There's now scientific proof to back up something you've always known: You’re probably more productive when you work from home. According to the Harvard Business Review, when Stanford University researchers enlisted 250 employees at a large travel agency in a nine-month study and sent half of them home to work, they found that remote workers boosted their performance by 13 percent. Those employees also took fewer breaks and sick days and were more productive per minute—something the employees attributed to a quieter work environment.
Of course, supercharging your productivity just because you ditched the office commute isn’t a guarantee. Anyone who’s tried to work with the TV on in the background “just for noise” can tell you that being left to your own lazy devices can also be a productivity killer. Here are seven methods to get more done—even when your boss isn't sitting a stone's throw from your desk.
1. DESIGNATE A DEDICATED WORKSPACE.
Sure, you could technically work from the couch or even your bed. But when you have a desk or a home office that’s dedicated to working, just sitting in that space will shift your mind into work mode. “For me, walking into my office—which is a room in my home with a door and a desk—means I’m going to work,” says Virginia Ginsburg, owner of the business consulting and coaching company Swell Strategies. She’s worked from home for 12 years. “And when I use my laptop for activities like searching the web or online shopping, I tend to sit on the couch.”
2. STICK TO A SCHEDULE.
Waste an hour in the morning dawdling over coffee or dreading getting started, and you could wind up working on projects late into the evening, when you’re exhausted and less focused. So pick a start (and end!) time, and stick to it. That doesn’t have to mean a typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though, if you work best at odd hours. Christa Reed, the associate executive director of the Neighborhood Parents Network in Chicago, has worked from home for 2.5 years. “I work well in the period of time that most people are commuting,” she says. So to maximize her productivity, she starts her workday early, then takes a midday gym break to get energized again.
3. DRESS THE PART.
In the same way that sitting at a desk shifts you into work mode, getting dressed for the day can rev your focus. But if you think that means you’ve got to put on a full suit and tie, relax. “It’s about the mindset, not the clothing,” says Ginsberg, who favors casual clothes unless she’s meeting with a client. Just nix the pajamas already.
4. IGNORE THE DIRTY DISHES.
Procrastination at the office might mean chatting with a coworker while you take another loop through the break room. At home, it’s harder to procrastinate socially and the break room is your kitchen—where the morning dishes might still be piled up in the sink. No wonder more than one-third of people who work from home do household chores on the clock, according to a survey by Wakefield Research. But, if you want to boost your productivity, resist the urge to sneak in chores between tasks. It’s still procrastination—just under a sudsy guise of housework.
5. PLAN BREAKS.
It seems counterintuitive, but when you take a (short!) break from working, research shows you’ll be more productive when you’re back on the clock. You don’t have a water cooler to hang out by at home (well, unless that suits your home décor), but you can take a break away from your workspace. Try circling the block—the movement and fresh air can both boost your concentration—or, if you’d prefer to stay glued to your desk, check out the Pomodoro app. The productivity tool alerts you when to start and stop a break, so it’s harder to fall down a random Wikipedia rabbit hole.
6. BLOCK YOUR SOCIAL OBSESSION.
At home, no one’s going to notice that you’ve just zoned out on Facebook for the last 45 minutes. But that doesn’t make social media any less of a productivity killer. Use visits to Twitter and the like as rewards for getting things done—power through this presentation for the next hour, say, and you can spend 15 minutes liking baby photos on Instagram. But if moderation isn’t your strength, try apps like Anti-Social or SelfControl that block sites you select for a certain period of time.
7. HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE.
If you end the day kind of fuzzy on how much you actually got done, consider tracking your hours. Toggl is a free, intuitive app that lets you track work time throughout the day and allocate that time to specific projects. So when you feel like you’re being pretty productive, and then see you’re only clocking five hours of work in a day, you can tweak your routine to figure out what’s sapping your productivity.
All images courtesy of iStock