5 best practices for working from home with focus and grace

5 best practices for working from home with focus and grace

One of the first ever control group studies on flexible work programs was conducted in 2016 by MIT and the University of Minnesota. Researchers wanted to see if there were measurable benefits. The result? Yes, yes there are.

Participants reported a variety of benefits, from feeling more supported by their bosses to greater job satisfaction, saying they were less stressed and had more time for their families.

Working from home certainly has its perks. With all its advantages, however, it does require focus and a lot of discipline. Whether you’re working from home part-time due to a flexible work program or running your own business, you need some guidelines to make the most of it.

So, before you seek your own work from home success story, have a look at these productivity tips:

  1. Get some accountability

    When you work from home it can be easy to get off-task. There are so many other enticing things to do, so it’s smart to create some systems of accountability. There are a variety of ways to go about this.

    You can check into an online project management system (like Basecamp or Trello) throughout the day updating projects with what you’ve accomplished. Use a freelance work time tracker. Join an online group related to your field to share your tasks and goals. They can help you make sure you’re getting them done.

    calendar on a laptop screen

    Or combine a variety of these ideas. Just make sure you have some way to be accountable for getting the amount of work done that you need to each week. This can help with the isolation/loneliness factor of working from home too.

  2. Treat it like a real job

    You need to treat working at home like a real job because it is. Just because you can stay in your pajamas all day does not mean you should! Getting up and getting dressed can encourage you to be more productive and focused.

    Mason Donovan, the author of The Golden Apple: Redefining Work-Life Balance for a Diverse Workforce, indicates that wearing the right clothes, even when working from home, has an effect on everything from establishing work-home boundaries to how much focus you maintain.

    Also, creating a schedule that works for you. Working from home means you can create your schedule the way you want, but you still need one. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable. Following a schedule will help you get so much more done and may even create some extra time for you to enjoy life more.

    Turn off distracting notifications on your computer and phone. Focus.

  3. Create a supportive environment

    Finding an accountability partner that will encourage and support you is one way to create a supportive environment. But you also need to make sure your physical environment is supportive.

    woman in pajamas using laptop on couch

    Create yourself a quiet office space where you can avoid distractions. Also, work to develop an ergonomic workspace that will keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and your spine aligned. It may be tempting to grab your laptop and work from the couch, but be careful: while that’s fine from time to time, it can be really hard on your body and cause eye strain if your laptop screen is small and your lighting poor.

  4. Set boundaries and more boundaries

    When you work from home, friends and family can forget that you are, in fact, working. Don’t allow calls and interruptions at all hours or your productivity will suffer greatly. Having a set schedule helps with this. Make sure others know what your working hours are and respect them.

    You also need to set boundaries on your working hours with yourself. When you take your work home, it can seep into your personal time and all areas of your life if you allow it to. Have a cut-off time and stick to it. No answering emails or reading documents at all hours of the day and night.

  5. Take breaks throughout the day

    We want to be productive when working from home, so this may sound counter-intuitive at first glance, but it’s not.

    As Becky Berry writes, “Working in sprints is based on the brain science that tells us that our brains are muscles. And we all know that muscles need rest to recover so they can be used effectively. This means your productivity increases when you work for a set period of time (your sprint) and then take a planned break.”

    Once you do focus in on your work, it can be hard to stop. Set yourself some reminders. There are apps and browser extensions to help with this, like the Pomodoro Timer, which allows you to set your work and break periods. Or eyeCare, which offers you a reminder to look away from the screen and give your eyes a break.

    Put action behind these tips and create a plan for yourself. Once you have your systems and methods in place, you’ll feel like you can have it all.

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