Editor’s note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.
Some people find working from home a breeze. Others find it extremely distracting. Working from home can present a number of challenges in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
This is why it’s essential to have strategies in place to minimize your stress levels and help you stay focused. Here are six ways to stay productive and happy while working from home:
1 Create a designated workspace.
Many remote workers use their sofas, beds or dining room tables as makeshift desks. This can work in a physical sense, but working in communal areas can quickly give rise to distractions.
If it’s possible, find a quiet and secluded spot to set up a designated home office. You could use a spare bedroom, basement or attic, or even a corner of your rarely-used dining room for this purpose. Upgrade your new work area with a spacious desk, a comfortable chair, your computer, stationery and office supplies, anything you need to work efficiently.
Let your family members know that you don’t want to be disturbed while you’re working, and close the door during your work hours.
2. Establish a balanced schedule.
Depending on your job, you might have to work standard hours at home, or you might be able to set your own customized schedule. If you’re a freelancer or self-employed professional, you might be tempted to sleep in until noon, work at midnight, and take days off at random.
However, according to health and productivity experts, routines are good for our mental and physical health. This is why it’s important to build a schedule and stick to it while working from home. Wake up at the same time and work between roughly the same hours every day if you can. This approach creates a work/life balance and helps you to stay on top of your tasks without forsaking your productivity or your personal time.
3. Keep your workspace organized to minimize clutter.
It’s all too easy to accumulate piles of clutter on your desk when you’re working from home. Many studies have shown that clutter isn’t just unappealing to look at—it’s actually bad for your productivity, too.
Minimize clutter in your home office by installing a dedicated bookshelf for work purposes. You can use these surfaces to store your files, paper, office supplies and more, allowing you to make full use of your desk and to keep it neat, tidy and relaxing.
4. Remember to look after physical needs.
It’s important to take care of your physical needs at all times, especially when you work from home. Remote working can wreak havoc on your sleep patterns, eating habits and exercise routines.
One of the most crucial things to remember to do when working remotely is to eat regularly and healthily. Preparing simple, healthy meals and snacks before your work day begins will also encourage you to eat regularly, even when you’re at your busiest.
5. Take measures to avoid burnout.
Many people focus too much while working at home and burn themselves out in the process. Research shows that the average remote worker actually works 1.4 more days per month than their office-based colleagues.
You can work towards avoiding burnout by paying careful attention to how you feel on a daily basis. Check in with yourself regularly, and if you feel fatigued, worn out or stressed, take a break.
You can also use ergonomic work tools like a standing desk to reduce discomfort while working from your home office. Studies have shown that sedentary employees who use standing desks felt less fatigued and more engaged in their work than their seated peers.
6. Add some elements of joy.
It’s easy to fall into a rut while working remotely, especially if you don’t need to get dressed or adhere to specific work times during the day. Making time for things that pick you up and make you feel good is important to keeping you centered and focused.
You can incorporate self-care into your work life by dressing up daily in comfortable but smart clothes or donning a special piece of jewelry, and taking breaks to cultivate mindfulness or to exercise.
The bottom line
Working from home can impact your ability to get your work done, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Optimize your work environment and your output by creating a dedicated workspace, keeping it neat and tidy, and prioritizing self-care each and every day.
Karen Bradford is an independent writer and editor.