Productive and organized when working from home: the ultimate guide
In this article you will discover how to stay productive and organized when working from home or more generally outside of your business.
This article is aimed at both entrepreneurs and employees. If you are already working from home or are preparing to take the plunge, this article based on scientific literature and field experience will provide you with a new reading key to improve your professional life and productivity.
Organizing when working from home is essential to stay productive.
While work from home or at a different location from the company has significant advantages, teleworking also has many disadvantages.
In this article, you will discover operational advice based on scientific research in home office work.
But before turning to these tips, I suggest you quickly discover the main advantages and disadvantages of working from home.
What are the benefits of working from home?
Here are the main advantages of working from home:
- flexibility of working hours
- the possibility of better self-management
- more peaceful and quiet work
- a saving of time due to the absence of transportation
- greater family availability when needed
These benefits are highlighted by scientific research, as shown by Daniels & al., 2000; Royal College of Art, 1999, and home-based work allows to experience familiarity and comfort, flexibility, self-management , calm and work in peace, absence of transportation, being with children.
According to Demerouti & al (2014), flexible working hours can give individual workers the opportunity to better balance their work and home domains, as they can allocate their time over work and family activities in a way that suits their situation best (Parasuraman & Greenhaus, 2002). Being able to choose a location for work, (e.g., working from home) also allows employees to schedule work optimally to minimize work-family interference (Gajendran and Harrison 2007).
In addition, the feeling of control reduces stress (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984), thus indirectly contributing to work-life balance.
But these same benefits can turn into disadvantages if you are not able to tailor your own mind to the specifics of working from home or teleworking.
What are the disadvantages of working from home?
Here are the main disadvantages of working from home:
- difficulty in establishing boundaries between professional and personal life
- more difficult stress management
- increased risk of isolation
- less well-being
- lower productivity in case of difficulty to self-manage
Duxbury & al. (1996) find that teleworkers are more likely to report increased stress and more work-family interference.
In addition, teleworking is supposed to increase the permeability of boundaries in the areas of life and the degree to which family or work encroach on the other because they occupy the same place and occupy the same time; which can eventually lead to work-family conflict. Such permeability can also make the psychological disengagement from work more difficult, increasing the likelihood that a time conflict will force employees to work after normal working hours. This may be especially true for people who have difficulty separating activities between home and work (Gajendran, & al., 2007).
Immediately, you will discover operational advice based on the conclusions of a synthesis of the scientific literature on teleworking. By following these tips, you will be able to improve your productivity, your well-being and your health.
Working from home in the best conditions requires being assertive, that is to say to communicate with confidence what you want without entering into conflicting relationships.
This is because work from home is able to generate several problems.
Homeworking can increase the permeability of the work-family boundary, making attempts to reconcile work and family life more difficult (Bulos & Chaker 1995, Olson & Primps 1984, Crossen 1990, Foegen 1993, Gottliebet & al. 1998; Madigan et al., 1990; Royal College of Art, 1999; Sullivan, 2000).
Set clear boundaries with both your professional and your family circle. It then becomes fundamental to set a framework and rules that allow you to work in the best conditions.
1 – Set clear boundaries with your personal and professional environment
As you understand, working from home is a choice that creates interference between your professional and personal identity. This is because both your workplace and your home are charged with a distinct emotional experience.
Now that you find yourself mixing these two worlds, it is important to put some limits on the identity of this new workspace that will be installed in your home. This separation is essential to be able to work in the best conditions.
Earlier research has shown that support and tension within the homeworking experience are shaped by the use and sharing of spatial resources (Bulos & Chaker, 1991 & 1995, Ahrentzen, 1990, Gurstein, 1991).
In keeping with this research, Troup & Rose (2012) show that the domains of work and family are interconnected or integrated and individuals always maintain boundaries around their professional or family roles (Nippert-Eng, 1996). To extend this point of view, Sonnentag & Zijlstra (2006) argue that the usual boundary between work and family life has a psychological function because it gives people time to recover from the demands and pressures of work.
For all these reasons, well before you start working from home, it becomes important to delineate your new workspace to be productive but also to avoid tensions with your family.
Protecting your territory like an animal is a psychological and pragmatic issue that will allow you to work in the best conditions but also to protect your well-being and your health.
Taking the rules of what is acceptable to you as part of your job is essential for your well-being.
If you work on your own you should communicate about your rules with your customers and prospects.
If you are an employee, you should not accept teleworking without defining what is acceptable and beneficial for you and your family.
This is especially true for companies that sell teleworking as a privilege reserved for a limited number of employees.
Be careful because this can lead to a kind of reciprocity based on a form of manipulation in which you may feel compelled to work more at home, even outside of your usual working hours. Doing this can lead to conflict between family and work life.
As Duxbury & Higgins (2002) show, telecommuting can increase conflict between work and family when: employees who work at home spend a greater, or disproportionate, percentage of their time on paid work activities; flexibility gained through telecommuting benefits the work organization but not the employee’s family; commuting serves as a buffer between the employee’s home and work domains, and the lack of a commute decreases the opportunity for employees to reduce the transfer of stress from one domain to the other.
