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Working from home - as many of us discovered in recent years - isn’t always what it’s cut out to be.

Aside from isolating you from your coworkers and a physical office space that acts as a cue for hard work, there’s a lot that can go wrong. From a lack of natural light to an abundance of distractions, join us as we address common issues when working from home and look at how you can create a productive home office environment.

In addition, discover how Insightful’s software for monitoring computer activity and performance remotely can help you track your productivity in your new environment. 

Consider your Space

The space you work in can either encourage or diminish your productivity, which is why it’s the first aspect to prioritize when creating a home environment that works for you.

Set up your space the right way, and you’ll have an immersive work experience you can transition into for optimal operational performance. Get it wrong, and you’ll yearn for the days of working in a claustrophobic office cubicle.

So what are the main factors to consider?

1. Lighting

Natural light is what lets you know first thing in the morning that it’s time for your body and brain to wake up. It’s the cue for you to engage your mind as you sit down for the day, and it’ll help you get up to speed quickly.

Having the sun light up your room also reduces the eye strain you get from staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.

A home office without natural light isn’t the end of the world, but if you can set up in a room with a window to the outside world, you’ll be much better off.

But what if you don't have access to natural light?

In this case, you have to get creative with your lighting.

Experts recommend soft, indirect light which roughly imitates natural light. The type of lighting fixture you get will depend on the size of your room, how dark it is throughout the day, and your personal preferences.

2. Ergonomics

An often overlooked aspect of working from home is your workspace ergonomics.

In short, ergonomics refers to how comfortable your setup is to use. Nobody wants crippling neck or back pain after a long shift of work because they chose the wrong office chair.

Ergonomics should influence your decision on everything from your chair to your keyboard. You should consider everything from whether you have enough elevation in your chair to type comfortably, whether your hands ache when you type for a long time, and if you experience wrist discomfort from operating your mouse. 

There are convenient solutions for each of these issues, you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you don’t know where to start, your company may be able to get you in touch with an ergonomics expert.

3. Distractions

Finally, you need a way to deal with distractions that could prevent you from doing your best work.

It could be anything from:

  • Ambient noise around the house
  • Construction work going on outside
  • Your phone buzzing and ringing frequently

To manage these distractions and the many others that threaten to plague your productivity, it’s worth considering investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Depending on the type of work you do, wearing headphones that block out ambient sound could be the secret to distraction-free work days.

Create a Productivity Protocol

When it comes to the work itself, you may find it hard to muster the motivation when you’re in the context of your home.

In a place where you prioritize switching off, relaxing, and engaging in hobbies, shifting into a work mindset can be a challenge. If you have a separate home office space, that certainly helps for context shifting, but what else can you do?

Use Time Management Techniques

How you manage your time will dictate whether or not you’re able to be productive while working from home.

Everyone will have their own preference, but here are some suggestions for better managing your time:

  • Time blocking - With time blocking, you color-code your day into different time blocks. That means scheduling time for deep work, admin activities, and even breaks. 

  • Pomodoro - The Pomodoro technique requires you to break down tasks into manageable sprints. Work for 25 minutes, pause for 5, and continue in a similar pattern. 

  • Eisenhower matrix - The Eisenhower matrix is a system for prioritizing your time according to the importance and urgency of your tasks.

Try Productivity Systems

For some people, the only way they can get more done is to employ a productivity system.

This can look wildly different from one person to the next. For example, you might determine that you work best when you have to-do lists full of action items for each day of the week. Or perhaps you use Kanban boards to break projects down into bitesize tasks.

Others might prefer looking at a productivity system like GTD (Getting Things Done) which, though it may be time-consuming to learn and implement, will help you systematize your workflows and processes.

Take Frequent Breaks

No productivity protocol is complete without regular breaks.

Even the author behind the bestselling book ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport, says that the time you spend on meaningful work should be limited to 60-90 minute sessions. 

The human brain is only capable of focusing for around an hour or so at a time, so if you don’t take frequent breaks, you’re effectively committing self-sabotage. Not to mention the fact that your eyes and posture will benefit immeasurably if you take the time to get up from your desk often and stretch your legs.

Create Performance Metrics

Without a reliable system for tracking performance, such as an employee productivity dashboard, it can be challenging to monitor personal or team progress. Employee monitoring in the workplace can also apply to monitoring wfh performance.

You can use web surfing monitoring software like Insightful to track employee web browsing and carry out effective remote working time tracking. With the time data you gather, you can build a picture of performance over time and monitor any changes you make to your home office to evaluate the difference in productivity.

Software to track employee productivity or software to monitor remote workers can support a productive home office setting whereby you and your team can be held accountable for your performance.

Establish Boundaries

Now you’ve done most of the hard work, it’s time to establish clear boundaries to make sure everyone in your life respects your time as much as you do.

The trouble with working from home is that the people in your life might mistake this to mean that you’re available a lot more often than you are. We’ve all had it - soon after you announce that you’ll be working from home, you’re inundated with invitations to grab a coffee, head out for lunch, or hang out.

Yet just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean you now have the time during your work day to catch up with friends and take up new hobbies.

Plan your days ahead of time to lend structure to your week, so you don’t get caught up in other people’s schedules. It’s important to set clear boundaries so you, your boss, and your friends and family know exactly when you’ll be working and when you’re free.

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