Work from Home? Here's How to Stay Productive

30 May, 2018 Self employed
Work From Home Heres How To Stay Productive Primus Tax

In the last ten years, the number of home workers has risen by over 20%.

According to research from freelance platform Peopleperhour, 44% of the UK’s thriving self-employed workforce work from home - and millions more now avoid the daily commute at least some of the time, whether they work for themselves or remotely for a larger organisation.

Home workers are part of a changing workforce that looks to be shaping the future of the workplace and, although a “bums on seats” mentality still prevails in some workplaces, attitudes are changing.

And with good reason.

Working from home is officially better, says Science

Nicholas Bloom is Stanford’s Professor of Economics. In a great TED talk, he tells a story of a Chinese Company with whom he conducted an experiment into the productivity levels of home workers vs office workers.

For 2 years, staff were split. Some worked from home for 4 days a week; the others came into the office 5 days a week.

The home workers? They had what Bloom describes as a “massive, massive” increase in productivity levels - virtually the same as having done an extra day’s work.

Contrary to traditional opinion, they benefited from having less to distract them - no pointless office chat for them (well, less pointless chat anyway).

They were happier. They were half as likely to quit their jobs, cutting staff turnover and loss of skills.

As a result, home working was rolled out to all staff and the Company enjoyed the added benefit of cutting the costs of maintaining office space for all of their growing workforce.

Science may be on your side… but sometimes it’s still hard to keep on track…

For self employed business owners and freelancers, staying productive means keeping your business afloat - after all, if you’re not working, you’re not getting paid.

Whilst it’s always good to know that Science is on your side, it can still be tricky sometimes to stay motivated.

Here, we’ve rounded up our 7 best tips to help you keep productive whilst working from home.

1. Separate your Work Space from your Home Space

It might be a dedicated office, it might be a tiny corner tucked away from the hurly burly of home life - whatever it is, most home workers would agree that it’s absolutely key that you create some kind of boundary between your home and your work space to stay productive.

2. And do keep it tidy…

Expert tidier Marie Kondo (author of arguably OTT anti-clutter bible “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”) is quite clear on this - getting your physical space in order makes it easier to get things done, at home and at work.

“When your office space is organised, it will result in increased efficiency because your use of time becomes more productive” she told CNBC.

“You’ll be much more comfortable in your office space and that contributes to your overall performance and your creativity.”

Here is Marie, sharing her desk tidying method with The Pool...

If you feel that assessing the joy you've had from a purchase invoice and then thanking it before you put it in the bin is bit much (understandable), here are the main takeaways - take a little time out to put stuff away (using a sensible system to avoid future panic) and keep your desk clear of off-putting piles of paper, tiny receipt mountains and/or the last 2 days’ coffee cups.

3. Steer clear of distractions

Few things are more infuriating than being distracted at a crucial moment.

Whether you’ve had the first hints of a fantastic idea or are grasping towards a solution to a thorny problem, it only takes one notification in the corner of your screen or the ping of your phone to draw your eye, derail your train of thought and make that idea or solution vanish like smoke.

Research by the University of California showed that distractions which are unrelated to the task that you’re doing can throw you off track so much that it takes almost 24 minutes on average to refocus.

If you need to concentrate on a task, shut the door, quit your email and stay away from your phone.

4. Venture into the Outside World…

It’s really important not to isolate yourself - and this is especially crucial if you live on your own.

Make time to meet up with others - and don’t rely solely on virtual relationships, important though they can be.

Evidence shows that face-to-face networking is more effective. Check out local networking groups, or attend workshops so you can improve your skills at the same time as meeting other freelancers and small business owners.

If you’re an introvert, this piece from The Guardian is full of excellent tips to help you put yourself out there with confidence.

In the virtual world, it’s well worth signing up to two or three relevant, supportive groups on social media or platforms like Slack.

Not only do these types of groups provide a great opportunity to interact, but they’re another place where you can showcase your skills and build up a network of business contacts.

5. Create - and stick to - a Schedule

Much like you should set a physical boundary between your work and personal life, so too should you create a time boundary.

Tempting though it may be to quickly get on top of the washing or potter in the garden, it’s very easy to waste valuable hours.

Decide in advance what hours you will work, and go to your desk at those times - just like you would any other job.

One of our favourite tips is this from Evernote CEO Chris O’Neill - give each weekday a theme. He assigns Mondays for working on the business, Tuesdays for catching up with staff, Wednesdays for marketing… and so on.

Another effective tip is to make yourself accountable by setting weekly tasks - and even better, share them with people in your network. Many Facebook groups have a Monday task post with a Friday catch up to see who managed to achieve their weekly goal.

Finally, if you’re not already, consider using time tracking software so you can see at a glance how productive you’re being - we love Toggl or Tick for freelancers; both make invoicing clients a doddle.

6. Take regular breaks

Every hour or so, just get up and go do something else for 5 minutes.

Have a cuppa, go sit outside, grab a snack - just refresh your thoughts and rest your brain.

When you come back, you’ll have a fresh outlook - it’s amazing what this can do for your creativity!

7. Step away from the Pyjamas…

Some people love working in their scruffs and swear they stay just as productive as the next person - but it’s not for everyone.

Staying productive at home has a great deal to do with your mindset and - much like a separate working space helps keep you on track - so too can making an effort to remain presentable.

While there’s clearly no need for full office wear, there is a perhaps a happy medium which puts you in the right frame of mind and makes sure that you won’t be caught out by any unexpected client Skype calls…

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