As you have understood, the lack of physical and mental separation between work and private life caused by teleworking can negatively impact your personal and professional life.
A vast research in this field has focused on the impact of professional hyper-availability caused by the use of smartphones and other technologies on the ability to disconnect mentally from work.
In this sense Demerouti & al. (2014) show that the intensive use of smartphones in organizational life creates a norm that is characterized by nomadic working and continual communication (e.g., Hassan 2003). The possibility to stay connected expands into new settings and introduces new options regarding availability, responsiveness, and coordination (Mazmanian & al. 2006). However, this opportunity of accessibility anytime, anywhere, seems to change to availability everywhere, all the time (Katz & Aarhus 2002). There are indications that the blurring of boundaries leads to a deteriorated work-family balance (e.g., Derks & Bakker 2011; Jarvenpaa & Lang 2005).
In addition, this difficulty in disconnecting from work has a negative impact on health. In a study, Derks & Bakker (2011) found that for intensive smartphone users daily work-home interference was more positively related to daily exhaustion than for employees who abstained from smartphone use during evening hours. In other words, the costs of high work-home interference are disproportionally loaded on the intensive smartphone user.
You understand that this constant availability, besides creating conflicts between professional and personal life, becomes an increased source of strongly negative stress for your well-being and your health.
As research shows, working from home while staying connected through email and smartphone implies that work never stops and intrudes into the family domain. In this way both the beginning and end times of work are not clearly defined (Hamilton, 1987).
Operational advice for a better balance between professional and personal life
Before accepting teleworking as an employee, offer your employer a trial period to test this new option and ask for an amendment to your employment contract.
If you are your own employer, you have a major risk of not respecting the boundaries between your professional and personal life.
You will then have to write a document in which you define your working hours so that they are clear for you as well as for your professional circle.
Otherwise, you risk creating conflicts that you can avoid.
In summarizing, whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, you have the responsibility to protect your privacy from your professional activity.
Choose a specific physical location in which to work, stick to it and set rules so that you will not be disturbed by your family during your working hours.
Then, once your work day is over, protect your physical and family time space to prevent your employer or customers (prospects) from disrupting your personal life.
If, despite all these precautions, you are subjected to untimely solicitations, schedule an appointment with the person concerned to remind him of the way you operate. After each appointment, send an email summarizing again these same principles.
2 – Protect your well-being and your health
Protecting your well-being is essential for better stress management and by working from home and wanting to meet the needs of your family and those of your employer you risk more professional and personal burnout.
As you read earlier in this article, the scientific literature shows that for some people and under certain conditions, working from home can be a source of increased stress. As a result, work from home can impact the well-being and health of teleworkers.
Among the major risks identified and highlighted by researchers, there is the risk of isolation for people who work outside the company, at home or in other places than their usual office.
Research shows that employees who engage in such “new ways of working” suffer from a sense of isolation; have difficulty working without a structure, experience interruptions from family and friends (Allen & al., 2003) and lament overwork (Galinsky & al., 2001).
This isolation can depend on several factors, either individual or organizational when the company does not sufficiently prepare the transition to teleworking for its employees or when the entrepreneur is not able to organize well.
The Bentley & al. (2016) shows that the professional isolation perceived by teleworkers promotes the perception of professional stress. Finally, some studies highlight the social isolation of teleworkers (Hilbrecht & al., 2008, Vayre & Pignault, 2014). The latter may refer to the lack of social interaction in the friendly sphere or to the feeling of evolving in social contexts in which teleworkers find it difficult to feel “in their place” (for men the fact of being immersed in daily life in highly feminized environments, such as school entry / exit, since they telework).
This social isolation can also be the consequence of a difficulty in effectively managing an identity change engendered by teleworking.
This feeling of isolation can go a long way and can lead to professional disengagement, burnout and a reduction in the teleworker’s well-being.
In this sense, studies show that even if teleworkers are able to better reconcile their professional and family spheres, they have little time to take care of them, rest, play leisure or go out (in other words, they disinvest their personal and social sphere following the entry into teleworking; Hilbrecht, Shaw, Johnson, & Andrey, 2008, Ortar, 2009, Vayre & Pignault, 2014).
In summary, the mismanagement of teleworking can provoke a feeling of withdrawal that induces some teleworkers to forget about themselves, endangering their well-being, their health, their jobs and their private lives.
Operational advice to protect your well-being
Working from home is not an insignificant process, but a change in size that may call into question your identity, your social, family and professional role.
By isolating yourself, you will allocate the last place and forget you.
Here is how to find a better balance.
Take time to become familiar with your new identity and the fact that your change of workplace impacts the whole of your life.
Mourn your old life and prepare to enter a new life that requires a new balance.
By taking that step, you have abandoned what you thought you would be and you will become a different individual with new roles, responsibilities and opportunities.
Here is a simple exercise allowing you to better cope with this identity change.
