16 March 2015
Nearly a quarter of American workers work from home at least once a week, and that number is expected to continue rising. But is working from home actually productive? Definitely, say many studies: it not only increases productivity, it also increases employee retention and reduces absenteeism. And with project management tools like Mingle and Trello, location is no barrier to collaborating with coworkers on group projects.
That said, it can be easy to get distracted at home. It’s great to be able to wear your favorite yoga pants without judgement and walk the dog at lunch, but for some of us it can also be sinkingly easy for a snack break in front of the TV to morph into an impromptu Game of Thrones marathon. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your work-from-home day
Note: Working from home a day or two a week is different from working remotely the majority of the time or working with a distributed team. I will write about some of the pitfalls, and plusses, of working remotely (e.g. from a different country than the rest of your team) in a separate blog post.
This can be a corner desk in your bedroom, a Swedish-style ‘Hoffice’ or even a table at a cafe. Just make sure you can stay there comfortably for more than an hour and have easy access to snacks, a restroom, and wi-fi.
Workers in a Swedish “hoffice”, credit David Wild
It’s easy for “working from home” to turn into “working all the time.” To maintain separation between work and your home life, you may need to give yourself a rough schedule (say, 9am to 6pm) and include a dedicated lunch/fun break. Make sure your family members, if in your workspace, know your hours. But since you are setting your own schedule (and listening to your OWN music, yay!) you can also make sure to dedicate your most productive hours to work, and your less-productive hours—like that post-lunch slump—to break time.
Working from home is a chance to savor a big chunk of quiet, uninterrupted time to work on big-picture items or intensive tasks. Turn your IM status to “Busy” for at least an hour. Set aside specific times to IM/chat/check emails: You can even set yourself a reminder if you want to. But after your email break is over, stop checking it. It’s a time-suck.
If working from home for more than a day, make sure you change your clothes and go outside. This cannot be overstated.
One thing that irks some people working from home is the blurring between the personal time and “work time”. And this isn’t an accident: one study found that working from home “appears to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek.” To avoid working too many hours, make sure you really and truly log off after 6pm or whenever you decided earlier in the day. With technology it’s all too easy to be “kind of working” all the time, but it’s better for your productivity and mental health to sign off for good at the end of the day. If you didn’t quite get done, take solace in the thought that you probably got more done than you would have at the office.
For your convenience, a list of tech tools for better WFH days
Project Management: Mingle, Trello
Our favorite tool: big touch-screen TV for updating our team’s Mingle boards and for all-day Google hangouts with our Austin office