Getting to work from home sounds like a dream come true to many people. No commuting, more time with family, and setting your own schedule. Reports from Japan suggest that the shift to remote work has been embraced and beneficial to well-being, at least in some countries.1 But for many of us, the shift to work from home since March has caused a struggle to balance children needing your attention and your boss asking for an updated report. So, how can you stay productive while working from home?
- Take breaks. Spending too much time sitting2 or staring at a computer screen3 is bad for your health, and you’re probably doing a lot more of it now.2 Try the Pomodoro technique to give yourself a mental break, leg stretch, and productivity boost. This strategy suggests working on something for 25 minutes and then taking a five-minute break. In those five minutes, you can do anything that’s non-work related, like checking on your kids’ homework progress or completing a set of stretch and folds for your sourdough bread. Although five minutes doesn’t seem very long, ALO7 tutors will tell you that it’s incredible what can be accomplished in the five minute break between classes!
- Dress for work. By now, we’ve all seen the embarrassing consequences of “business on top, party on the bottom.” But besides saving yourself from becoming a viral video on the internet, keeping your daily routine of personal grooming and professional dress can help you increase your work focus. It’s tempting to wear PJs and skip brushing your teeth when no one is really going to see or smell you over the video conference call. However, doing so can keep you from the work mentality and makes it easier to procrastinate.
- Find a work dedicated space. Like dressing to work, having a dedicated workspace helps you get into a productive mindset, even though you work from home. Ideally, this space is different from places you visit in your daily routine, like the bedroom or kitchen. With children and spouses also doing online work, that might not be entirely feasible these days. Try to use a spot at the table that’s not your usual seat or set up a small card table in the living room. The key is to have an area that you only sit down at to do work. If you are able, set up your workspace the night before, so you’re ready to go in the morning and don’t waste time looking for a spare pen or your headphones.
- Set a schedule. It can be hard to get work done when you may also be filling in as your children’s teacher, dog walker, and live-in maid. Instead of working 8 to 4 as you usually would, you may have to adjust to working a few hours before breakfast when everyone is still asleep, a few hours in the afternoon while kids are doing homework and later at night after bedtime. No matter how your schedule works out, try to keep it consistent because studies have shown that a regular schedule not only helps us be more productive, but it also helps us shift into “productive mode” quicker.4 Several of our ALO7 tutors suggest using a planner to help set goals for each day and keep to your schedule, as well as let the rest of your family know when you are busy.
- Music. You could probably ask any random group of people about their personal opinion on whether music helps them work or not, and most would say, “Hey Yeah!” But if you asked them which music works best, you’d probably hear everything from Mozart to Metallica. Numerous studies show that music does, in fact, help productivity.5 The underlying reasons aren’t fully understood beyond the simple fact that listening to music we like can make us happy. And when we are happy, we are more focused and productive. But be aware that listening to songs that make you want to sing along can be a bigger distraction. So be sure to set the workday mood with your tunes, but be wary of lyric heavy or repetitive pop songs that may be too catchy for their own good.
- Limit distractions. Some people love working from home. But not everyone can easily make the switch, especially when your workspace is filled with countless distractions throughout the day. Trying to limit the distractions we have in our homes is easier said than done.
Maybe it is time to accept the distractions. Yes, you read that right. We all know that distractions are going to happen. But if we change the mentality to timing the distractions, the workflow will benefit. It can be as easy as coupling the Pomodoro technique with some of your more pressing duties. You know when you will need to stretch after a long work session, so why not use a smart break to walk the dog? This way, it becomes less of a chore and more of an escape. Just remember not to beat yourself up too much if your 10-minute coffee break turned into a 50-minute tea party with your daughter and her menagerie of dolls. After all, part of the benefits of remote work is having a better work-life balance. Finding the right schedule that works for you will take some time and effort, but your productivity doesn’t have to suffer.
Citations for How To Work From Home Successfully
1 Blair, G. (2020, May 14). Japan suicides decline as Covid-19 lockdown causes shift in stress factors. Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/14/japan-suicides-fall-sharply-as-covid-19-lockdown-causes-shift-in-stress-factors
2 Leech, J., MS. (2019, June 19). Is Sitting Too Much Bad for Your Health? Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/why-sitting-is-bad-for-you
3 Computer Vision Syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome
4 Bauld, A. (n.d.). Stable scheduling increases sales and employee productivity, study finds. Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://news.uchicago.edu/story/stable-scheduling-increases-sales-and-employee-productivity-study-finds
5 Kemmis, S. (2020, May 12). The Science of Music and Productivity. Retrieved May 19, 2020, from https://zapier.com/blog/music-and-productivity/
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Delanie Honda has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. While in Cambodia in 2014, she discovered she had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals through language learning. During her Master’s studies, she researched interventions using technology to provide quality education to students around the world. She has been a tutor with ALO7 since April 2017 and lived in Southeast Asia, Ecuador and Colombia.
The digital nomad lifestyle has allowed her to pursue the two things she loves: travel and education. As a Chinese-Japanese American, Delanie is asked, “Where are you from?” a lot, but welcomes the opportunity to share her culture with the people she meets from around the world. Her favorite things to do while traveling are trying new foods, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and exploring on foot.