How to Work from Home More Effectively
While I love coming into the office, I’m also a huge fan of working from home. It fits well with my personal work style and habits, but I recognize this is not a universal opinion. I hear plenty of people complain that they simply aren’t as productive outside of the office, even if their employer offers a flexible workplace policy.
Unsung Benefits of Working from Home
Why am I such a fan of working from home? Aside from really enjoying the lighting in my home work space (really, it’s perfect for working), there are some pretty significant benefits that apply to the larger population.
For starters, you save time and money. When you’re not commuting, you save on fuel or transportation passes. You can also put the time you spend traveling to and from work to productive use. While you’re saving time and money, you’re also doing a small part to help the environment. More people working from home translates to fewer people traveling to work. This in turn means fewer traffic jams and reduced carbon emissions – not to mention, less commute-related stress. The gas lost due to vehicles idling in traffic jams adds up… it’s estimated to be about 3 billion gallons!
These advantages aside, working from home does bring in a different dynamic. When you no longer have the physical distinction in place, there is the danger of work seeping into your private life or vice versa. Therefore, to work productively, it’s important to strike the right balance.
Tips to Increase Productivity
Create boundaries. Schedule your work hours and barring emergencies, stick to it. It can be hard to “turn off” when there is nothing telling you the day is done, and if you don’t create your own boundaries, you’ll soon find yourself fatigued, resentful, and stressed out. Needless to say, this will affect your productivity. Without the visual cues in an office space, you have to be proactive about bridging the gap in communicating your schedule. Depending on your company’s practices, it might be helpful to tell your colleagues when you plan to “sign off.” This will help them adjust their expectations and schedules accordingly.
Set time limits for checking and answering emails. Multitasking is overrated. In fact, multitasking is actually switching between tasks, rather than effectively working on two things at the same time. This means there is a switching cost or time gap lost due to jumping from task to task. Your brain has to readjust, and you lose time and productivity, which can really add up.
But work is work, and there will be times when you find yourself multitasking. In these cases, try taking notes as much as possible, so that you can jump more easily from task to task without backtracking. Or if you think of something you have to do while working on a separate task, write it down so that you don’t forget, and come back to it after your current task is complete.
Be realistic, and communicate accordingly. I’m not sure what it is about working from home, but I find myself overestimating the amount of work I’m able to accomplish. To correct for this, the first step is writing a to-do list and assigning time chunks to each task. Periodically throughout the day, check in to see if your estimates are accurate, and adjust accordingly. As you check in with your own to-do list, communicate this progress to anyone who might be affected by your work– your manager, your project partner, your team, etc. This way, no one will feel “out of touch” while you’re working remotely, and you build trust to continue working from home in the future.