By Brian Muehl
Did you know that 2.8% of the U.S. workforce (over 3.7 million people) works from home at least half of the time? While this percentage may seem low, the number of mobile workers has grown by 115% in the past 14 years, and it’s likely numbers will continue to grow as the benefits become clear. After all, over two-thirds of managers say employees who work from home are more productive, and employers who offer even part-time work-from-home flexibility collectively save $44 billion every year.
But if you’re a mobile worker, making sure you are productive at home is critical to maintaining this flexibility. There are so many distractions that come with working from home that its effectiveness is sometimes only as strong as your discipline.
But there are tips you can follow to build the right foundation for yourself and help ensure you’re even more productive and effective at home than you are in the office (which comes with a whole other host of distractions). Below we dive into five top tips for becoming a more effective mobile worker:
Michael Pynch of the Wipfli Technology Management Team shared further insights on this topic in this article in Insight.
1. Establish a Workspace
Creating boundaries is step one to limiting distractions, especially if you’re not the only person at home during the day. When you dedicate a room or specific space in your home as your workspace, you can do two things: 1) help create a mindset for yourself so that when you enter this room/space, you’re prepared to work, and 2) establish a firm boundary with others in your home so that when you’re in this room/space, they know you’re working and shouldn’t be disturbed.
2. Set and Maintain a Schedule
Sticking to a routine day after day helps keep you on track and not be tempted by the myriad of at-home distractions like the television. If you can begin and end your day as if you’re in the office, you can better mentally start and stop your workday, which helps you be more productive over all.
3. Communicate With Coworkers
Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you need to stay out of touch. Technology today can perfectly keep up with the demands of the mobile worker. Video chat and instant messaging tools are especially effective for questions, concerns, updates and other non-email-essential communications that help you stay connected and productive.
4. Take Breaks and Stay Active
While setting aside space and maintaining a schedule are great for getting you into the working mindset, it’s important to take breaks, stand up and stretch, and grab a snack or a drink of water. Staying hydrated and getting the blood flowing helps stave off fatigue, while taking breaks helps you rest mentally so that you can come back to work on projects more refreshed and even with a different perspective.
5. Reduce Distractions
Yes, we’ve already been talking a lot about minimizing at-home distractions, but none of us really think about just how many distractions there are. At the office, you have colleagues stopping by to chat, talking on the phone and running by with questions — but at home, anything can be a distraction.
The doorbell rings, the dog needs to go for a walk, the dentist calls, the laundry needs to be done, you’ve run out of milk and need to run to the store, those weeds outside your window could really stand to be pulled…. We don’t even need to cover turning on the TV during lunch and how difficult it is to turn it back off and start working again.
Reducing distractions is critical. The above tips offer some ways to limit those distractions, but anything else you can do to remove temptations and boost your discipline is worthwhile to ensure your effectiveness. Even structuring your day differently can help. For example, dedicating periods of time to working on big projects in the morning when you’re freshest can help save time and mental energy, leaving your afternoon open to work on smaller projects or incoming emails and requests that don’t require as much time and thought.
Becoming More Productive
You probably already know what you’re most often distracted by; it becomes about taking steps to minimize those distractions that truly sets you up for success. While working from home does take discipline, it can be very rewarding, and we hope the above tips help you take advantage of the peace, quiet, flexibility and productivity boost it can offer.
We’ll leave you with another potential productivity boost in the form of email. If you use Outlook, these five life-changing features you probably don’t know you have could make your life easier and more organized.