The corona craze is spreading around the world, and employers internationally are evaluating the effects a crowded workplace environment can have on the safety and health of employees. As a result many workers who would ordinarily spend their days in an office building are, instead, being asked to work from home.
Is this an opportunity in disguise, or a productivity-killing inconvenience? It really depends on you!
Working from home is trending
It’s not just the coronavirus; for the past couple of decades as the workforce moves away from manufacturing jobs and technology makes work from home easier and more convenient, more and more of us have been skipping the office in favor of a comfortable home office layout.
In the United States, 3.4 million employees were found to be working from home in 2017 according to a survey taken by the St. Louis Federal Reserve. That’s only about 3% of the workforce, but it’s a marked increase from only 500,000 reported teleworkers in 1980.
In addition to those who work from home regularly, there are more and more people choosing to work in coffee shops and co-working spaces, and many employees mix on and off-site work schedules (an additional 7%).
What to watch out for
Even though we know why work from home is good, working from home may not be for everyone.
First, you need to evaluate whether you’re the kind of person who can discipline yourself to stay focused and on task without people around you to hold you accountable. It’s hard for some people to work without constraints, so you need to make sure you can stay productive in any setting.
It helps to have a designated space in your home to work, that doesn’t serve any other purpose. This helps you get into the right mindset for working and you’ll find it much easier to stay on task.
Another challenge to working from home is working in isolation for long hours. Human contact and collaboration is important, and loneliness may reduce your ability to work effectively and productively. Consider visiting the office weekly or a few times a month, or meet coworkers for lunch. You might even be able to connect with other teleworkers in your area!
Of course, if you’re working under a manager or supervisor, you’ll want to be sure you are working up to their standards. Stay on their radar and touch base regularly to show them you care about your job performance. This is especially important if you want to receive a promotion and move up the ladder, as it will be more difficult for you to make a good impression without being physically present.
Benefits of working from home
Whether you’re temporarily working from home because of health precautions, or you want to from home regularly, there can be many benefits to working remotely.
If you are disciplined and structured with your time, you can actually be much more productive working from home. A Stanford study recently showed that workers who stayed home were 13% more productive on average than those who stayed in an office.
This can be attributed to many factors. For one, working in an office can be distracting as coworkers engage in nearby conversations or approach you unexpectedly for impromptu meetings. Offices can be full of other noises and distractions as well.
Additionally, many people work in stuffy office environments with very few or no windows that allow natural light. When you work from home, you can customize your work space to suit your needs and create a more comfortable working environment.
Of course, one of the biggest perks to working from home is avoiding crawling through that awful daily commute. For people who live in traffic-prone urban centers, the daily commute can add an hour or more to their work day. That’s an hour that could be spent with family, or simply relaxing and recharging.
An additional benefit to not commuting is the ability to start work earlier in the morning. Many of us do our best work bright and early while our minds are fresh and full of creative energy. Having to sit through traffic before work can be draining and demotivational.
Tips for staying focused to work from home
Because of the coronavirus, many of us may be forced to work from home, even if we actually feel more comfortable working from an office. If you’re one of those people, consider these tips to stay focused and do your best work from home.
This may not seem necessary—after all, it’s more comfortable to work in your pajamas—however, changing your clothes can really affect your mindset and get you in (or out) of a working mentality. Of course, you don’t need to dress formally as though you were working in an office, but wearing a proper outfit will impact how you go about your work.
Stay off social media
There’s no doubt that social media is one of the greatest diversions—and distractions—of our time. Consider switching your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode. Or, if you need your notifications for work apps, consider individually turning off notifications for apps you know will distract you like Facebook or Twitter.
Of course, you should stay off social media websites on your computer. Put your work apps into fullscreen mode, so they are front and center, without other buttons on on-screen temptations to distract you.
Create a to-do list
Simple but effective, this old-fashioned productivity hack can give you a much-needed visual reminder of everything you’d like to accomplish. Spend the first 15 minutes of your day scheduling your tasks and setting goals.
As you tick list items off throughout the day, you’ll feel energized and motivated knowing you’re getting things done. This can be a great way to ensure you accomplish just as much work as you would get done in the office, if not more.
Work in a designated area
In the same way that dressing up can have a psychological impact on your working mentality, so can your surroundings. While you don’t need a complete office room, setting up a unique space that you only use for working will help you stay focused when you are in that space.
Differentiate your home office layout and your home office lighting. Get proper ergonomic office furniture, like an ergonomic office chair with back support or an adjustable height standing desk to make your workday as comfortable and healthy as possible. Make your desk a work-only zone. When you’re seated there, you know and your body knows that it’s time to work.
Working from home is an increasingly popular solution for people who hate the daily commute and get distracted easily in the office. Whether by choice or out of necessity, it’s possible now more than ever to find ways to stay productive, happy and healthy by working from home.
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