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Tips for Maintaining a Productive Work Environment from Your Home Office

Working from home seems so great at first—you can stay in your pajamas; do laundry while you “sit in” on a meeting; take midday naps and cook your own lunch instead of struggling through another frozen meal. Who wouldn’t want to work from home? It’s workplace Valhalla!

Inevitably, though, the veneer of autonomy wears thin and you realize you’ve been wearing the same yoga pants for ten days straight, you can’t remember when you last showered, and you’re so isolated you’re having one-sided water cooler chats with your cat.

Then there’s your productivity—it turns out home can be even more distracting than work. Sure, you don’t have Bob from accounting stopping by to tell you about his ingrown toenail, but those dishes in the sink are practically screaming for attention. And temptations are everywhere—that M*A*S*H marathon on TV isn’t going to watch itself.

The problem with working from home

How to Maintain a Productive Work Environment When You Work from Home

Learning to work effectively from home takes a little time and practice. But these tips can help you get the most from your home office:

  • Make sure your home office is a home office. I don’t care how small your home is—even if you live in a studio apartment, make sure you designate a space that’s just for work. Physically stepping into your office sets the tone for a productive day.
  • Create a routine, and stick to it. Set your alarm, shower, breakfast, work, lunch at 12, work until 5. Make a schedule that works for you and keep at it. Sure, you can nudge it here and there for a special event—after all, what fun is working from home if you don’t take advantage of the flexibility every once in awhile? But 9 times out of 10, stick to the schedule.
  • Leave the house at least once a day. Work from a coffee shop for a few hours, plan business lunches, or just go for a walk every afternoon. You don’t want to end up like a weird shut-in, having imaginary conversations with your socks. Get outside.
  • Give yourself allotted social media breaks. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, personal email—unless your job is social media, avoid these time sucks like the plague. Don’t keep them open on your browser, and shut off alerts on your phone. Media junkies need not despair—I’m giving you time for your fix. Allow yourself pre-determined times to play online—say, noon to 1—and watch your productivity go way up.
  • Know when it’s ok to multitask. Staring down some work you could do in a coma? Take the edge off those tasks by slipping in some household chores. The physical activity will break up the monotony of that excruciating conference call, and you’ll get some much-needed housework done in the process.
  • Move your body and feed yourself like a grownup. Not to sound like your mom, but getting a little exercise and eating normal meals will help your productivity. Most of us won’t eat an entire bag of Oreos at work—for one thing, it’s socially unacceptable. And you’d probably have to share. But at home, away from the prying eyes of your coworkers, it’s just so easy to reward yourself with three pounds of nachos for getting a report done. But trust us, you’ll hate yourself afterwards and just want to take a nap. Eat regular meals, get up and stretch, and even work standing up sometimes—you and your pants will thank us.

What are your tips for maintaining a productive work environment?

Image via Timothy Buckwalter

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