How to stay productive while working from home

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“Gosh, will that dog not just shut up? Oh wow, what a cute cat meme! Sarah would love this. Need to send it to her now. What’s that banging sound coming from upstairs? Why are the kids so quiet? Oh gosh, what did they get into? That clock is so. loud. I’m going to need to write a Google Review…”

Working from home can be draining, and the possibilities for distraction stretch for miles; our bored and racing minds can quickly jump from important tasks to wondering about noisy neighbors and what we left the thermostat at.


While some people naturally thrive while working from home, others (like myself)... not so much. But with the onset of COVID-19 came a growing trend: the transition from in-office work to work from home.

“We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time,” Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford Economist, said in an interview with Stanford News in June.

“About another 33 percent are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26 percent – mostly essential service workers – are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.”

So as it becomes increasingly more likely that we’ll find ourselves working from home, it’s important to find ways to maintain productivity levels (and our sanity, while we’re at it).

Here are nine small things you can do to stay productive and sane while working from home.

1. Designate a room  –  or a corner of the room  –  to work.

We’ve all been there – enveloped in the warmth of our blanket, too comfortable to commit to a day at the desk. It can be difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed, but it’s important to designate an area to work. Not only will this help you stay productive, but it’ll help you sleep better. Your bed should be a place where you unwind, not stress over deadlines and productivity.

2. Keep a set schedule  –  and have set break times.

It can be easy to roll out of bed 20 minutes late, or to work an hour past your regular schedule. Working from home makes it difficult to stay consistent.

But this decreases productivity and encourages distractions. Try to determine a schedule that you’re comfortable with and stick to it.

It’s also important to be intentional about taking breaks. Once in the zone, there’s a temptation to never leave the desk, but this increases your chances of burnout.


3. Get ready as usual.

Who wants to bother changing from their sweatpants and doing their hair when working

from home? Not me.

But waking up, showering, and changing into something at least vaguely resembling work clothes are also activities that increase productivity, putting you more in the zone and prepping for a day of work.

4. Force yourself to treat your work area like going to work.

Try to imagine that you have a coworker with you, like you would in the office. Stay on task, and avoid getting frequently distracted by social media.

Turn off notifications, set aside your phone if it isn't essential for your work, etc.

There’s no worse feeling than realizing the day is over and you have twice as many tasks to complete tomorrow because you didn’t accomplish much to speak of today. Make your work hours count.

5. Get some fresh air.


Exposure to sunlight boosts your mood, causing an increase in productivity.

Set aside five minutes every hour or so to step outside and catch some rays of sunlight.

Take some deep breaths and push work out of your mind for a few minutes so you can return to your desk refreshed.

6. Make time for Zoom and phone calls.

We all hate Zoom meetings that could have been emails. But they can be a saving grace when working from home, so try not to avoid Zoom calls with coworkers.

Lack of in-office time can cause feelings of isolation, which aren't known for making people happier or more productive. We all need people – albeit, some of us more than others.

Take some time to collaborate with teammates, or even vent about the frustrations of the day.

7. Create a work playlist.


Silence isn’t always quiet. Neither are fighting kids, or even the sounds of cars passing by.

Having a good, upbeat work playlist can help boost productivity.

Bonus points for good headphones. Investing in some noise-blocking headphones can be a game changer.

Read here about how to choose the right playlist for remaining productive.

8. Set boundaries with friends and family.

We probably all have people in our lives who are thrilled when we work from home – now they have you at their disposal for phone calls, advice, or, if you have kids, anything ranging from food to conflict mediation.

It’s important to communicate during which times you’ll be free and remain consistent in enforcement. Boundaries help us avoid building resentment, and it's important to set them in order to decrease distractions.

9. Stretch, meditate, or exercise.


Staring at a computer screen day-in and day-out is undeniably draining.

Working from home can decrease activity – no more walks to and from the parking lot, or to and from the printer.

If we don’t take the time to get some form of exercise, we risk decreasing our serotonin and dopamine levels (the happy chemicals).

If you, like I, despise running or lifting weights, simply meditating, yoga, or stretching can help you keep your body healthy and your mind happy. Try adding one of these to your daily lunch break.

This isn't a comprehensive list of every potential way to remain productive – every person is different, and some trial and error will always be involved. Give yourself some grace to figure out what helps you keep in the zone.

Share with us in the comments about what you do to help you remain productive while working from home!

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