man working from home while son plays

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the American workplace nearly overnight. Many people with office jobs are suddenly working at home at our kitchen tables or crammed into a corner of the bedroom.

Working from home seems like it has an upside. You can work in your pajamas, have your cat by your side all day, and save a lot of gas from not having to commute. Unfortunately, many of us are realizing that we are having a hard time, even though there seem to be so many perks.

Keep in mind we are used to sleeping, entertaining, relaxing, cooking, cleaning, and all the other activities we usually do in our homes. Human beings are creatures of habit, and some of the habits we display at home do not support productivity. Working from home requires us to be focused and disciplined enough to avoid some of those activities so we can be productive. Some of us may have children at home, making the situation trickier to navigate. In addition, many of us are deeply concerned about the state of the world, sucking our attention and energy.

How can we be productive working at home during this pandemic? Here are some tips and strategies to work more productively from home.

Establish a Daily Routine

Just as we have a routine around going to the office, make a similar routine at home. Set designated work hours, and set an alarm to keep you on track. Even if you can get away with working from your pajamas, it might not be the best idea for your productivity.

If you would start your day by showering, making breakfast, and brewing coffee before heading to work, create a similar routine at home. This routine reminds you that you are ready to start your workday, and should help you get off on the right foot.

Don’t be overly hard on yourself if you have trouble following a routine. Just have a positive intention and do your best.

Carve Out a Mini Office Spot

A dedicated office with a door is ideal. It can help reduce distractions if others are home during the day when you are working.

If you don’t have a dedicated office in your home, is there a nook you can use? This might involve setting up a desk or a table in an area that works for you. When you step into your work nook, it reminds you that you are about to get down to work.

Declutter Your Workspace

By creating an organized workspace, you may find it easier to focus on your work.

Excessive clutter can be distracting. It might even cause you want to avoid spending time in your workspace. You may find that keeping your workspace tidy makes you more comfortable so you can focus and work productively.

Set Limits With Your Time

It can be really helpful to make a work schedule and stick to it. It might help to pretend you are not working from home. What is acceptable and not acceptable at the office? For example, silence your cell phone unless you need to be available for emergencies or you may get calls related to work. Only check your personal email or social media platforms during dedicated breaks.

When your workday is done, it is important to stop working. Some people have a tendency to continue to toil well after the end of the workday. This can lead to work fatigue, which can affect your health as well as your productivity.

Eat Healthy Foods

Many of us have been gaining weight during the coronavirus pandemic. In part, this could be due to snacking on processed foods as we work from home.

Eating rich foods can cause an energy dip as they are digested, reducing productivity. One way to help sidestep this issue is to keep your fridge and cabinets filled with healthy options.

If you find yourself low on energy during the workday, pour yourself a cup of green tea or a glass of kombucha. You can even make this part of your daily routine.

Recharge Throughout the Workday

Many of us lose momentum on our work projects at some point in the day. It is important to create practices that really help you to refresh yourself.

Going for a walk, meditating, or even taking a short power nap can be great ways to recharge your mental batteries. For shorter breaks, consider drinking water, enjoying a small snack, or doing a few simple stretches.

Also, consider taking a break from screen time while you eat your lunch. Get up, go outside to eat!

Prioritize Your Work

Getting out a pen and paper can be a great way to start. Create a list of what you need to accomplish that day and throughout the week. Then, put the tasks in order, considering urgency and importance. Refer to this list to help you stay focused on the most urgent and important tasks.

Utilize Time Management Techniques

There are many different time management approaches; determine which ones will help you thrive. Don’t be afraid to mix and match ideas to find your best approach to making every day productive.

If you keep getting sidetracked from your task, setting a timer for 30 to 60 minutes to work on a given task can be helpful.

Learn From Successes and Failures

After you have worked at home for a couple of weeks, reflect on your effectiveness.

You might notice that you’re quite productive some days and not others. What contributed to your success on your most productive days? Did you lack routine or get disrupted? Be kind to yourself and celebrate your success.

Keep in mind that a global crisis can be very distracting, and you are not alone if you are encountering issues.

Juggling Child Care

It can be extremely difficult to work productively from home without child care help, especially if you don’t want to just leave the kids in front of devices.

Giving your children cues can help them get used to the new schedule and work routine. For example, if you need to work for a while and you are hoping the kids won’t interrupt you constantly, give them a non-verbal cue like wearing a hat. If possible, set up a workspace that is most conducive for being productive while also keeping the kids supervised adequately. If your children are old enough not to need constant supervision, possibly set up a desk or workspace in a bedroom to minimize distractions.

Let children know in advance if you have a conference call or times when you cannot give them much attention. This is a great time to bring out an art project, building toy, board game, or other engrossing activity. If they do need your attention, teach them the best way to get it. If they are old enough, writing a note can be a good option.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.