All evidence points toward more of us working from home in the not-too-distant future. However, the transition from the workplace to home office space has been accelerated in the short term by the emergence of the coronavirus. Officially recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is forcing more of us to work from home where we would usually find ourselves in an office environment.
As a result, many of us have made the transition from desks to kitchen tables (or couches). Such a change could be damaging to our productivity; after all, we tend to associate our workplaces with getting our tasks done and our homes with relaxing.
Is it possible to boost our productivity to achieve the same results as we would at our desks? It's clearly possible; numerous startups began life in college dorms, including giants like Facebook and Google. Could you and your business's team members experience similar energy from your homes?
Let's take a deeper look at ways we can protect against procrastination to maintain strong output away from our desks:
1. Treat your space like an office.
The primary danger associated with working from home stems from your subconscious thinking that it's time to relax. Your home is likely set up to provide comfort and relaxation. While a relaxing environment is great for downtime, it could be counterproductive to getting work done.
When your home is your workspace, it's important to snap yourself out of its relaxing connotations. It may seem appealing to work in your pajamas, but it could hinder your productivity if your brain thinks you're ready to lounge around like it's a Saturday morning.
As your body associates sleepwear and TV with lounging around, you'll need to switch to more of a working mindset. To do this, you should get ready as if it's an office day. Take a shower, make a morning coffee or tea, and dress in something a bit smarter than sweatpants to get your mind in gear for the workday ahead.
2. Maintain communication.
The problem with procrastination is that it's the easiest thing you can do. This means that your subconscious will look for any excuse to delay the act of getting things done.
This tendency gets worse when nobody's around to witness what you're doing. Because you're working on your own, with no employees or colleagues around to see whether you're working or not, it can be easy to put off your deadlines and get lost in the depths of YouTube before getting your tasks done.
It's important to counter the lure of procrastination where you can, and one of the best ways to do this is to maintain communication with your employees, colleagues, and clients at all times. By checking in regularly with those who keep you accountable and look to you to set an example, you'll feel more obliged to accomplish tasks in a better timeframe.
Whether through email, Slack, WhatsApp or productivity trackers like Monday.com, make sure to update your team with your business's progress. This not only encourages your productivity but enables your team to work better in the knowledge that you're still approachable for help and updates. [Read related article: Free Business Services to Help You Weather the Coronavirus]
3. Establish break times.
Working from home is a blessing and a curse when it comes to handling your newfound flexibility. Where offices traditionally have designated break times, there's no such structure at home. This lack of organization can make breaks sporadic or long-winded.
Breaks are important because they give workers some much-needed time to switch off and refresh their brains before diving back into their tasks. It could be tempting to work solidly for six hours before taking a long break in the afternoon, but this poses a greater risk of burnout.
Allow yourself a short break from your work in the mornings and afternoons around lunchtime, and encourage your team to do the same. Having designated break times helps your brain realize that you're actually in work mode as opposed to just lounging around your living room with a laptop.
4. Limit distractions.
It's imperative that you nip all the dangers of procrastination in the bud when working from home. Sadly, these dangers are everywhere. Procrastination can arise from all sorts of places. Podcasts can make for good background listening, but they can become all-consuming if you're not careful. If the living room looks dirty, your brain could cling to it as a means of distracting you from your deadlines.
Establish an organized working space and remove any potential distractions from your line of sight. Keep the TV off, and put your smartphone in airplane mode if you find yourself serially checking up on Twitter or Facebook. This converts your distractions into treats for when you complete a certain set of tasks before your next break time.
5. Create schedules.
Creating schedules can be a great way to boost your productivity while limiting the temptation of distractions. At the start of each day, take a look at the tasks you'll need to complete before logging off and try to allocate each of them into certain timeframes – or compartmentalize them around your break times. This approach will make you less likely to distract yourself with TV shows in the complacent belief that you'll get your work done in whatever time you have left in the day.
By setting up an easy-to-follow schedule, you might be able to organize some rewards upon completing your tasks. If you finish your tasks for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. ahead of schedule, treat yourself to a snack or some brief social media time – just don't get sucked in!
6. Eat healthy.
One underappreciated way of helping yourself stay productive while working from home is the act of eating healthy. Your kitchen is nearby, and food delivery apps are just a tap away, but avoid the temptation of junk food or an irregular eating schedule. Overindulging could lead to severe drops in productivity during an afternoon, while missing out on lunch altogether could lower your concentration as the day wears on.
Try to maintain a similar eating schedule and diet to that of a standard day at work. This will help you build a level of familiarity and routine that should aid your productivity. By eating healthy foods, you can stay feeling fresh and switched on despite the distractions of home comforts.
7. Quantify your productivity.
It's important to measure your results at all times. If you run an online business (such as an e-commerce store), analytics platforms like Google Analytics and Finteza help you monitor your site performance in real time, including your traffic and conversions, while services like Salesforce can work wonders in quantifying your efforts in retail environments.
Measuring your output helps keep you motivated outside of your office. It also provides a tangible link between the work you're doing within the comfort of your home and your real-world results.
Whether you monitor your sales, keep tabs on your employees' productivity, measure the success of your content, or quantify your clients' satisfaction, create a metric of your progress to remain in touch with the effectiveness of the work you're producing.
8. Change your environment to keep things fresh.
If you find your efforts going stale or fear that your urges to procrastinate are getting the better of you, try to change your environment altogether. By setting up camp in a coffee shop or quiet bar – if you live in an area where they're still open and keep a safe distance from other patrons – you can refresh your environment while maintaining access to the internet (in most cases).
Try changing your working environment once a week, if only within your house, and reset your focus in a way that boosts your productivity and helps you get tasks done.
Remember, above all else, that there's no right or wrong way to work from home. We all have our vices and different ways to stay productive. By limiting your distractions and breaking your day up into its component tasks, you can protect yourself from the threat of procrastination and optimize your output in a way that suits your work ethic and results.
Whether you're working at home by choice or necessity, give your brain the best chance possible of slipping into work mode and banish the laziness of your subconscious until the weekend.