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7 Science-Backed Ways to Make Working from Home More Productive

Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder writer

While working from home has its allure (less money and time spent commuting, more control over your environment, activewear in lieu of officewear, etc.), the actual “working” part can be a challenge. After all, with no manager or colleagues around to keep you accountable, it can be all too easy to put off work in order to, say, put in a load of laundry, run to the grocery store or get sucked into another “Law & Order: SVU” marathon.

But before you start rethinking your decision to work from home, consider recent research from Stanford University in California, which suggests that workers are not only more productive when they telecommute, but they also work more hours and are even happier as a result. It’s all in a matter of how you approach it.

Whether you work from home on a regular basis or every once in a while, here are some science-backed tips to ensure those days at the home office don’t go to waste.

  1. Create a to-do list.
    You may love the flexibility working from home provides, but not having any sort of schedule or to-do list to guide your day can wreak havoc on your ability to focus, research suggests. Having a physical to-do list frees your brain up to focus on the task at hand because you don’t have the constant worry of “what’s next?” in the back of your mind – it’s right there in front of you.
  2. Put on pants.
    I know. One of the major attractions of working from home is the idea of literally not having to get out of bed; however, research suggests that getting dressed for work – even if you’re not going into the office – can help you get into “work mode,” and leave you feeling more focused and more alert than if you dressed down (or not at all).
  3. Turn off your phone.
    It’s hard enough to resist texting and checking social media in the office, but what about at home, where there’s no manager around to police you? Fortunately, there’s now an app for that. In fact, there are several (free) apps designed to eliminate distractions so you can focus on work. Try Inbox Pause, which delays email notification pop-ups so they won’t disrupt your work, or ColdTurkey, which blocks distracting applications and websites that tend to distract you from real work.
  4. Take a lunch/meditation/nap break.
    An estimated 1 in 5 workers do not take a lunch break – and that can wreak havoc on creativity. Set aside time in the middle of the day to rest and regroup with an activity that has proven benefits on the mind and the body. Try eating a brain-boosting lunch, reconnecting with nature, working out, meditating or even napping.
  5. Color yourself productive.
    Research suggests that decorating your workspace with vibrant hues can increase your productivity and stimulate creativity. Use this handy infographic from Taskworld to see how different colors work in different ways to calm you, energise you, stimulate creativity or improve focus.
  6. Make some noise.
    Silence may be golden, but the right amount of noise is priceless. It may seem counter-intuitive, but research suggests we’re at our most creative when surrounded by modest ambient noise (around 70 decibels), which triggers the part of our brains responsible for abstract and creative thinking. Find your sound sweet spot with an app such as SoundDrown or Coffivity.
  7. Don’t isolate yourself.
    Sure, not having co-workers has its advantages, but it can also mean missing out on the mood – and brain-boosting benefits of everyday social interaction. But there are other ways to get that much-needed social outlet: Find (or start) a Meetup group of like-minded professionals, find an industry happy hour to attend, or simply get out of the house every once in a while to work from a coffee shop, library or a shared office space.

Of course, everyone works differently, and finding your productivity sweet spot may take some trial and error. Seek out other work-from-home professionals to see how they stay on top of their jobs, or create a ritual that works for you. After a while, you may even find that you miss the office.


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