How to work efficiently from home

Val Watson
Authored by Val Watson
Posted Friday, September 24, 2021 - 10:11pm

The pandemic has, of course, massively increased the number of people working from home. And this is a trend that seems likely to continue long after the pandemic has been brought under control. Some remarkable statistics out of Switzerland, to take just one of many examples, have shown that the number of people working from home in that country has doubled due to the pandemic. Yet it would be wrong to simply assume that this is an effect of coronavirus alone. Difficult as it sometimes is to recall the world before the pandemic, remote working has actually been on the rise for years, and there are a good many reasons for this.

Remote working is attractive above all for the flexibility it offers both the employee and the employer. Nearly all documentation, files, and correspondence essential for the efficient running of a modern business have for a long time now been perfectly possible to access and transmit remotely. Perhaps this is the biggest legacy of the internet and the proliferation of mobile communication technology, simply because it has changed our working lives in this substantial, and seemingly permanent, way. This is not of course to say that telecommunications have eliminated all need for face-to-face interaction. At the higher levels of business, where intimate negotiation and close project collaboration are required, the conference room still has its place and will for some time yet. If anything, however, what we can perhaps say is that remote working has made every area of our working lives more efficient.

Downsides of the Home Office

Or rather, that is the idea. As many have reported, working from home is sometimes not all it is cracked up to be. Unfortunately, there are definite and well-recorded disadvantages that arise when you make your commute the distance between your bed and your laptop. Foremost among these is certainly the potential for distraction and procrastination, two efficiency-killing factors that are often eliminated in an office environment. Sometimes, the solution to this is simply self-discipline (more on that below) but for those with families, flatmates or – heaven forbid – young children, it is often quite difficult to remove the source of distraction. Many people have deliberately rejected the home office for this reason and prefer the office environment. After all, it’s so much easier to be productive when surrounded only by others working – and much easier when there is a boss there to tell you off for slacking.

But of course, Covid simply removed for many the option of going back into the office. And while those restrictions may be subsiding now, the permanent changes to our working conditions that the pandemic has fostered could mean that, for some, they will never return to the office again. Covid has essentially forced the adoption of a home office working culture for many companies that, prior to the pandemic, were thinking about implementing it anyway. Office space is expensive and having less employees to accommodate allows for a profitable downsizing. Add to this to the fact that the pandemic has been a financial hit for businesses (for some, terminally so) and the imperative to save money has become a powerful incentive to encourage home office working. Remember, it isn’t just renting office space that costs businesses money, but everything that goes with it including safety equipment, power, heating and so on. While some business may try these safety suppliers in order to make a saving, the fact is that it’s just more cost effective to have those that can work from home doing so.

Tips For Improving Efficiency

So, for those resigned to working from home as well as for those who genuinely prefer it, what can be done to improve working efficiency?

Develop a Routine

Of all the tips, this one certainly earns its place at the top of the list. Quite simply, it is the most important. You can think of it this way: in an office, there are all manner of cues and rigid schedules that enforce a routine upon you. You have to get up at the same time every morning if you want to arrive on time, lunch is at a specific hour, a certain amount of work is expected to be done by that point and, of course, the working day finishes at a specific hour too. At home, you have no such luck and must create the routine for yourself. While it should be noted that much remote working does require collaboration with others and therefore the submission of work at specific times, there is always more leeway when you work from home. And while for some it might be possible to start whenever you want, this is a false blessing.

To work effectively, you need to get up at the same time every day and arrange a series of checkpoints – breakfast, lunch, clock-off time etc. – and get into the habit of sticking to them. If you discipline yourself to finish by a certain point every day, then not only will you work more efficiently, but your working day will not stretch out into unreasonable hours.

Try to Recreate Your Commute

It might seem like a real benefit having no commute, but such a view does not consider what a commute really is. A commute is a pre-work ritual – psychologically, it prepares you for the working day. You can recreate one at home by going for a mile’s walk just before you begin your working day. That walk will take the place of your commute and get you into work mode before you even begin. Slumping out of bed and immediately logging on can lead to a sleepy, sluggish start.

Create an Actual Home Office

If you have the space, then great. But creating a home office doesn’t require you to convert a room in your home. What it does mean though is keeping your work behind a door and in one specific location, preferably not your bedroom. The psychological effect of this is that you will begin to associate the location with work and be better mentally prepared to work efficiently. For obvious reasons, it is also a great idea to keep a closed door between you and the other occupants of your home. This can significantly lessen distraction.

You might have guessed the pattern behind these few tips. Working from home is all about recreating the working environment as best you can wherever you live. This entails separating it from all the other functions that your home serves – as a place of relaxation, family time or sleep. See to this first of all, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an efficient home worker.

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