5 Ways To Stay Productive When Working From Home

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By Kathryn Berg

EAP Trainer
The Village Business Institute 

Whether it be taking care of a sick child, travel, or simply a need for a change in scenery, there will likely come a time in your professional career that you will need to get work done outside of your office. Working remotely has become commonplace in recent years thanks to advancing technology: one 2014 study found that 67% of Americans spend time telecommuting each week.

But while our laptops and cell phones have reached that higher level, have we humans? Getting into the “work zone” isn’t always easy when most of the time, you’re used to physically being at work. Maintain your productivity at home or on the road by sticking to a few easy tips.

1. Dress for Success
It sounds simple (and it is), but one of the easiest ways to get in the productive mindset is to simply get dressed in the morning. Many telecommuters joke that wearing sweatpants is the best part about working from home, but putting on a lazy outfit just puts you in the mood to have a lazy day. Getting dressed as you would for a day in the office sets the tone for professionalism and productivity, no matter where you are.

2. Stay In Touch
Sometimes even though we are always available, emails aren’t the right medium for conversation. Luckily, technology allows us the immediacy that work often requires. When working off-site, make sure your phone is always on in order to keep up with clients and coworkers. Consider using an instant messaging service like GChat or Skype to hash out quick conversations that don’t necessarily require a phone call. If you’re missing out on meetings, talk to your supervisor or IT department about downloading a service like WebEx or GoToMeeting to join in remotely via video or by sharing your screen.

3. Nix the Netflix
Minimizing distractions is key for keeping your productivity levels high. While the new season of House of Cards is tempting to play in the background as you work on other things, studies show that when you try to do two tasks at the same time, neither one of them gets done as quickly as when you focus on one task at a time. Multitasking costs us 40% of our productivity and increases our likelihood of making mistakes. Just like getting yourself in the right mindset by putting on the right outfit, remove yourself from distractions like TV and focus on your work while you’re “at” work. Frank Underwood deserves your undivided attention, anyway.

4. Maintain a Routine
With the options of waking up, eating lunch, and getting your work done when you want, working from home seems like an ideal set-up for anyone. However, a lax schedule is a surefire way to cut into your productivity. Beginning work, taking breaks, and ending work around the same time each day will help in creating that sweet-spot mindset that gets stuff done. That’s not to say, however, that you should necessarily be strapped to an 8 am-5pm schedule. If you find yourself to be more productive in the evening (and your supervisor and team approve), consider maintaining a regular routine later in the day instead.

5. Set Goals
Goals are important no matter where you’re working, but they take special precedence at home or on the road. If you find yourself unable to get things done, make a point to sit down with your supervisor and set specific, attainable goals that you can deliver on. Having these specific goals in place will be a key motivator and help you maintain your productivity no matter where you are. Make sure you check in with your progress and deliverables often, and adjust or re-up your goals as needed.

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About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.