Working from Home vs Working from the Office: Which is More Productive?

ben francia | by Ben Francia |Last Updated: April 15, 2020

You can be more efficient when working from home than in the office with these productivity tips.

In order to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, organizations the world over have started issuing orders for staff to work from home. Considering the growing number of cases, it makes sense to minimize exposure by having the remote setup. Some organizations though, especially more traditional ones, are skeptical of the productivity that this arrangement would yield. Management would expect supervisors and managers to handle this well, but down to the ranks?

The belief that the work from home setup can only work with certain kinds of people is certainly unfounded. The walls between that separate life from work no longer exist and, to exacerbate the problem, distractions abound depending on how many people live in the household. A study showed that 29 percent of remote workers struggled with work-life balance. It seems as if only the most disciplined and driven individuals can achieve 100% productivity while working at home.

Contrary to this belief however, with the right motivation, consistent practice and carefully placed habits, anyone can be productive while at home. The same study mentioned that individuals are actually more productive at home.

You More Control Over Your Working Environment

One advantage of working from home is that it allows you to have more control in creating a working environment that suits you. Where the office’s silent murmurs and drab aesthetic kills your creativity, your window-side table full of knick knacks invigorates it. You have the freedom to reinforce your productivity when you’re working remotely.

That is not to say that you can work anywhere, however. Pick the best spot you feel will bring you silence and focus, and deem that as your dedicated workspace. 

If you have a spare room (don’t use your bedroom), make sure it’s filled with things that will help your productivity. This is yOUR home office and you have complete control over what it could look like. If you don’t have a room, select a corner of the home that’s less traveled and put up barriers that indicate that it is a no-noise zone.

Talk to your family about your working arrangement and how they should not disturb you unless it’s a life-or-death situation. Inform them of the hours you’re working and to at least knock at your door in case they absolutely need your attention.

If you work in an office, you know how bad it can get when the Internet connection starts acting up. This results in extended hours of work and a lot of hassle. This isn’t mutually exclusive to offices however, even at home you might find your net connection occasionally cutting in and out. Unlike the office, however, you have the ability to get a backup connection in case the other one goes sour.

Lastly, if not directly contributing to work, leave your phones out of arm’s reach. The advancement of technology has given rise to phones that literally eat your hours away if you’re not careful. So keep it away from your person at all costs.

Team Communications is More On Point

Whether you would believe it or not, working from home actually makes team communication more focused and on point. This is ironic because you don’t physically see nor interact with each other, but you are able to set your priorities and dependencies straight anyway.

Because of technology, teams dozens of miles away are able to communicate tasks, requirements and anything work-related clearly and easily, minus the banter. The secret to efficient communications is to have an efficient system.

Having a scrum call with your staff at the start of the day can help settle priorities and break down tasks. Just to make sure you’re aligned with everyone, spend at least 15 to 30 minutes having this kind of call. If you have to talk with people individually, schedule a call with them through a team calendar and have that call. Unless it’s a creative brainstorming session, make sure it falls in less than 15 minutes in order to save time.

Use reliable tools like Google Hangouts and Skype for messaging. Facebook messenger and Viber are full of distractions, so you might want to do away with these when communicating about work. You can also implore the use of project management systems like Trello and help you organize your tasks and deliverables. Having your team use these tools also allows them to become more productive.

You Have Full Control of Your Time

You have control over  your time by virtue of the fact that you no longer have to suffer travel. By no means does this mean that you can work when you want, leave when you want – this is a refined recipe for instant failure. What this means is that you have the ability to structure and schedule your day.

Pattern it out of a regular work day. Start at 8:00AM, have lunch at around 12:00PM (including those 15 minute breaks) and, after work hours, do not bother with any kind of work-related stuff. If you want to, lock the doors to your office, do so as long as you don’t do any work outside of those hours. Spend your time with your family or on your hobbies. This is a discipline that requires consistent practice and strict following.

Having a physical task list also helps you run the day. Partition them into every two hours if needed in order to get the most out of your work hours. At the end of the day, strike out your finished tasks. This helps you feel productive and accomplished at the end of the day.

Better Breaks Than in the Office

Taking a break in the office often means one of two things: 1) you’re either having a quick bite down at whatever fast food chain is available or 2) you’re napping on your desk if not looking at your internet browser using office resources. It goes without saying that your break options are more diverse when working from home. Other than that, breaks are more meaningful and enjoyable because you’re either spending time with your family or you’re achieving a personal goal.

It is imperative, however, that a strict schedule must be made and applied in order to make the most out of this perk. Organizing your day in two hours  can not only immensely help you set goals of accomplishing tasks, it also allows you 15 minutes of reprieve afterwards.

When having your 1 hour full lunch break, do NOT eat in your work area. Go to your dining room or anywhere else if you have to eat. If you’re done with that, you can do other things like get some delicious desert, exercise, take a nap, watch some TV or anything that’s not work-related. 

Keep in mind that breaks need to be taken to ensure that you are not too exhausted to handle the rest of your tasks. Make sure you don’t handle anything work-related on your breaks. Make the most out of your break since this prepares you for the second half of your day.

Simulate Working in Office While At Home

The mindset that needs to be maintained when you’re about to start working from home is simple: “You are WORKING.” This means that unless you’re on your breaks and there’s a life and death situation happening, you have to act and behave like you’re at work. This means that you can potentially be called by a client or asked assistance from one of your staff. So maintain this kind of vigilance every time you’re working. 

One simple tactic that helps achieve this is taking a cold wake-up bath whenever you start the day. Other than being hygienic, a cold morning bath can set your mind to productivity. 

When your job hours begin, try wearing clothes you usually wear at work. Skip the drawers or shorts and put on pants. Dress up as if you’re meeting with a client or about to do a pitch for a potential one. This simulates that you’re working and sends the impression to people at home that you’re serious about not being disrupted.

When you clock out, strike out your task lists, turn off your computer, lock the doors of your home office, get out of your work clothes and take a long warm shower. You need it so you can relax and start spending family or me time.

Habits Are Formed Through Repeated Action

As mentioned earlier, you can be more effective at home than in the office if you have the right habits set in place. Habits need to be learned and repeated overtime and with emotional impact to stick with you. However, as much as developing these habits sound simple enough, it’s definitely not easy. There will always be resistance, especially if you’re hailing from a traditional organization or company.

The first step will always be the hardest, but given enough time, practice and consistency being efficient while working remotely can eventually become a walk in the park for you. Be patient, endure and enjoy the learning experience.

Given enough time, you might actually see the work from home setup as a viable and cheaper mode of working. Considering the state of the world right now, working from home would eventually be considered a norm. So practicing it individually and in your organization might work out in the long term as well.

If you think we’ve missed any tips or work from home lifehack, share about it in the  comments section below. Your tips and thoughts on how you do your remote work are welcome and would be very much appreciated.

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