Working from Home: Be More Productive & Meet Your Deadlines!

Work Life Balance

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the nation, many Americans are now finding themselves working from home longer-term. While the ability to work from home has steadily been increasing even prior to the virus outbreak, many businesses and organizations have now been forced to adapt and allow their employees to work remotely. 

Working from the comfort and safety of your home can have its advantages. However, if not done with care and intention can lead to negative effects on your productivity and well-being. 

Today I want to outline for you some advantages and pitfalls to avoid when working from home. I am sharing the same tips and strategies I share with my online therapy and life coaching clients to make the transition of working from home a smooth and happy one. 

Advantages of Working from Home

Working from home provides benefits and advantages that working in an office simply cannot provide. While working in an office space can present structure, accountability, and a space to collaborate with colleagues, working from home can allow for more flexibility and personalization of your workday. 

Depending on your position and work duties, working from home can allow you to work at your own pace and (sometimes) set your own schedule. Some work from home positions follow set hours such as the typical 9 am-5 pm workday. While others allow you to work at any time as long as specific goals are met.

With this flexibility, you can wake up and go to bed at a time that is ideal for you, take breaks for exercise, refresh your brain, and reduce daily stressors such as traffic. 

Another advantage of working remotely with a flexible schedule is being able to complete errands or attend appointments you normally wouldn’t be able to if at the office. Working from home also allows for more time with your pets and kids! 

Even if your remote job does not allow for a flexible schedule, working from the comfort of your own home may boost creativity and allow you to be more relaxed and therefore productive. 

Common Pitfalls to Watch Out For When Working From Home

While there are advantages to working from home, there are also disadvantages and ways working from home can be harmful to your productivity and mental health. 

The flexibility that working from home provides is also a catch-22. Working from home can impact your productivity and motivation. When we have the flexibility to set our own pace and schedule, we may have every intention to optimize this time. However, unless your employer has provided you with guidelines to your new working environment, many people have to learn through experience or trial and error before configuring a work from home set up that truly works!

If working from home is not done with intentionality or forethought, it can leave you feeling burnt out, unmotivated, and unhappy.

If you are finding yourself in a similar situation and struggling to complete tasks, meet deadlines, or connect with your work – you may be hindering your success by giving in to these common pitfalls.

Not Setting Structure Around Working Hours

Working sporadic hours or when motivation strikes may work for some. However, working with no set schedule can create anxiety and unrest for most of us. Continually putting off tasks or waiting for motivation to come can lead to guilt or make it even harder to start. 

The anti-structure of working hours can ultimately lead to failure in areas that you are generally successful when working in your typical office space. 

Unable To Walk Away From Work

Working from home can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. For those people who already struggle with overworking or turning off their work brain, this can make it even more challenging. 

Feeling like your work is constantly looming over you even when you are supposed to be off the clock can lead to burnout and decreased motivation.

Not Maintaining Professional Connections

When we have the support of our professional connections, it’s easier to stay motivated and connected to our work.

While working from home, you may feel isolated or cut off from your work relationships feeling like your work has less of an impact and making it harder to stay accountable for deadlines.

Allowing Blurred Boundaries

Trying to get work done and be productive in spaces where you also binge watch Netflix or sleep will further blur the lines between work and home. 

Humans are impacted by their environment. Working in a space where you are comfy or with lots of distractions will make it harder to stay in work mode.

These blurred boundaries can make it difficult to stick to a work schedule, walk away from your work outside of working hours, and push off maintaining professional connections.

Success Strategies When Working From Home

While working from home can have its pitfalls and distractions, there are ways you can set yourself up for success and enhance your life! Here are 5 simple strategies to make working from home a smooth and enjoyable experience. 

Optimizing Your Productivity By Optimizing Your Space

Take a moment to think about a time where you were “in-flow” with your work, and you were able to accomplish a task or project with ease. 

Consider the elements of the environment that helped your success.

Was there music?
What was the light like?
ad you just eaten lunch or a snack?

Using your self-knowledge, try to create a space within your home that is curated for work based on what helps you be productive. 

You can be fun and playful here. Try to incorporate plants, aromatherapy, soft cozy blankets, color, and light! Make this space yours and do what works for YOU. 

Set Yourself Up For Success

Similar to the previous point, make sure you take a comprehensive approach to working from home and set yourself up for success. 

Working and living in the same space may confuse your body and mind unless clear distinctions are made. As much as possible try to stick with the same routine you would use when working outside the home. Such as having a cutoff time for bed and splitting meal preparation with a family member or partner if you can. 

Just because you are home doesn’t mean you are technically available to help with tasks, so try to split responsibilities like you normally would if you weren’t home. 

Setting yourself up for success could be scheduling breaks into your workday or giving yourself enough rest and eating regular meals and snacks, but also giving yourself grace and compassion. 

You may be experiencing waves of emotion that change daily or struggling with the constant change. Give yourself grace, kindness, and patience to not “be okay”, and to learn and grow with time. 

Connect With Your Work Relationships

When we feel connected to our colleagues and the work we are doing (even if from afar!), there can be a greater sense of accountability, drive, and motivation. 

Staying in touch through Slack messaging, Zoom conference calls, and emails with colleagues and work teams can foster a greater sense of connection and help us feel closer to the people we would normally interact with in the breakroom. 

If your job isn’t organizing meetup groups or opportunities to connect with your coworkers, consider reaching out to someone and organizing one yourself!

For more advice on building community during social distancing, check out my colleague’s article: Building CommUNITY During Social Distancing and Self-Quarantine.

Set Boundaries Around Work

Turning off email and work app notifications on your phone outside of working hours, and creating a work schedule are two ways you can create boundaries when working from home. 

Working different hours every day may be a necessity or work well for some, but many people desire structure, consistency, and predictability in their work environment. You can use the flexibility working from home can bring by setting work hours that work for you, such as starting at 9:30 am rather than 9 am or using your lunch hour for a workout.

Setting specific times for work can create structure and routine while self-isolating at home, and some semblance of normalcy. Managing how many times you are reminded of work or mentally brought back into “the office” will be important to manage burnout and fatigue. Consider altering your notification preferences for email and other communication platforms associated with work. 

Setting a schedule for work can also help keep work off your mind when you are not “in” the office, and can help redirect anxious thoughts that may pop up in your off time.

Looking for a little more on work life balcne when working from home? Listen to this podcast: Coronavirus & Career: How We Make This Work — Advice From a Career Coach.

Creating Clear Distinctions Between Work Time And Leisure Time

Similar to how setting a work schedule can assist in creating structure and differentiate between off-time and work-time, creating clear physical boundaries with work can also be helpful. 

This may look like not working in bed or other spaces you normally wouldn’t get work done, and changing out of your PJs (even though you technically don’t have to). 

Working at a desk or the dining room table rather than your bed will help your brain and body tell the difference between work and play. If you don’t create clear distinctions between work and leisure, like when you try to wind down at the end of the day in bed, your work brain may start turning on because it thinks it’s work time! 

The same goes for working in front of the TV or in the living room. When you try to enjoy these spaces outside of work it may feel too familiar and eventually lead your brain to associate these spaces with work long-term.

If possible, try to change rooms when transitioning to and from work to help you better “clock out” at the end of the day and further distinguish your work environment against your home environment.

I hope these strategies help you successfully work from home either temporarily or long-term!

Wishing you success,
Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC 

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFTC  is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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