While some of us are beginning to migrate back to the office, many Aussies still work from home, at least in a hybrid state – two days in the office, three at home, perhaps (and a Sydney Uni study found 75% of workers believe employers are more likely to support this sort of arrangement post-pandemic). Working from home brings significant benefits: increased job flexibility, more face time with the family, less commuting time. But if you’re not prepared, are easily lured by distractions or are prone to procrastination, it can be detrimental to work-life balance and effectiveness. Put these tips to good use to ensure your working-from-home productivity stays on track, every day.

Create a Functional, Productive Workspace

Improve your working from home productivity by ensuring your workspace is functional and practical.

As tempting as it is to set yourself up with your laptop on the sofa beside the TV (ditto the kitchen table beside the fridge), these scenarios come with inherent distractions. Instead, create a dedicated office space and invest in the right equipment: an ergonomic chair, standing desk and good computer with height and angle adjustments to reduce neck strain. Discomfort breeds unproductivity. Anthony Hill, Head of Technology for Geeks2U, recommends two screens: “This has been shown to not only boost productivity but also improve accuracy as you can easily look between the two screens without switching tabs.” Then add flourishes to boost your energy and make you happy – plants, flowers, photos of loved ones, colourful art.

If you don’t have the luxury of a dedicated room, create a workstation in a quiet corner – a place that won’t intrude on, or be intruded upon by, fellow home occupants. Sitting down here signifies the start of your day and reminds housemates and family members that when you’re here, you mean business.

What To Try

SEE ALSO: Home Office Ergonomics: A How to Guide

Keep Track of – and Meet – Deadlines

Keeping close track of deadlines will boost your working from home productivity

Whether you use a paper ‘to do’ checklist or software to manage and track deadlines, find a system to set, and stick to, short- and long-term goals. You’ll be able to visualise progress, see when you’re slacking off and earn the motivation to keep going as you cross tasks off your list.

When working from home, Hill recommends using programs in the Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace suites. “These are really common and popular for a reason,” he says. “They have easy-to-use calendar and task management tracking systems with visual reminders.

What To Try

Concentrate on ‘Deep Work’

Making time for “deep work” is an essential part of upping your working from home productivity

Between email ‘pings’, Zoom requests and phone calls, it’s a wonder any of us have time in our day for ‘deep work’, that rare period where we concentrate on a single task, but when we stay focused, we achieve more. A realistic schedule that mixes periods of concentration (read: productivity), with short bursts that allow your mind to wander and refresh for the next task can be like a HIIT workout for your mind. Try strictly scheduling lots of 120-minute ‘deep work’ tasks daily, with time for emails, a walk, lunch break or catching up with colleagues, in between. A simple timer can help you get started.

Develop Strategies to Minimise Distractions

You’re at home and the household chores are ever present: laundry needs to be done, groceries picked up, dinner made. Your dog barks at every passer-by, your partner keeps asking questions from the adjoining room. Distractions in an office can pale in comparison to those at home and these interruptions can kill productivity.

As friends and family are likely the most frequent interrupters, it’s wise to share your schedule with them. Advise them what your day/week looks like, your deep work interval schedule, your key meetings and your planned downtime and breaks. Hill recommends going back to the Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace suites to do this. “You can easily share parts of your calendar with others – just so they know when you are busy, and not your entire schedule in detail.”

Also, know your triggers. If you can’t concentrate until the fridge is stocked, then clear your mind by picking up groceries before you start work for the day. And remember, those chores can be completed outside of work hours – it’s what you used to do.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ways Your Business Can Smash Social Media

Block out Distractions You Can’t Control

Making time for “deep work” is an essential part of upping your working from home productivity

Plagued by passing traffic, neighbours playing music or construction work? Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds. Studies show that soft music or soothing nature sounds – birds chirping, raindrops, ocean waves – activate your brain’s calming region, helping you concentrate and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. If you prefer work without background noise, headphones provide a quiet cocoon.

Disabling alerts on your computer and phone can also help you stay focused. If you’re looking away from work every time you hear the chime of an Instagram DM or a text from your mum, you won’t get much done. Allow yourself social media checks before work and during breaktime only. “Most phones have built-in screen-time trackers that can block programs and notifications,” says Hill. “Internet security software these days also has modules to limit your use of certain programs and block notifications for specific periods of time.”

What To Try

SEE ALSO: What Are the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones?

Set Routines and Rituals

It’s easy to slip into an unhealthy work routine at home, due to more flexibility or increased demands. It’s important to avoid getting lax – sleeping in, going out for a long breakfast, sitting at your desk in your PJs – and just as important to avoid becoming overly consumed.

The expectations for your deliverables likely haven’t changed; in fact, they may have increased, as you’ve taken on additional tasks to become more competitive or develop new business models over the course of 2020. You might find yourself reading emails in bed the moment you wake, skipping your breakfast and workout to meet a deadline or working increasingly late without even realising it.

It may sound clichéd but it’s all about balance. Try to establish a routine similar to the one you had at the office. Set a morning routine – rise at your usual hour, exercise, eat a nutritious breakfast, shower, get dressed. Evening rituals matter, too – finish at a reasonable time, put away tech so it doesn’t remind you of work, and wind down screenless, to prepare for a good night’s sleep.