Working from home or flexibly can make a big difference to people’s quality of life. According to the CIPD, the professional body for experts in people at work, more than half of UK workers, 54 percent, work flexibly in some way. But there is still a lot of unmet demand, as two in three – 68 percent – would like to work flexibly in a way that is not currently available to them. So if you are part of the happy 32 percent who do benefit from working from home, whether because you’re expecting a large Amazon delivery, or because you work at a company that allows flexible working, it’s worth knowing a thing or two about how to be productive when connecting at home. Here are our top tips:
- Organise your home-office/workstation – You might believe that your clutter is really a ‘system’ and that you know where everything is but neuroscientists at Princeton have shown through fMRI scans that our brains react negatively to disorder and that constant visual reminders of disorganisation drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus. They also found that an organised work-space enabled people to focus and process information better, helping to increase their productivity. By organising your workstation, you are less likely to lose time in searching for the documents you need. Interestingly, searching for digital files can also waste time, so its worth setting up an automated system whereby your paper documents are scanned, digitised, and automatically filed in the correct location, so you always have what you need, when your need it.
- Adjust your working style – Avoid distractions and recognise that giving continuous partial attention to lots of different things – like social media, emails, or the all-day news in the background – mimics a constant state of alertness, as if we were under threat. This results in the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol kicking in, which over the long term, can produce a vicious cycle of anxiety, followed by a reward response as we, once again, check-in with our chosen distraction. Deliberately choosing not to get side-tracked by distractions and being more disciplined about focusing a period of time on a single task will result in being more productive. Start by turning off email and your phone for a couple of hours in the morning and see how much you manage to get done.
- Structure your day – At the same time, it’s important to take regular breaks, but they should be planned into the working day not taken on an ad hoc basis. Spend a short amount of time each morning preparing what you need to work on and plan it out with deadlines and breaks in between. If you find you just can’t make yourself stick it out until your designated break time, then try the ‘5 more’ exercise: when you feel you can’t resist stopping – just do five more – this can be five more minutes, five more paragraphs or five more pages. Over time, this will help extend your focus as it pushes you beyond the point of giving up and helps build mental concentration.
- Embrace ergonomics – an incorrect posture whilst sitting in front of a computer screen can compress the neck, leading to fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, increased muscle tension and even injury to the vertebrae over time. The answer is to invest in a chair and monitor stand that are fully adjustable so that you can achieve an optimum setting for health and comfort but also adjust it whenever you feel you are getting stiff and need a temporary change of position.
- Invest in the right tech – as already mentioned, automation is a great way to improve productivity as once a device has been programmed to do something once, it should continue to run automatically, freeing-up you up to concentrate on other work. A modern document scanner, such as the ScanSnap iX1500 – vital for digitising paper documents and helping to keep a home office organised – should have the ability to pre-configure common tasks and ‘save to’ file destinations; even auto-suggesting relevant file names and using OCR (optical character recognition) software to know if the document you’re scanning is a business receipt or a blog.
Want to know more about how to technology can support you while you work flexibly, from different locations, but still have access to all your important documents? Connect me with me on LinkedIn, or drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org