short of an actual five-alarm emergency.
If you don't set your boundaries, no one's going to do it for you.
9. Dress Like a Grownup
It's a bad habit to get into--wandering down the stairs in your boxers and t-shirt, grabbing a cuppa and heading straight to the computer. You can shower later, right? Maybe next break...
Don't do it. Force yourself to get up and get ready for a regular work day, every day. You're going to get distracted, you'll lose track of time and be in a panic when you suddenly have to get ready for a video call or to actually go somewhere. Plus, there's just something about dressing the part that makes you feel more professional and ready to tackle your work in the most productive way possible.
Seriously, put your pants on.