How to maximize productivity while working from home

Meredith Gallo

Working from home takes a lot of focus. If you're struggling to get settled in, here are some ideas that will help.

When you work from home, you're responsible for making the most out of each day. 

For those who prefer being their own boss, adapting to this added responsibility feels natural. For the rest of us, it can be daunting to face a week's worth of tasks without the structure of an office routine. 

Add that to the distraction of kids and partners being home, and you might find focusing to be a herculean task.

Luckily, we have a number of tips and common sense tricks to help even the wariest work-from-home newbie maximize their productivity while working from home.


Make your work environment as normal as possible 

It's a good idea to create a designated workspace and make sure the people you live with, particularly young children, understand not to bother you in this space for the next few weeks. Make sure your workspace is relatively quiet and far away from possible distractions like the TV. 

If you're sharing your space with roommates, relatives or partners, who are also working from home, you may have to get creative. Twitter is full of images of people making the best out of the situation by working from converted kitchen tables, overturned hampers, and even dog cages. If you're working from your couch it may be a good idea to pick up a lap desk.

If your employer sent you home with a laptop, it may make sense to invest in some items to complete your home office set up. It can be straining on joints and tendons to work from a laptop day after day. We suggest investing in a separate keyboard and mouse to help prevent strain and make your overall work experience more comfortable. 

Studies have shown that the act of looking down can add up to 60 pounds of pressure to your neck, potentially resulting in chronic neck and shoulder pain. If you're used to working from raised monitors, we'd suggest getting a laptop stand to bring your laptop closer to your sightline.


Dress for success 

While it may feel nice to roll out of bed, bypass your usual morning routine and fire up your work computer, it's important to take the time to prepare for your day like any other. That means getting dressed in comfortable yet reasonably work-appropriate clothes -- especially if your company uses video conferencing software. 

This J.Crew Shawl Collar Sweater Blazer on sale at Nordstrom is a great option if you're looking for a professional yet comfortable layer to pair with your favorite t-shirt or button-down. For men, these Relaxed Fit Cotton Knit Lounge Jogger Pants from Polo Ralph Lauren are a great, inexpensive option for men transitioning from a business professional office environment to working from home. 

If you usually do your hair and makeup or groom your facial hair before going into the office, keep this up while you're working from home. It will help you get in the mindset of being at work. 


Take time to recharge 

If you usually exercise before work or during lunch, take the time to incorporate that into your work-from-home schedule. Many studios and individual instructors are offering online classes right now. If you have a favorite instructor or class, we'd encourage you to reach out and see what exercise options are available online. 

If exercise isn't a normal part of your workday routine but you're having difficulty keeping motivated while working from home, we'd suggest taking a break with one of the many yoga and mindfulness videos on YouTube. Yoga with Adriene is a great channel with a variety of videos for yogis of all levels. If you're taking a break from the workday just remember to let your coworkers know that you'll be away from your computer for a little bit. 


Prepare meals in advance

We're big fans of meal prepping for the workweek, especially when working from home. Knowing what's for lunch and dinner can help you ensure that you're eating nutritious, whole meals rather than a spoonful of peanut butter from your fridge. We suggest making some of your favorite freezer-friendly recipes, like a soup or lasagna, that can easily be reheated when you're ready to eat.

"Nothing Fancy" by Alison Roman and "Smitten Kitchen Every Day" by Deb Perelman are two cookbooks that celebrate home cooking. Both offer unfussy, delicious recipes that any home cook can pull together. If you don't have a stockpot, we'd suggest this 12-quart option by Cuisinart that comes equipped with a pasta insert, steam basket, and lid. 


Work on time management

When working from home, it can be hard to stop yourself from doing the types of things you'd usually leave until the evening or weekend, like laundry and cleaning. But it's important to treat Monday through Friday like a normal workweek, even if you could totally bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies before your 3 p.m. meeting. 

If you notice something needs to get done around the house, jot it down in a notebook and make a point to do it when you're off the clock. Better yet, sit down with the people you live with, children included, to come up with a plan to help you all be productive while keeping your living space clean and comfortable for everyone. 


Create boundaries

It's probably not a good idea to work from your bed. Likewise, it's a smart idea to turn off your laptop and mute email when you would usually be done for the day. Work with your colleagues to better understand their work-from-home situations so that you can all be mindful of the extra stresses, like childcare or petcare that may play into the typical work from home day for your entire team. 


Limit your exposure to the news and social media 

One of the best things you can do to maintain your productivity throughout the day is limiting your exposure to the news and social media. When you're trying to concentrate on work, the last thing you need is to be bombarded by anxiety-inducing news alerts or distracting social media updates. We suggest trying out one of the many productivity apps that can block distracting sites, like SelfControl for Macs and RescueTime for Macs, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS. 

If you find yourself with 20 tabs full of articles you want to read when you take a break, we'd suggest using the Pocket app. You can send articles you're interested in reading to a list in Pocket. That way you never lose track of an article you'd like to look at, and you can finally close those tabs and get back to work. 

Meredith Gallo is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds. 

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.