7 Hacks that Make Working From Home More Productive

working from home
Photo by Blake Patterson via Flickr


As more and more Americans (and individuals around the globe) switch to jobs that allow them to eschew cubicle life, working from home has become not only more popular for freelances, but also a coveted perk for those which more traditional gigs. In fact, in one survey, 70% of employees said that they wanted to be allowed to work from home. Allowing workers to take it offsite has also been shown to save money, and even increase productivity. That is, if you, as a worker who is in fact working from home, actually focus on the work.

It’s easy to be distracted when your house is also your office — and it can be difficult to separate and create a healthy work-life balance. But there are some ways to ensure that your working from home is as advantageous and productive as it can be.

Here are a few tips to help strike the perfect WFH balance.

Create your perfect workspace. Whether you like chaos or cleanliness, it’s key that your workspace reflect what you need to work. Working from home doesn’t mean working from your bed; instead, set up a home office — and really tailor it to your needs. Invest in organizational units, lighting that is good for your eyes (and possibly even your mood; natural lighting has been found to make workers happier and more productive) and a chair that supports great posture. Or, better yet, take a page from Kelly Starrett’s book and give yourself a standing desk.

Bring the noise. For some people, working at a coffee shop is the ultimate in productivity assistance; not only has the hum of a coffee shop been found to help spur creativity, but the change of scenery can aid in separating out home time from work-from-home time. Unfortunately, if you’re easily distracted, or you, live somewhere that makes getting to and from a cafe difficult, or if you tend to do your best work at night when, say, most coffee shops are closed, you might not be able to reap those benefits. But because we live in the future, there’s an app for that. Coffitivity (yup, the name is impossible, but bear with us) literally pipes coffee shop sounds in to your workspace, helping you simulate the environment of a cafe, without the distractions or potential pitfalls, like not being able to find an outlet.

Build in before/after time. No one who works from home misses their commute — but they might be missing its strange, subtle benefits. Having time before and after work to gear up and wind down can actually help you get into the proper mindset. Vow to take a short walk before and after you get your work started, or give yourself a solid 15-20 minutes in the morning and afternoon wherein you do nothing but listen to the radio, read the paper, or engage in other relaxing things you might usually do. It doesn’t take a ton a time, but it can help you get your head right for work.

Turn up the heat, kind of. Chilly office spaces are a longstanding complaint, and for good reason. According to one study, workspaces kept below 70% made for less careful, accurate employees. Offices at 77 degrees were found to be just about perfect. You don’t need to keep it quite that warm; between 73 and 75 should do the trick.

Cowork. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer famously criticized working from home, noting that it didn’t give teams a chance to collaborate. And while that may not be true for everyone, there is definitely an argument to be made for bouncing ideas off someone else. One smart way to make you more productive? Coworking. You can either opt for a formal coworking space — more and more are popping up across the country — or just invite a fellow freelancer to meet up and do a few hours of work simultaneously.

Keep a schedule. It can be pretty easy to get distracted by household chores or other things in the home. Don’t let that happen! Use an app like Wunderlist or another online resource that can help you make a check-list of things to get done, and even set times and deadlines. Make small milestones — X number of emails responded to by 11am, Y number of photos edited before lunch — that you know you can handle, with firm time limits. Then, stick to them.

Be done when you’re done. One of the biggest obstacles for working from home is actually turning off. When you logged your full work day, or you’ve finished everything on your checklist for the day, shut the laptop and really walk away. Don’t keep noodling on your company website, don’t respond to emails. Work-life balance matters.

Working from home is becoming more and more popular among both freelancers and full-timers with 9-to-5 jobs. And while bosses may still give it the occasional side-eye, those of us who revel in a day spent working in our sweats know that productivity is not only possible, but often, optimal. Especially when we’ve got the soothing hum of a distant coffee shop being artificially fed into our earbuds.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.