7 Ways to Be More Productive in Your Home Office, Experts Say
These strategies will help you to stay focused and energized.
The percentage of Americans working from home more than tripled between 2019 and 2021 alone. And even though many offices have now reopened, a large share of workers are still telecommuting. It certainly has its perks—like skipping the commute and staying in your comfy clothes—but it can also have its pitfalls, too. Namely, it's harder to be productive when working from home if your cat is climbing all over your desk, your spouse keeps barging into the room, or you spot some dishes in the sink that need to be washed.
"It can feel difficult and overwhelming when both work and life are in the same physical place, and it's hard to separate them unless you set up resources and boundaries to get the support that you need in order to thrive in both areas," explains Danielle Langton, a business strategist for female founders and CEO/founder of Danielle Langton Strategic Business Consulting.
The good news? There are lots of easy ways to encourage productivity in your home office. Here are some expert-recommended strategies that will help you to work smarter rather than harder.
How to Be More Productive in Your Home Office
1. Adopt a morning routine.
Start off by finding some morning rituals that help you feel energized and inspired—whether that means going for a brisk walk outside, journaling about your goals, or having a nutritious breakfast and reading the news.
Del Greco also advises tackling one of the tasks you typically dread right when you start to work to help you stay motivated for the remainder of your work day.
2. Embrace natural light.
Research has shown that people who spend more time in natural lighting than they spend in artificial lighting have greater productivity and alertness. So, consider placing your desk near a window.
"Natural light does not just reduce strain on the eyes, but it can also improve your mood," Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight, tells Best Life. "Natural light also assists in keeping the circadian rhythm in check, promoting better sleep—and consequently, better productivity."
All that said, Devin Shaffer, lead interior designer at Decorilla, notes that you may not want to position your desk so that you're facing a window if you get easily distracted by the cars, dog walkers, and wildlife outside.
3. Carve out a dedicated workspace.
"The issue with working from home for many individuals lies within the blurred lines between work and life," says Kropovinsky. "Most people have their homes designed as a space for relaxation, comfort, and personal time. When these areas suddenly transform into a workspace, it creates cognitive dissonance."
For this reason, Kropovinsky says it's essential to have a separate area dedicated solely to work, which can help create a boundary between your job and home life.
If you don't have the space in your home for a full office, Langton says even having a dedicated desk can help train your brain to get into a productive mode. You can even set up a room divider in your living room, dining room, finished basement, or wherever you choose to get work done in order to eliminate distractions and give you the feeling of having an office without an actual door to close.
"One of my clients even created a garage office set-up because it gave her more peace than her in-home space," says Langton.
Whatever you do, try not to set up your workspace in your bedroom, says Alex Bass, founder and CEO of the art advisory and interior design studio Salon 21. Ideally, you want to mentally associate your bedroom with relaxation rather than work.
4. Try a standing desk.
A 2011 study found that people who use standing desks experience less stress and fatigue than those who remain seated while working. Not only that but 87 percent of those who use standing desks reported increased energy throughout their workday.
According to Shaffer, this may be due to the fact that standing desks increase circulation throughout the body—including to the brain.
"Better blood circulation results in smarter thinking," he explains. "Your mind gets clearer and your focus improves."
If you're not a fan of the standing desk idea, try setting a timer and getting up to take a quick walk every hour or two to keep the blood flowing. Or, you could try an adjustable height desk that allows you to sit for part of the workday and stand for the remainder.
5. Keep must-have items close by.
Make sure all the tools you need to get your work done are within reaching distance. According to Nicole Gabai, founder of B. Organized, and the author of The Art of Organizing, this is one of the easiest ways to maintain productivity while working from home.
Items that you only use once in a while—say, a printer or webcam—can be placed in other areas of the workspace. But keep those tools you use daily—like a calculator, planner, or other basic supplies—at the ready on or inside your desk. That way, you won't have to constantly interrupt your workflow when you need to retrieve something.
6. Find your "focus window."
Are you most focused when you first start work in the morning, with your energy tapering off by the afternoon? Or do you tend to get the most done later in the day? Everyone has different windows of time in which they are the most productive, says Langton. The key is to find your window and capitalize on it.
For example, if you know that you're mentally at your best early in the morning, you can plan to complete your most important or most draining tasks during that time—and then take a break for errands, meditation, or exercise before resuming lighter, less taxing work activities. Alternatively, if your energy increases as the day goes on, you might want to start with easier tasks like answering emails before gradually moving on to those activities that require more brain power.
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7. Select—and stick to—a start and stop time.
When you work from home, it's tempting to be loose with your schedule—starting and stopping whenever you feel like it. But experts don't recommend this approach.
"Especially if you work for yourself, set hours for your work day and try to stick to them," says Bass.
Alexis Haselberger, a time management, productivity, and leadership coach, has worked from home for most of the last decade and found that this strategy can help set important boundaries. You may find that you're likely to stay focused because you have a defined stretch of time to get things done. You're also less likely to allow work to bleed into your personal life.
"Your end time doesn't have to be the same time every day, but deciding in advance what time I'll stop working on any given day allows me to fully apply the principle of Parkinson's Law—which states that work expands to fill the time allotted," explains Haselberger.