Draw a table of 4 columns and write in the:
- first, one of the changes you are currently facing,
- second, the emotion you feel about this change
- third, the consequences of this situation for you
- fourth, the actions you will take to better manage this change
Then, plan each action in your to-do list. By doing this you will be able to familiarize yourself with your new identity and you will be better equipped to handle this feeling of isolation.
Then, spend time and plan in your to-do list both your breaks during your working day and activities that are good for you because they contribute to your personal growth.
By doing this, you will be able to prevent and overcome feelings of isolation while protecting your well-being and health.
3 – Stay productive
Now that you are aware of the key risks to your well-being, your health, and your productivity, it is time to understand how you can stay productive while working from home and beyond your business.
In agreement with Vaire (2019), studies show that teleworking has positive consequences in terms of balance of life and mutual enrichment between work and “off work” only if teleworkers develop skills in terms of planning and self-management of professional activities (setting objectives to be achieved, identifying and prioritizing the tasks to be performed, anticipating time slots and structuring the teleworking day) and implementing a rigorous temporal organization of activities (Greer & Payne 2014, Metzger & Cléach 2004, Tietze & Musson 2005, Vayre & Pignault 2014). In addition, they emphasize the importance of developing a dedicated physical work space in the home, associated with the implementation of behaviors, rules and rituals, in consultation with the entourage, which allow the delimitation spatial and psychological (role transition) of the work environment in the home, and to establish a separation between the professional sphere and the private sphere (Fonner & Stache, 2012, Greer & Payne, 2014, Metzger & Cléach, 2004, Tietze & Musson, 2005, Vayre & Pignault, 2014).
Productivity when working from home requires putting in place more qualitative habits.
This goes through the habit of disconnecting you punctually from your work during breaks and extra-professional activities.
Doing so is important for your health, well-being and productivity. In this sense, empirical research has shown that employees who successfully detach from work during after-work hours experience higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being (Sonnentag and Fritz, 2007) and show better performance (e.g. , Binnewies & al. 2009, Demerouti & al. 2009, Meijman & Mulder 1998).
On the other hand, poor management of the use of your smartphone can have an impact on your well-being, your health and also on your productivity. As Duxbury, Higgins & Lee 1994 show, smartphone users faced with heavy work-home interference are not able to recover. This implies that being connected to work in the evening via a smartphone has consequences for employees’ ability to adopt recovery strategies. This finding is explained by the fact that in most cases, the demand for work initiated by the smartphone is external and uncontrollable, and continues the confrontation with problems related to work.
Learning to get away emotionally from work is also important to better manage your stress and protect your health. As Sonnentag (2001) shows, employees need time off work to recover from stress-related expenses.
Finally, disconnecting from work has an impact on productivity, according to Renneker & Godwin, 2005, although continuous availability can reduce work delays (rapid access to information), which increases the efficiency of the organization it can simultaneously lead to increased work interruptions and yet increased disorganization).
According to some authors, in fact, the protection of a right to be disconnected may affect business productivity, since, in general, those who respect the balance between private life and work are much more productive than others: this means that the uninterrupted use of electronic devices emerges as a worrying causal factor for decreasing business efficiency (Poletti, 2017).
Another important habit is to organize yourself by planning your workday and protecting yourself from any factors that may affect your to-do list and your productivity. If you do not prioritize your work, you will have organizational problems.
Flexible work schedules may cause more stress owing to constantly changing schedules that result in a highly unstructured daily program (Tausig & Fenwick, 2001).
To be productive and accomplish what you plan, you need to manage interruptions well.
As the research shows, switching between tasks resulted in a delay before engaging effectively in a new task, even if the worker had been previously engaged in the task. Each fragmentation of a task adds to the total time required to complete it (Rubinstein & al., 2001).
Good energy management is also important for planning your most important activities when you feel better.
As the research shows, teleworkers work better because they may follow their biological rhythms, they are less subject to typical office interruptions (phone calls, contacts with colleagues, coffee – break), they avoid stresses linked with transfers and so on (Craipeau & Marot 1984; Strassmann 1985).
Working from home requires calling on your deeper motivations by using different tools to keep that motivation.
How Niessen (2019) shows that part‐time teleworkers reported higher use of self‐reward, self‐goal setting, and visualization of successful performance on home days than on office days. The association between working location and self‐reward, self‐goal setting, visualization of successful performance, and evaluation of beliefs and assumptions was mediated by autonomy. Part‐time teleworkers were more satisfied with their job at the end of the workday through self‐goal setting.
Operational advice to improve your productivity: organize your days
Plan your days in advance using a to-do list and managing the different distractions.
Disconnect from time to time to stay productive and protect your well-being.
Create your own system to motivate yourself constantly:
- by using the definition and monitoring of your goals
- by recognizing your progress
- by giving you rewards
- by visualizing yourself productive
Doing so will allow you to work in the best conditions by becoming more productive by working from home.
Final conclusion on how to stay productive and organized when working from home
This article on how to stay productive and organized when working from home is over.
Before you leave, I would like to know what advice have been most helpful to you and when you will implement them in your life.
Then, I would like to ask you to share this article with others who like you wish to progress in their professional and personal lives.