Remote work is no longer an optional perk for most modern workers. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a massive chunk of the workforce has adapted to life in the home office. In fact, 35 percent of the American workforce — that’s about 50 million employees — worked from home full-time in the early stages of the pandemic, and research shows that remote work is here to stay for many of them.
Another surprising stat to come out of the worldwide remote-first shift? Working from home does not necessarily translate to decreased efficiency. In fact, according to research by McKinsey, remote work may actually increase productivity by as much as 45 percent. With that said, many of us have found that efficiency is more challenging without a dedicated workspace and the physical presence of co-workers.
But with the right setup and some game-changing home office accessories, it’s easier than ever to create an at-home work environment that sets you up for success.
- Create a Quiet, Designated Workspace — The environment in which you work has a massive impact on your output, so you want to make sure it’s somewhere you can focus. Creating a quiet, designated workspace will help ensure that you don’t get interrupted by roommates, family members, pets or visitors, and will also help you snap into a productive state of mind as soon as you enter the room. Here are some tips for how to do that.
- Choose a space with a door. This keeps the room quiet and signals to those in the house when you need privacy to work or take calls. If need be, make a “do not disturb” door sign you can flip for some extra privacy.
- Keep what you need within your space. Set yourself up with everything you need to work so you’re not tempted to go running around the house finding things. Make sure your desk has a wireless charger to neatly charge all your devices. Keep an insulated water bottle with water, snacks, pens and paper in your space so you don’t have to get up constantly.
- Keep it tidy and minimalist. The reality is that if your workspace is messy, you’ll be tempted to procrastinate your actual work to clean and tidy up until it’s to your standards. Set aside 20 or 30 minutes every other week to deep clean your space and make sure to tidy it up every day after work. If your company allows it, log this as time on the clock.
- Make it smell nice. Why not burn a few candles or diffuse some essential oils that make the space enjoyable? Some people believe certain scents can be energizing or boost performance — coffee and citrus scents may make you more alert, for example — but, at the very least, they will make the space more pleasant so you enjoy the workday a little bit more.
- Decorate with a focus on productivity. Hang art and decorate with colors and themes that help you stay on task or get creative. Simple but inspiring décor will do its job without being a distraction.
- Keep the space yours. Many of us set up shop in shared spaces out of necessity when the pandemic first began, but having your own space is important to helping you stay on task. Avoid working in any room others may need access to throughout the day.
- Get a Second (or Third) Monitor — If you’re still working on a single screen, this is your sign to finally make the move to a bigger, better display setup. Research shows that dual monitors increase productivity by 20 to 30 percent, so this is a simple way to boost your daily output. Make sure to keep the brightness at a relatively low level so you don’t tire your eyes after a long workday. In the same vein, be sure your keyboard, mouse and desk are comfortable enough for long days of work so they don’t distract you from the task at hand.
- Upgrade to Faster Internet — Nothing holds back productivity quite like a shoddy internet connection. Luckily, many companies now offer their remote workers internet stipends and budgets for new equipment to help get them the resources they need to work efficiently. If your internet service is fast but unreliable, consider upgrading to a new modem or router or switching providers.
- Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones — If noise is a problem in your home or your computer audio is lacking, a high-quality pair of headphones can help you create some peace and quiet so you can zero in on the tasks that require concentration regardless of what’s going on in your house. Choose a pair with a built-in mic so your co-workers can hear you clearly when you’re on calls.
- Listen to Productivity-Boosting Music — One of the best things about working from home is that you’re in charge of the noise (unless, of course, you’ve got kids or roommates in the house). But if you have the freedom to play music or podcasts, you might consider turning on something that helps you stay focused and boosts productivity. Classical music may help improve productivity and creativity while making your work environment more enjoyable. Relaxing hip-hop beats or jazz music can help you enjoy and power through more monotonous daily tasks.
- Set Designated Working Hours — Setting designated work hours may seem counter to productivity, but the reality is that when you know you have a certain window to get things done, you’re much more likely to do so. Set your work calendar to working hours and don’t let yourself work into the evening or weekends unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Make Goals and Set Lists — If you find that you’re struggling to get through your daily tasks and projects when working from home, you might want to return to a few tried and true time management basics. Create lists each day to keep yourself on schedule and add bigger picture goals to your calendar so you have a general timeline to follow. You can keep things old-school with paper to-do lists or use any of the convenient online task managers — Google Tasks, TickTick, Todoist, Microsoft To Do, etc. — to stay on track. Make sure to add everything to the list, even the seemingly obvious and automatic things you need to do each day, so you don’t forget anything or fall behind.
If you find remote work to be an enjoyable perk and want to keep it around for as long as you can, try your best to stay as productive as possible. Creating an inspiring, quiet workspace with the right essentials and accessories is key to helping you achieve all your career goals — no matter where you get the job done!.