There is an estimated 2.2 million self-employed workers that now make their living working from home full time. Unsurprisingly, nearly a third finds their productivity slowed by procrastination and the distractions of an informal work environment. While children and the call of household chores rank highest for interfering with getting daily tasks done, difficulties tend to strike even harder at those merely drawn to the idea of getting to work from home in their pajamas. When it comes down to it, it is home-based workers with a lax approach to balance and boundaries that find themselves wrestling with inefficiency on a daily basis.
Here are 5 tips to pump up work at home productivity:
Establish formal business hours. It’s not about waking up super early just to shuffle down the hall to a makeshift office. Establishing formal business hours and sticking to them is a way to bring a level of professionalism to a work from home endeavor and increase motivation. There will no doubt be days when adhering to a schedule is easier than others. Invest in productivity-boosting tools such as calendars, logbooks, online time-sheet software or download an Excel self-calculating time-sheet template.
Use online time-sheets to not only track work hours but to schedule meetings, breaks and time every daily task. At the end of the week, analyze how long it takes to complete each undertaking. This will help determine where time is being used properly and where it needs to be utilized better. Having the data in black and white will be instrumental for getting a better handle on time management.
Set up shop in the right spot. Not everyone who works from home is lucky enough to have their own perfectly decorated, private office space. Base operations of the self-employed can be found everywhere from basements to attics to dining room tables. However, the rule of thumb for setting up a work from home office is to make sure it is in the least distracting area of the home. It should be away from the TV and noisy, high-traffic areas. In addition, it is strongly recommended to never work from the bedroom. Not only is there a risk of getting distracted by a nice comfy bed, it can also be tempting to work when one should be getting a decent night’s rest. With work and sleep having such an impact on each other, it is best to keep the two as separate as possible.
Just the same, refrain from eating meals (aside from snacks) where work takes place. The aim is to begin equating the workspace as a place for work rather than a commons area.
Dress for the office. Informal as it may be, be sure to come to work fresh and ready to face the day. Studies have shown that overly casual work attire is strongly linked to poor job performance. This can be detrimental for self-employed individuals who must often show superior skill in their profession in order to keep business coming their way. Therefore, ditch the pajamas and bunny slippers for a clean shirt paired with a nice pair of pants and comfortable shoes. Just the other day I was putting on a pair of slacks and a dress shirt and my wife commented,
“I thought you were working from home today.”
“Well, I am working from home, so I’m getting dressed for work.”
There’s not necessarily a need to “suit up” but there’s nothing wrong with establishing a personal office dress code. The one challenge that nurses making the transition from the bedside to the office has is that we probably have drawers full of scrubs, and putting together your work attire for the next day was probably the easiest decision you were going to make for the day.
Shall I wear the light green scrubs today, or the light blue?
Take time to talk shop with colleagues. Working from home is downright isolating at times and if there’s one thing that’s missing for home-based workers, it’s the chance to gather around the water cooler and have an exchange of ideas. Self-employment often means having to network, which typically leads to establishing “virtual coworkers” and/or the discovery of discussion groups and forums along the way. When motivation takes a nosedive, spend some time discussing work-related matters with others in the business. It not only lets off a little steam, it can help create perspective and get things back on track.
Switch it up. Even with all the (semi) formality, don’t forget to take advantage of the perks of working from home. A change of venue every once in a while is a good thing and nothing beats loading up the laptop and moving the office outside on a beautiful, sunny day. For days when the weather isn’t so sunny, just about every eatery and coffee shop offers free wireless access. Just a few hours throughout the week amongst the living can help breathe life into work and help keep one from going haywire with feelings of cabin fever.
Those who work from home are braving new territory that, unlike the traditional workplace, has little in the way of concrete guidelines. While it can be rather refreshing to not have a supervisor breathing down one’s neck at every turn, motivating oneself when there isn’t can sometimes be difficult. Establishing boundaries helps create a much-needed sense of structure that launches a home-based career into efficiency.