Currently, America and the world are dealing with the challenges of handling a pandemic and quarantine. As people are forced to work from home, they are being confronted with the dilemma of how to stay as productive in an environment that many are not used to.
Working from home is a topic that's discussed in our society all the time. There are opposing views on how much of a difference in productivity there is between work done in an office versus work done from home. That debate we'll save for another time.
At SMB Compass, we've had multiple remote employees and a few team members who work from home. We have seen what works for people in the office and what works for people at home. We decided, given the challenges that businesses are dealing with, we'd share our experiences and the keys to a productive workday at home based on what our team has practiced.
Your typical workday and how it's built for productivity
The workday, in general, comprises a typical routine that is tied around commuting, office tasks, coffee breaks, lunch, followed by more work and possibly more coffee breaks. One of the most overlooked benefits of working in an office is the organic routine that is set in place – you normally have a scheduled time when you arrive at the office and when you leave. Within that schedule, you consciously or subconsciously build those daily routines that fill the time within the schedule.
Working from home can completely disrupt that routine. Your two-hour commute no longer exists. The one-hour lunch you take with co-workers is no longer there. You may also lose out on the unlimited coffee, the cookies Steve brought into the office and the jokes from that one funny intern.
All of these little things don't add up or really matter if we're talking about one day working from home or even a week. But what about when you're presented with the test of being away from your office for months at a time?
How can you prepare your days and weeks ahead for the most productive outcome possible?
Let's start with what it means to have a productive work routine. The first few hours of the day are the most crucial in building a day that will either produce the results you want or an unproductive, lackluster day.
How to start your day
The start to every day should carry over as many of the typical routines and tasks as your work-from-the-office days. If it takes you 45 minutes to commute to work every day, use those 45 minutes to do similar things before starting your workday.
If you have a favorite podcast you listen to in the mornings, take time to keep this part of your daily routine at home. If you work out at 5 a.m. before going into the office, keep that schedule going.
It's important to quantify your routines around the schedule that you're used to. (For example, I spend two hours a day on the subway reading sci-fi books.)That means planning your day by filling it with as many time slots that your biological clock and mind are used to.
Incorporate the perks of working from home with your office routine
The perks of working from home vary from person to person – we all have our ideal environment and way of living. In general, most people who love working from home tend to mention things like comfortability, practicality and that their home environment is less distracting than an office.
So that could mean that the one-hour lunch you're used to can be replaced with one hour of working on a home project, spending time with your pet, or cooking that one meal you saw on Instagram that caught your eye the other day.
Filling these time slots is crucial for productivity. Contrary to what most people think, working from home leads to more hours spent working than what people realize. It's extremely easy to start your day, get started on work, and nine to 12 hours later still be sitting at your desk working.
Burnout is a concern when you work for home. How you handle breaks is crucial for long-term productivity. Incorporating the perks and benefits of working from home into your daily routine will allow for a happier and calmer mind, which benefits productivity.
Set up an environment that leads to productivity
So far, we've talked about building a routine that closely replicates the office environment that many are used to.
Another key aspect of successfully working from home is the location of your workspace within your home. While it's nice to be able to move around the house, going from the basement to the living room to the kitchen and still be working, it's important to have a set place where most of your work gets done.
When we surveyed our people, we asked what kind of setup works best for them. The consensus was that the ideal scenario is to have your own office at home – a separate room that's meant for working.
While that may not be attainable for everyone, there are important takeaways that can still be incorporated.
Designate one particular spot, whether that's a kitchen counter, a barstool or a desk as the one spot where the magic will happen. The key to having a designated spot is that helps you create a mindset that this location is where work will happen. Being in that mindset is crucial for productivity.