A Guide to Personal Productivity in the Home Office
The home office design plays a major role in personal productivity in the home office. Ergonomically designed workstations, lack of clutter, files and other equipment in easily retrievable spaces, optimal temperature control, optimal lighting, soothing color, refreshing indoor plants, glare-free computer monitors, and even comfortable clothing all help in maintaining a positive frame of mind and reducing stress, allowing for productive work.
The following ergonomic considerations when working in the computer reduce stress and boost productivity
- Positioning the top of the monitor below or at eye level and ensuring a gap of 24-36 inches between the monitor and the eyes.
- Placing the feet firmly on the floor, or on a foot rest.
- Reclining the chair posture to reduce vertebrae pressure.
Good home office organization tips include adopting a minimalist approach by stowing away everything not required for the day and throwing away everything not required at all. This clears not just the clutter but also the mind–and boosts productivity.
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The computer is the most important tool and the lifeline for the home worker. Most home workers would be surprised to know the time wasted on the computer owing to inefficiency in doing the obvious. Ways to improve productivity when using the computer include
- Learning keyboard shortcuts for faster commands instead of wasting time with the mouse.
- Leveraging the full scope of the computer. For instance, it is not necessary to waste time arranging computer files in order, as one tends to do with physical files. Use the search function to retrieve the required file faster.
- Scheduling mental recollection and manual tasks such as filing receipts when waiting for the computer to boot up.
- Learning faster methods such as touch type or voice recognition.
- Keeping a white board or scribbling pad handy to jot down notes or important points without wasting time opening the word processor and switching between windows.
Communicating with the clients or employers ranks among the most important activity in the home office. Very often, waiting to connect or communicate is the biggest drag on home office productivity. The key to ensure productivity through efficient communication includes:
- Installing reliable and seamless communication systems.
- Having a backup modem and internet connection.
- Scheduling communications when the client or remote boss would be free and ready to talk.
- Using the fastest and most effective medium of communication.
The biggest impediment to home office productivity is distractions. A traditional office is work-centric without much scope for diversions, at least without the supervisor or other colleagues knowing. The home office is unsupervised domain, and work is just one element among various elements such as cooking food, cleaning the dishes, entertaining guests, caring for children, and other things. The biggest loss of productivity in the home office is taking frequent and long breaks or loss of concentration owing to other work.
Ways to overcome such distractions include:
- Using distractions as breaks, and setting time limits for such breaks.
- Hiring help to do household chores. For instance, if hired help costs $10 an hour and the work fetches $20, hiring help is a better option than remaining distracted and losing the opportunity to earn more.
- Keeping the home office isolated and secluded from the rest of the home, with access restricted to other family members.
Working long hours without break can also lead to a decline in productivity. Take a walk, or indulge in some diversion such as playing minesweeper, but make sure such breaks do not take too long. Pomodoro timers are a good option for the same.
A home worker’s guide to personal productivity is incomplete without mention of time management.
Another major impediment to productivity in the home office is procrastination. In the traditional office, employees focus on work during fixed hours and remain driven by targets. Home office usually comes with flextime, no supervision, and the ability to set one’s own pace. The result is invariably procrastination.
The best solution is a combination of will power and adoption of effective time management techniques. Fix specific work hours and make a determined effort to work at full steam during such hours. A factor that helps develop will power to maintain focus and manage time better is remaining motivated.
The underlying solution to most productivity issues in the home office is treating the home office as an extension of the traditional office, with no difference in rules, protocols, and work intensity, with the only differences being not having to commute to work and being able to set one’s own hours.