It’s official: More people than ever before are working at least four days a week from home — 31 percent in the U.S. last year, to be precise. The number of the people who have actively shown an interest in working from home, at least on a part-time basis, is also on the rise and it is backed by an increase in the number of companies who are supporting ‘virtual teams,’ according to further research from the World Economic Forum.
There are numerous reasons for why working from home has become such a popular and in-demand option. For many, it’s as simple as cutting down on transportation costs. For others, it relates to productivity and efficiency. Ultimately, unless it is necessary for you to be at a particular location to perform your role optimally, then it is possible that you have, or will at some stage, work from home.
There are, of course, a significant number of people who work from home full-time already and the challenges they face compared to part-time remote workers are slightly different. Working from home full-time has many benefits, but if you don’t treat your work like ‘work’ and keep it separate from your home life, you may find that the drawbacks begin to outweigh the advantages.
We’ve listed some useful tips on how you can remain productive while you work from home on a full-time basis. Naturally, you might already do some of these, or you might find that some of these don’t apply to you. That said, it’s important to continually ask yourself whether your current home office arrangement is optimizing your productivity.
So how can you stay productive at your home office?
1. Structure freelance days in your home office in advance
One of most significant issues that full-time home workers face is that it’s incredibly easy to roll out of bed and start working, then fall back into bed 16 hours later. In the short term, you might experience waves of hyper-productivity, but in the long-term, it’s a lifestyle that is difficult to maintain.
Using a calendar to plan your day and week ahead is a useful way of ensuring that you not only get your work down but that you do the other things in life that will help you maintain long-term productivity, e.g., nutrition, exercise, meeting friends and family, tidying your home, etc.
2. Eat well to boost freelance productivity at your home office
This isn’t a polite way of saying eat your favorite cereal for every meal; instead, it refers to eating a balanced diet that doesn’t get in your way. Taking a Sunday evening to prepare your meals for the week can save 5-10 hours a week. That’s quite a significant chunk of time, mainly if you’re freelancing and working on tight deadlines.
Buy nutritious foods, take some time to find 2-3 go-to healthy snacks that you can eat during the day, and have your main meals ready in the fridge so that you can eat productivity-boosting foods when you’re hungry.
3. Get some fresh air outside of your home office to reinvigorate your freelance work
This is the short way of saying be sure you get some exercise. As we mentioned earlier, it’s easy to fall into a working cycle that means you walk less than 250 steps every day. Again, in the short-term that’s ok, we’ve all done it, but in long-term that isn’t sustainable, and you’ll end up wishing you’d used that gym membership a little more.
Schedule in time for a run, walk, or gym session each day when it suits you best and try to stick to it. Treat it like another task or piece of work if you have to. Also, taking 20-40 seconds every 20 minutes to stretch a different body part is a great way of keeping your blood flowing and muscles loose.
4. Create a working environment as a freelancer in your home office
The place you choose to work is entirely up to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room in your home, you might work there and keep it as a separate ‘study.' If you don’t have that luxury, you might want to get creative and design a work corner or workspace that is part of your living room, but that doesn’t mean you’re always distracted by family or housemates.
5. Use A Time Management Tool
Poor time management often interferes with the productivity of freelancers. They are unable to track how much time they spent at work and they are often vulnerable to distractions.
To overcome the challenge of poor time management, freelancers should use a time tracking tool to help them schedule tasks for the day. Most successful freelancers use great tools like Time Doctor, Hubstaff, Toggl and Clockify. It helps them monitor and evaluate their productivity.
It also helps them to track how many hours they’ve spent on specific tasks, specific clients, and specific tasks. This way, they can generate billing information for their clients and virtual assistants. With the right tools, freelancers can automate employee management and monitoring.
This will give them time to focus on their work.Some time management tools also include distraction management features that nudge freelancers whenever they seem to be getting distracted by unproductive sites and apps.
This feature helps freelancers to focus their creative energies on work during work hours.Also, they can unplug from work when they have worked for the required number of hours for the day.
The essentials for a productivity-oriented workspace are:
- Good lighting — don’t skimp on the lamp or lighting in your room or desk
- Ergonomic chair and desk (or standing desk) — make comfort a priority, you’re going to spending most of your day in this spot
- Accessibility to the things you need — what equipment, tools, devices, cables, etc. are fundamental to you doing your work? It will differ depending on your profession but make sure they’re within reach, or as close as possible, to your workspace.
BONUS TIP: Build strong freelancer habits around the things that make you more productive in your home office
The ultimate goal is for your daily routine to be setup to ensure you’re as productive as possible. There are multiple guides and strategies on how to create a daily routine that achieves this, but ultimately your primary aim should be to create a routine that you enjoy, that ensures you get your tasks done, and that also allows you to do the non-work related things that you love in life.
Why is this important? Well, you’re more likely to repeatedly do something if you enjoy it, and also if you make a habit of doing it on a daily basis.
In summary, think of your current working arrangement at your home and ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable when I’m working or would I rather be sitting/standing somewhere else?
- Do I have everything I need within my reach or do I regularly have to scrummage around my home to find things?
- How often do I go outside each day?
- How often do I stretch or exercise each day?
- Do I have a daily routine or do I just get up and work on the next thing on my to-do list?
By using these questions, you should be able to identify some potential productivity hindering points in your current home office. You can then try to implement any of the five tips to ensure you’re making the most of your working hours at home.