Many people have preconceived notions of what it means to work from home. Perhaps close friends and family think you spend your days watching Netflix and cuddling with your pet. And, let’s be honest, there are days where you might procrastinate and binge another few episodes of your latest TV addiction, while having one-sided conversations with your dog. But, the reality is, most days working from home actually involves, you know … work.
If you’re looking to establish healthy boundaries between your work and personal life, you’re in luck - we’re on the same mission. So, fellow remote workers and digital nomads, let’s take a look at how to create structure and motivation when working from home.
Is working from home productive?
Let’s start with what we know about the relationship between remote work and productivity. For many years, the jury was out on the question of whether working from home resulted in increased or decreased productivity. However, a recent 2-year-long study led by Stanford professor, Nicholas Bloom, shed some light on the matter. Bloom discovered a dramatic increase in productivity from the group of employees who worked from home compared to those who worked in-office. His research team estimate that the increase in productivity amounted to approximately an additional full day of work.
Another survey conducted by Airtasker found that those working from home reportedly spent less time each day distracted from their work. So, the research indicates that working from home can be just as productive, if not more so than working in an office setting.
But, what if you’re having trouble getting things done at home? Let’s look at a few ways to create structure, routine and motivation at home.
Establish clear expectations when working from home
Working from home can often be associated with experiencing some form of guilt. Maybe you felt nervous taking a midday workout class. Or, you squeezed in a doctor’s appointment mid-morning and couldn’t stop checking your phone the entire time. This isn’t productive for you, nor your employer.
Whether you’ve been working with a freelance client or employer for a while, or you’re just starting a remote work contract, have an open conversation with them. Establish mutually beneficial working expectations that work for both parties. When are you expected to be online? How quickly should you respond to emails and Slack messages? Is it ok to make personal appointments during the regular workday? Once you’ve managed your employer or client expectations, do everyone a favor and let that guilt go. You’ll be happier and your employer will get your best work. It’s a win-win.
Take frequent breaks during the workday
Did you know that taking regular breaks leads to increased productivity? According to the Airtasker study, survey respondents cited that the most effective way to increase productivity from them was to allow them to take regular breaks. Having set work hours and keeping a to-do list were also effective productivity strategies.
According to Tony Schwarts, founder of The Energy Project, humans move through a cycle of energy and focus to fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. We tend to push through the fatigue with coffee and energy drinks, but Shwartz recommends listening to your body when it asks for a break. He recommends using breaks wisely - take a short walk, exercise, drink some water, or grab a healthy snack.
Working from home doesn’t have to be isolating
Although remote work shows that it is a great option for both employers and employees, there is one important caveat - working from home full-time can feel isolating. Bloom’s Stanford study found that more than half of the individuals who had previously stated that they would prefer to working from home 100% of the time, had changed their minds by the end of the study.
Even if you consider yourself an introvert, find ways to integrate community and interaction with like-minded people into your daily routine. Perhaps a co-working space might offer you opportunities to socialize and interact with others? Or, you might want to join a workout studio, take an in-person course, or link up with other freelancers for coffee and work dates?
Working from home is an incredible privilege, and can open up a great deal of benefits for yourself and your clients or employer. Be sure to establish clear expectations, take regular breaks, and find ways to actively combat isolation, and motivation and productivity should be well within reach.