Working from home can be an attractive option for employees who are sick of putting on their work clothes, battling the daily commute and sitting in an office all day. However, those who do work from home aren’t blind to the fact that this arrangement isn’t without its downsides.

Working from home jobs often come with distractions, loneliness and a general lack of routine, not to mention an invasion of your personal space with work papers, memos and reports. To work from home and be efficient, you must be disciplined in order to remain productive.

If you’re feeling unmotivated and worry you’re not working at your optimum level, try these seven working-from-home tips to stay on top of your game:

1. Act as though you’re going to work

Set an alarm and get out of bed in the morning as soon as you wake up, as lying in will only make you feel unfocused and drowsy. Shower, get dressed and have breakfast before beginning your work day. Sadly, staying in your pyjamas won’t get you in the right mind set.

2. Consider your setting

If you have a spare room or study to use as an office space, keep anything work related in there. Setting yourself up on the couch will quickly blur the line between home and work, making it harder to relax when you’re ‘off’, and make it harder to focus at work when you’re ‘on’. Make sure the space is well lit and – when weather permits – open the windows and let fresh air in.  

Some home office spaces can be subject to similar OH&S rules as regular offices, so check with HR to ensure that your work space complies with any requirements.  

3. Stay focused on goals with schedules and lists

Make sure you and your manager are clear about what you need to complete and when. That way, you’re more likely to stay focused and meet your deadlines. If you need to, make a more specific list of everything that needs doing, and tick jobs off when you’ve completed them. Little wins mean big satisfaction, especially when you don't have colleagues around to recognise your accomplishments.

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4. Divide your work

If a project is big or seems too enormous to undertake all at once, tackle it in small, manageable chunks. It may take a bit of extra planning but it will help avoid making you feel overwhelmed. Remember, houses are built brick by brick.

5. Check in with colleagues

Remind yourself that you’re at work, even if you’re not at the office. Phoning to update your boss or colleagues will also keep you connected with what’s going on in the office. Many workers also find it helpful to have regular face-time, whether by conducting meetings over Skype or attending the office for a monthly in-person meeting.

If you know other colleagues who are working away from the office, it can also help to discuss working-from-home ideas to talk about what does and doesn’t work for you. This can help you see you’re not alone – others struggle with the balance just as much as you do, and you may discover new ways of staying focused.

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6. Focus on work by taking breaks

You can’t expect to work non-stop all day, and trying to certainly won’t help you to stay focused at work. Remember to take time out for lunch for the benefit of your health and your work. Stay away from your computer at lunchtime as well; go for a walk or run an errand. This will help you feel refreshed and ready to knuckle down when you come back to your desk.

7. Reward yourself

You may be motivated simply by knowing your manager is expecting your work at a certain time, but if you work for yourself or don’t have to report in regularly to anyone you should try to come up with ways of rewarding yourself at the end of each task or day.

Failing to motivate yourself can mean poor quality output, which can jeopardise your job. If you’ve tried these suggestions and they haven’t worked for you, why not try taking your laptop to a cafe with wifi for an hour or two on some mornings?

There are certainly a mix of working-from-home pros and cons, but if you’re finding more cons than pros, you could also consider talking to your line manager about going back to work at the office or working partial days at the office; working from home isn’t ideal for everyone.

Working from home is just one way to break out of the standard 9 to 5 office routine. Here are more alternative styles of working you may not have considered yet (but should!)

Summary

Here are some tips for improving productivity and motivation when working from home:
  • Get dressed for the day and try to have a dedicated working space free from distractions
  • Ensure you and your manager are clear on what your expected output is and any relevant deadlines to avoid confusion
  • Check in regularly with managers and colleagues, and try to have some face time in the office to maintain relationships and presence
  • Reward yourself to help maintain motivation
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