“I am working from home today,” said Sam. Sam considered working from home as equivalent to a day off, without the out of office notice or leave application.
So, that day Sam woke up late, had breakfast late and even started working(if at all) late. The feeling was like time had moved a few hours ahead and was moving slower than usual. The surroundings seemed slow and lazy.
Working from home with the same productivity as working from the office seems impossible for many people. I am myself a culprit speaking. I experience a 20-30% productivity drop when I work from home.
Some consider working from home as taking half the day off. Some others enjoy the day like a holiday. Some consider it as a day to relax with the only task of checking emails every few hours. Very few people can operate at the same efficiency at home as at work.
Everyone has a different way they look at a day they work from home.
Sam’s project was such that he could get away with a lazy working day from home. But depending on your organization, role, and line of work, not everyone has this privilege.
Gradually, Sam started realizing he had to grow in his career too. The less productive days at home were creating a comfort zone that he wanted to breach.
He decided to make his work from home days as productive as his days in office.
- Here are the 5 ways he made his day productive while working from home:
- 5 Reasons why you waste time while working from home
Here are the 5 ways he made his day productive while working from home:
1. Work on a table and a chair or similar work seating:
While at home, Sam would work while he laid on his couch with the laptop on his chest. Not only did this make using the laptop difficult, but he also felt lazier than ever.
He first decided to no longer work at home in a lazy posture. He purchased a table and chair at a reasonable price. This change in itself made a significant difference to his mindset.
Your working posture at your workplace vs at home should not be as different as your posture in a meeting vs your posture while eating jam from the jar directly when homealone.
Do not work while sitting on the sofa stretching like a chimpanzee. I do not mean you need to have a sophisticated work desk like your workplace. But at least work on a small table and a chair. A table as simple as in the image shown works well and doesn’t cost much either.
2. Turn off the TV and unplug it from the switchboard:
When Sam was working from home, he used to leave the TV on. He would not always watch a complete movie, but he would watch them in bits and parts. Sometimes, he used to switch channels in the hope of finding something interesting.
Just to know the time spent, he tried totaling the number of hours he watched TV during the day time when working from home. His jaw dropped open when the total added up to over 3 hours.
He knew it was time to get rid of the habit. Not only did he keep the TV off, but he also unplugged the TV to resist the temptation of turning the TV on for a short while.
All of a sudden, the day seemed to hand him multiple extra hours in return. He never realized watching TV could consume so much of his day.
On the surface, it feels like a few minutes of TV does no harm. In reality, a few minutes of TV on a work from home day turn into hours. Besides, attention residue from what you watch on TV takes more of your time. Do not succumb to the temptation.
Turn the TV off. Better still, unplug it. You will resist the urge to turn it on.
3. Sit in an isolated place:
Sam lived with a friend, Jack. Since Jack worked night shifts, he stayed at home during the day. Though Jack slept most of the day, he woke up during lunchtime, for coffee and other needs.
Whenever Sam was working from home, Jack and Sam would chit-chat or play video games.
Sam realized, not only was he impacting his own day by doing this, but he was also ruining Jack’s sleep.
Sam decided to work in his own room on his desk while working from home. Now whenever Jack woke up, he would visit the kitchen, the fridge, and the loo before going back to bed.
Sam got his time to work and Jack got his sleep.
If you have other people like your roommate, friends, spouse, kids, neighbors, visitors at home, excuse yourself during the work hours and find an isolated corner. If possible lock the door behind you.
The more you stay away from distractions, the better focused you will be.
4. Communicate your intention to others:
After a week, Jack asked Sam, “What’s wrong?” Sam did not know where the question was coming from. After a little digging, he realized Jack assumed Sam was ignoring him because he was locking himself in the room while working. Though he was happy to complete his quota of sleep, Jack felt he must clear the air of any differences.
Sam quickly clarified to Jack that he wanted to work with focus and also not disturb his sleep. There was nothing wrong with them and he would love to play video games after his work hours. Jack understood what had happened and they both had a good laugh about it.
Let the others around you know that you intend to work with focus. As trivial as it sounds, it is the key step that most people miss. The others in your house may have a notion that working from home is equivalent to relaxing.
Sure, they are free to look at it that way but let them know that you won’t. Communicate your intention to spend the day productively. You can also learn to increase focus and reduce distractions.
Communicate with your loved ones that you will work at home just like a working day to avoid any confusion. The last thing you want is your spouse or kid thinking you are ignoring them on purpose.
5. The structure of your day must match working from the office:
Sam’s normal day went by as follows:
- Wake up – 7 AM
- Breakfast – 7:30 AM
- Start driving to work – 8 AM
- Start work – 9 AM
- Lunch – 1 PM
Sam’s work from home day looked like:
- Wake up – 8 AM
- Breakfast – 9 AM
- Start work – 10:30 AM
- Lunch – 2 PM
Sam slapped himself when he realized this. “Why did it take me this long to understand this?” he wondered.
He decided to follow the same working schedule at home too. The day seemed far smoother when he followed the same schedule
If you start your day at the office at 9, you should start working from home at 9 too. Do not take working from home as an excuse to stay in bed an hour late. Similarly, if you start the project by 10, have lunch at 1 PM, you must try to match the schedule while working from home.
5 Reasons why you waste time while working from home
You want to make your day productive at home too, but you somehow can’t. Here are the 5 reasons why:
1. Access to a lot of distractions:
While at home, the TV is a button away, the refrigerator is a few steps away and relaxing is a room away. Overcoming such distractions can seem hard for people.
At work, you have no access to any of these. Even if you do, a refrigerator at home feels way different from a refrigerator at the office.
2. The atmosphere at home seems relaxing:
Would you work better in the cafeteria or at the work desk? Of course, at the work desk.
When you are at your work desk, everyone around you is working, or at least pretending to. When you see everyone around you working, the atmosphere sets the tone of work.
You are used to relaxing at home. Therefore, the feeling seeps in when you are working too. You can eat peanut butter without anyone watching you.
3. You take a nap:
Work from home days feels tiring for no reason. A long nap, or should I say sleep, is mandatory every afternoon after lunch while working from home.
At work, you cannot nap as and when you like. Most organizations these days have no problem allowing their employees to take a nap. Some even have good arrangements for sleeping.
But, sleeping at work starts and ends with a nap, adding to your productivity. Sleeping at home starts with a nap and ends with a sound sleep making you lazier.
4. You complete personal tasks:
On a lazy work from home day, you complete some of the pending personal tasks at home. You arrange your cupboard, clean the fridge, rearrange the sofa which you had procrastinated for a few days.
These tasks consume time and in between the tasks, you have to get back to work. You keep switching between them every few hours. As a result, you neither give your full attention to your work tasks nor to your personal tasks.
5. You compare a work from home day with a holiday:
For someone working at a full-time job, the only days you are home is during weekends and holidays. When you work from home, you are at home too. Your mind makes a connection with the other days when you are at home, which is the holidays.
If you get some work done on a Saturday, wouldn’t you consider it an extra effort you put in? As a result, even on the days you work from home, your mind looks at work as the extra effort put in. Even if you complete less than half the work you normally would, the day seems well utilized.
Working from home can boost your productivity or completely kill it. Research shows mixed results because the numbers seem to indicate an increase in productivity while many people believe their productivity drops instead. Most people believe they are more productive while working from home but seldom are.
Making a work from day productive is more in the mind than anything else. Telling yourself to look at a work from home day as any other working day helps you get more done.
Start WORKING from home from now.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.