As more people work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some workers may face a drop in productivity. But a recent study found Apollo Technical found that productivity had not dropped at home relative to office work. In fact, workers who are older, female, and high-earners reported an increase in productivity while working from home.
The study found that better mental and physical health contributed to better productivity. Also, factors such as having a dedicated room for working and having school-age children made a difference. On average, working time increased by 1.5 hours while working from home.
If your productivity has dropped at home, try the following top three ways to improve work performance:
1. Limit distractions
Research has found that productivity improves by having a dedicated room for working. If you’re surrounded by noise – which is common in a busy office anyway – you may find it difficult to concentrate on your work. Young children in particular are most adept at tearing up your concentration.
Sometimes, distractions are unavoidable. That’s why rescheduling your work to quieter hours might be a good work-around. Try getting things done while your children sleep. That could mean early mornings or late nights. But research shows that short-term memory works better in the morning/midday, around 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Here’s a list of ways to limit distractions:
• Use a dedicated room for working
• Turn off your personal phone or use airplane mode
• Don’t use social media – they’re designed to suck you in
• Don’t work near a television
• Use a free website blocker such as Cold Turkey
• Make use of the Hawthorne effect
According to the Hawthorne Effect, increased observation leads to increased productivity. However, the original experiments were found to have been overstated. Yet, if you’re the kind of person who works harder when the boss is watching, this might be an idea for you. Try telling someone what you’ve achieved in the day so they know you’re being productive. In effect, you can turn your partner or colleague into your boss.
2: Set goals and strict working hours
It’s not always possible to set strict working hours when working from home. Distractions and circumstances can interfere with the best of intentions. But that can also be true of office work. So write down your goals, set your working hours, and try to stick to them. Waking up at the same time every morning is a real benefit.
|Related: 8 Time Management Strategies for Working Remotely|
• Set realistic goals
• Avoid general goals – be specific
• Tell someone about the goals you’ve set
• Set deadlines for achieving the goals
• Reward yourself for achieving your goals on deadline
According to the science of goalsetting, you can work “SMART” by setting specific, meaningful, actionable, realistic, and time-bound goals.
3: Avoid multitasking by prioritizing your work
Some people believe that multitasking is a positive attribute. They’re wrong. Research conducted by Stanford University found that multitasking is actually harmful both to cognition and productivity.
The study found that those who concentrate on one job perform better in various cognitive tests. In fact, the researchers couldn’t find any benefit associated with multitasking.
Aside from the obvious method of completing the most important work first, there is another strategy that can boost productivity. Try tackling the hardest tasks first and leave the easier jobs for later.
Knowing that you’ve got the heavy work out of the way will improve your mood and reduce stress. Also, people tend to work more productively in the mornings. So target your best hours for the hardest jobs.
You could try implementing the Eisenhower Matrix with these four Ds:
• If something is important and urgent: Do
• If something is important but not urgent: Delay
• If something is urgent but not important: Delegate
• If something is not urgent and not important: Delete
Above all else, the key to productivity is self-assessment. Is your strategy working? How can you change your circumstances? It’s important to find out what works for you. So keep notes on what works and what doesn’t. Remember, you can’t fix a problem if you don’t know the cause. Trying different methods will help you calibrate the best home working environment for you.
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