Working remotely from home can be a challenge for many employees, especially if you’re easily distracted or don’t have a dedicated office space. Whether you work from home one day a week, every day after childcare drop-off, or on some combination of those days—working remotely is here to stay. In fact, 43% of employees in the U.S. are now working from home at least once a week. Working from home offers many benefits over the traditional office environment. For example, remote workers are generally more productive since they aren’t spending time commuting or worrying about what to wear in the morning. They also save money by not needing to buy gas or pay for expensive parking lots and can spend more time with their families by not having to leave at an early hour every day.
Set boundaries for your workday
If your office isn’t clearly defined, it will be way too easy to lose track of work/life boundaries, leading to less productivity and unhealthy feelings of guilt. So how do you define your space? For starters, don’t use your bed as your desk (or vice versa). If you’re working on a laptop, you also don’t need to have it right next to your bed or couch—find a space where you can feel productive without feeling like you’re not fully present. And if you have kids who are home during the day, try to keep your work supplies and papers out of sight. Ideally, you’ll want a separate room for your office, but since that may not be within your budget, find a corner of your house where you can carve out a space for work.
Keep only the essentials in your office
This might sound contradictory, but it’s crucial to keep your office as uncluttered as possible. Whether you work from your dining room table or a separate room, it’s important to not let papers, pencils, and other work supplies accumulate on your desk. If you’re using a desk, have a clear blotter and keep your computer screen clean. If you’re using a dining room table, keep a small box with essential supplies (stapler, tape dispenser, etc.) in the corner and try not to let it get too cluttered. Your office space shouldn’t be a place where you get stressed out or feel like you’re behind. It should be a place where you feel productive and comfortable being productive. Clutter can lead to distractions, so keep only what you need around you. If you’re worried about forgetting something, use digital organizers, a simple corkboard, or even a bulletin board to keep track of upcoming deadlines and important tasks.
Establish a routine and control your environment
Whether you work from a designated office space or your dining room table, try to maintain a routine every day to keep yourself focused and attentive. This routine should include a daily break for work/life balance, but other than that, try to keep your work schedule as consistent as possible. This means working the same hours every day, even if that means doing some work from bed before you go to sleep. Also, try to control as much of your environment as possible. This means having your kids’ toys picked up and put away when they aren’t around, turning off the TV when you have to work, and keeping an eye out for disruptions caused by your neighbors.
Don’t forget to breathe and stretch throughout the day
Since you’re not surrounded by other people at work, it’s easy to forget to take a breath and get lost in your own thoughts during the day. Taking a quick pause to take a breath, even if you’re sitting at a table in your dining room, can help you stay focused and make better decisions. It can also be helpful to have a mindfulness or meditation practice. Simply put, mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, without judgment. If you have a designated office space, try to make time to stretch your muscles throughout the day. And don’t forget to hydrate—your brain is made up of water, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Take advantage of technology to stay productive
You might be able to do away with most of your physical office supplies, especially if you’re working from a dining room table. While you may enjoy having a corkboard to keep track of upcoming events, to-do lists, and important papers, a virtual corkboard will allow you to keep your papers and important documents on your computer. This can also be helpful for organizing digital calendars, files, and documents if your office space doesn’t have a filing cabinet. If you need a break from your computer, there are many apps and websites that allow you to work remotely but on a more casual basis. If you work for yourself, this can be a great way to stay engaged with your work without being chained to your computer all day long. Additionally, most of these apps allow you to set your own hours, so if you have a specific schedule that doesn’t conform to a typical 9-5 workday, they can be great for augmenting your schedule while still maintaining a sense of autonomy.
Working remotely is a growing trend, especially among millennials. Many employers would rather hire remote workers who can work at any time and from any location rather than have a team of employees all working the same hours on the same schedule. While working remotely has many benefits, it can be easy to let productivity slip if you aren’t careful. Follow these tips to keep your workday organized, focused, and efficient.