It’s been just over a year since South Africa’s national lockdown was announced, which forced many companies to fast-track flexible and remote working solutions. While many took to the remote working life like a duck to water, the work from home situation has proven to come with some productivity struggles.

Working from home certainly has undeniable upsides, from avoiding hours in traffic and hundreds or thousands of Rands spent on petrol, to spending extra time with family, and having the time and space to get home workouts in. While these are certainly positives, the lack of physical and mental structure that an office space provides can have an affect on your productivity levels.

Working from home is great in some ways, but if you’re getting distracted from important tasks by home chores that need to get done, kids playing in the garden or that Netflix series you’ve been dying to start, we’ve got some tips to improve your work from home productivity.

1. Create a routine

Having a set routine for a flexible work situation sounds counter-intuitive, but in fact, structure contributes significantly to our wellbeing. 

According to clinical psychologist, Esona-sethu Ndwandwa, “Routine helps us feel grounded and centred. It makes us feel like we are in control of our lives and gives the feeling of safety in knowing what to expect.” 

This doesn’t mean that the routine you set out for yourself can’t be flexible, but that having one in place gives organisation to your day. Set yourself a daily start and finish time, and remember to allocate time to tea, lunch, an exercise break or to fetch the kids from school.

2. Plan your day

While your routine will give you an overall structure, your everyday tasks will need a bit of planning so that you can prioritize tasks, projects and admin. Whether you have a long list of things to do that require an online tool to keep track of, or have one or two big projects that only require a few notes in your journal, plotting these out for the week ahead will help you prioritise and allocate time to each task.

3. Set online and offline boundaries

If you’re on a tight deadline, or need to really focus on a task, make it clear to your family members or roommates that you are unavailable or not to be disturbed between the hours you need. If you give them a heads up, they’ll remember that you need peace and quiet to concentrate. 

Similarly with colleagues who no longer share an office with you. As they can’t physically see that you’ve moved yourself into a quiet room or put your headphones on, don’t be afraid to set your online status to ‘busy’ or ‘do not disturb’ so that they don’t start a conversation with you and break your train of thought.

4. Get dressed for success

Working from home has the great benefit of removing the need for formal attire. You can say goodbye to ironing work shirts on a Sunday evening, or spending the day in uncomfortable heels. But, this doesn’t mean spending the day in your pyjamas. Get into the habit of getting dressed for the day, even if it’s just jeans and t-shirt, and you’ll get into the mindset of “being at work”. 

5. Separate work space from personal space

This can be tricky if you live in a small flat or studio apartment, but separating work and personal space is vital. You want to be able to fully relax when you aren’t working, and fully concentrate when you get into work. If you have one space for both, it can be difficult for your mind to separate the two. Even if you find yourself a small corner desk, a dedicated space will prevent you from drifting into thoughts of watching TV or sorting out the dishes.

6. Keep it tidy

Organised chaos might work for some, but for most of us a clean and clutter-free space helps to clear our minds and focus on our tasks, instead of thinking about that pile of dishes waiting for you or that basket of dirty clothes sitting in the corner of the room. Dedicate time outside of your working hours to getting your space clean so that when you do sit down to work you don’t have a messy home to distract you.

7. Amp up the inspo

Working from home may get lonely at times, but the benefit of a space free of colleagues is that you can listen to all the music or podcasts your heart desires without disturbing anybody. Whether it’s a business podcast that you love tuning into, or a playlist you’ve created just to get your energy up, you can listen to whatever you want, whenever you want when you’re in the mood for inspiration.

8. Stay connected

Unless you work for yourself, there will always be times when you need to connect with, chat to or discuss ideas with other remote members of your team. Keeping in touch not only helps team projects progress with ease, but team chats also help to keep you motivated, inspired and excited about your work. Making use of your business email, and all the collaboration tools that come along with it, is the perfect way to stay connected.

9. Take breathers

If you’re struggling to get into your next task after completing one, despite the copious amounts of coffee, energy drinks and energetic songs, it’s most likely that your brain simply needs a break. Schedule in 15 minute breathers throughout your day to step away from your work. Whether you use the time to stretch, take a brisk walk around the block or hang up the washing, the mental break will help you reset for the next task on your list.

10. Shut off when your day ends

While it’s tempting to just keep working at the end of the day because you don’t need to get up from a desk and travel home, you need to take the time to step away from your work in order to recharge sufficiently for the next day. While sometimes tight deadlines or high priority projects may keep you working later on the odd occasion, making it a habit takes time away from the things you enjoy doing during your off-time.

While working from home sure comes with its benefits, productivity can take a dive with the various distractions that come with it. Keep these tips in mind as you work towards improving your productivity.