Working from home means you’re surrounded by temptation. You set an alarm for 8am, but can’t resist pressing the snooze button. Your cat meows at you for cuddles and of course you oblige. The kitchen is nearby and cookies are calling your name. Come to think of it, there’s half a bottle of wine inside from the night before…a little creative inspiration couldn’t hurt, right?
How do you fight off these distractions and succeed as a full-time virtual worker? You can start by turning your home into a more productive space. Follow these 6 steps – you’ll be writing the next War and Peace or revolutionizing your company’s growth strategy in no time.
Have you ever worked in hospitality or retail? You turn up for the job and toil away (it’s tough, no denying it) but then you come home and throw off your uniform. That’s it. You don’t give work a second thought for the rest of the weekend.
The remote working life is very different. If you’re falling behind on work it creeps into your personal time. Did I get really get enough writing done today? Should I crank out another 200 words after dinner? The spectre of productivity is always with you; sometimes it’s impossible to mentally ‘switch off’. Many freelancers suffer psychological burnout for this reason.
That’s why it’s crucial that you establish clear boundaries. You need to create a physical divide between your professional and personal life. The best way to do this is by setting up a proper office in your home; ideally using a dedicated spare room.
Of course not everyone has this luxury. If you’re forced to combine your office with your lounge or bedroom, at least define your workspace. Set up a proper desk in a quiet corner, away from distractions like the TV or Playstation. Room dividers are cheap and create the illusion of a separate area – here’s a little inspiration.
The more physical separation you can create, the easier it will be to foster a psychological distinction between work and play. This will boost your productivity ‘at work’. And the more work you get done, the more likely you are to leave your stress at the door (or divider!). It’s a virtuous cycle.
I’ve always dreamed of owning a polished mahogany desk, topped off with a stylish glass whisky decanter and solid gold fountain pen. But most freelancers are confined by a limited budget, so choosing your desk is often about practicality rather than aesthetics. And the most important practical decision you will make is standing vs sitting.
Standing desks are all the rage in recent years, with wild health claims being bandied about. According to one study, sitting more than 11 hours a day increases your risk of premature death by 40%. Personally I’m skeptical about such dramatic claims. I’m also not sure I could be bothered standing for 8 hours straight a day, no matter what the health benefits are.
Luckily there’s a third alternative – get a desk that does both! I have an electronic desk that goes from sitting to standing at the touch of a button. I love the freedom it gives me. Just transitioning between the two states often triggers a new flow of thoughts. Some of them cost a fortune, but if you’re budget conscious check out this list of 7 relatively affordable sit-stand desks.
Working on a laptop or computer all day can be painful for your eyes, causing headaches and fatigue. This is especially true if you’re working in the dark. For this reason you’ll want to install appropriate lighting in your home office – it’s essential to avoid daily eye strain.
And if you tend to use your laptop late in the evenings check out the brilliant app f.lux.
F.lux adjusts your screen lighting to match the time of day. It transitions your screen to a gentle orange glow after sunset, making it easier on your eyes at night. This helps you get to sleep even if you’ve committed the sin of working in bed. It’s automatic, so just install it once and forget about it.
When I was freelancing full-time, it was only about 3 months before I noticed my favourite jeans had become a little…tight. I wasn’t walking to the office anymore and I’d stopped going to Les Mills with my workmates. My new job involved lying on the couch 40 hours a week, typing, snacking and drinking copious amounts of coffee. And it was more than just my weight; I felt mentally fatigued.
An unhealthy lifestyle can be really detrimental to your energy and mental focus. This affects your motivation and work output, which is disastrous for a remote employee. It’s crucial that you look after your health.
I suggest pimping out your home office with a set of weights and basic exercise gear. There are plenty of awesome fitness instructors on YouTube; find one you like and stick with it at least 3 mornings a week. This didn’t turn me into Hulk Hogan, but it helped me out of a rut and renewed by ability to concentrate during the day – I was happier and producing better work.
A barren, sterile desk does not motivate you to work. While you don’t want clutter, you should definitely pick a few things that boost your mood and remind you of your purpose. Why are you doing what you do? What are your dreams and goals? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Inspiration is different for everyone, but try the following:
Infusing your home office with your own personality is one of the best ways to boost your productivity and stay motivated. After all, you’re not a cubicle worker at a faceless corporation – why would you act like one?
Should you work in silence? Science says no. A recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that moderate levels of ambient noise can actually enhance our creativity and cognitive abilities. Our brain’s abstract processing is improved by steady noise at around 70dB (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner, TV, or moderate lounge music). However, noise significantly louder than this can impair our information processing.
This means you probably don’t want floor-shaking Norwegian death metal blasting out of your speakers. But playing music at a gentle background volume while you work is likely to improve your performance. And it will almost certainly improve your mood.
Of course, music becomes highly unproductive if you’re constantly picking out songs. To minimize disruptions, make one long (or looped) playlist to last your working week. Here at WorkflowMax we’re so mad about playlists we devoted a whole blog section to them.
Personally, I find music with lyrics distracting; so I save my Run the Jewels records for the weekend and opt for instrumental or ambient soundtracks instead.
If you’re not into music at all, check out Noisli as a relaxing alternative. Noisli generates a constant loop of ambient sound. You can choose from a bunch of soothing options; like a crackling wood fire, crickets chirping at night or gentle ocean waves. Noisli is my go-to when I need to concentrate on more analytical tasks.
Great! You’re finally set up with a beautiful home office. But that’s not where the challenges end. How can you manage your time, accurately cost jobs and invoice your clients?
Fortunately the emergence of cloud based technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely. Whether you’re a freelancer or you manage a team of virtual workers, using the right apps is essential.
Hopefully these tips have helped you maximize your home productivity! Remote working can be a delight and a privilege; it just takes a little forward planning and the right tools to stay on task.
Caitlin is a Marketing Content Writer at WorkflowMax in Auckland, New Zealand. She has over five years experience in the digital content world, and has produced SEO blogs, social media campaigns, press releases and creative copy for a large number of New Zealand businesses – from startups to household names.