As a home business owner, you know that running a business out of your house provides great benefits, including cost efficiency and the flexibility that is difficult when renting or buying office space. And luckily today’s technology allows for business owners and employees to work practically from anywhere – whether it’s from a plane, coffee shop or from home.
Interestingly enough, during this surge in remote working, it’s been shown that an employee’s presence at the office doesn’t equate to a high production level. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 68 percent of HR professionals believe that being at work just to be present actually decreases productivity at their organizations.
So if you opt to work remotely the question then becomes – how do you stay productive at home? With endless potential distractions and temptations to complete tasks not associated with work, such as laundry or grocery shopping, being productive can be challenging. But productivity is essential to business and there are a few key steps that can be taken to provide remote workers and home business owners with structure needed to ensure productivity throughout the day.
For business success, productivity is key to the equation
Productivity is defined as an economic measure of output per unit of input. Inputs include labor and capital, while output is typically measured in revenues and other components such as business inventories. For businesses, especially those run and operated by a small staff, this means increasing productivity equates to increased business success. And increasing productivity boils down to setting up the right work environment, managing time effectively and implementing new and advanced technology.
Top tips to increase productivity
- Maintain your morning routine
People are the most productive when they wake up, and setting up a routine ensures that they maintain that level of productivity for longer periods of time. Working from home provides the option to do certain things which you would probably not if you were to commute to an office. You may be tempted to sleep in a little longer, wear your pajamas throughout the day, and even skip breakfast in favor of starting the work day as early as possible. Instead of getting carried away by the flexibility working from home provides, keep as closely to the same routine you would have if you were going to an office. Wear work-appropriate clothes instead of sweatpants, use the time you saved by not commuting to do something you enjoy such as going for a run or meditating, and start your work day at the usual time.
- Know when you work best
Knowing which times you get your best work done is a great way to optimize productivity. Research from the University of California, Irvine, shows productivity rises in the late morning around 11 a.m. and peaks between 2 and 3 p.m. If you align with this timeline, reading through your emails at 11a.m. may use up some of your most valuable minutes on tasks which get you no closer to reaching your goal or completing a project. And the time to work on your most important task, be it a big project for a client or holding an internal brainstorm, looks to be from 2 to 3 p.m. Do keep in mind that everyone is different. It’s important to ask yourself when you get your best work done and match tasks with your natural rhythm.
- Plan out your tasks, keep a list
Once you identify which times you work best, you should make a to-do list of your tasks and goals throughout the day to prioritize big projects based on your natural waves of productivity. In addition to helping you prioritize, to-do lists help you remember all the tasks on your plate, tracks your progress and makes it easy to carry over tasks – if anything remains incomplete at the end of the day, it can be carried over to tomorrow’s list. Generally, you shouldn’t include more on your list than can be accomplished in a day. Projects that will take weeks or months to complete may be better tracked on a calendar, with specific reminders set for milestones and deadlines to reach along a certain timeline.
- Communicate regularly and well
As you work through your task list, avoid isolation by using technology for online meetings, calls, document sharing and collaboration – whether with clients or other remote colleagues and employees. Specifically, video conferencing solutions enable you to meet face-to-face from any location, whether you opt for a dedicated home office or have several set ups throughout your home. Some videoconferencing tools also include screen sharing and document editing features which help increase the productivity of a video call. You can also use video conferencing tools to host online chats to collaborate. If you want to meet with both employees and clients to brainstorm ideas surrounding a new product launch, a chat feature allows you to send targeted messages to just employees or all participants.
Another great technology to make use of to increase productivity is file sharing tools. Certain software allows users to drag and drop, copy and paste, or use cloud storage to copy individual files or entire folders within seconds to any location. And solutions that include mobile options allow you to continue work on the go. Today’s workforce is 24/7, and you never know when you’ll need to connect with co-workers or clients to maintain your productivity.
- Create an encouraging work space
When working from home the environment you create for yourself plays a large role in your ability to be effective. Some people like to keep several spaces open and move throughout the day, finding that the variation inspires productivity. For others, a dedicated “home office” desk set up may be better, as they can settle in at a consistent space. Regardless, there are some environmental factors to consider that also play a big part. Do you like working in a bright environment? Would background music/noise detract or add to your productivity? Even climate is a huge factor. Studies have shown cold temperatures can increase feelings of sadness and loneliness. And consistently high temperatures can make you feel sluggish and therefore less productive. Experts suggest keeping the temperature around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in order to encourage productivity.
- Keep to a regular working pattern
Just as maintaining a consistent morning routine sets you up for productivity and success, there’s value in continuing that momentum throughout the day and keeping a regular working pattern. For instance, your schedule may consistent of waking up early, going for a run and showering and dressing for the work day, followed by eating a healthy breakfast. You can then write out your to-do list and may even set aside an hour for lunch at noon. Come the afternoon you may find that at 4p.m. each day a sweet snack and extra cup of coffee will boost your energy and productivity until you sign off. And you may choose 6 p.m. to be the end of your day. Whatever schedule works for you, make note of it and keep to a daily timeline. The consistency will keep you productive throughout the work day and make sure you are able to separate between work and regular life that take place inside your home.
- Take regular breaks – social media counts
Without colleagues surrounding you to chat with throughout the day, it’s easy to ignore or forget the importance of taking breaks. But breaks during work hours keep employees and business owners motivated. A popular technique is the Pomodoro technique, which forces you to take a breather for 5 minutes after 25 minutes of intense work. Having to complete a section of work within 25 minutes can help you focus on the task at hand, and 5 minutes away is enough to re-charge ready for the next stint. And what you do with those five minutes is really up to you – even a quick Facebook or Twitter check helps. According to a recent survey by Microsoft, 46 percent of workers say their productivity has improved thanks to social media and social media tools. These social media breaks are mood enhancers, allowing you to return back to the next task on your list refreshed.
- Welcome the right distractions
Along the same lines of taking regular breaks is the need to welcome the right distractions into your work day. Working from home provides an abundance of distractions, whether its your home phone ringing or the urge to clean your dishes from the night before. Rather than ignoring all distractions, it’s important to recognize and welcome the right ones. A study lead by the University of California, Irvine, and presented at the South by Southwest panel on workplace distraction, found employees were actually happiest when performing busywork such as cleaning their desk or sorting email. Completing busywork gives you a feeling of accomplishment without the corresponding stress which comes along with more challenging tasks. And these distractions ultimately add to your productivity as you get some useful house keeping items done!
Focus on the end result
Productivity is an essential variable in the growth and efficiency of any business. Ultimately, maintaining and increasing productivity comes down to setting up the right work environment, managing your time well and making use of the technology that makes working from home feasible.