Four Tips for Staying Productive and Energized While Working from Home

By Lauren Trieschmann

There’s been plenty of buzz lately around the push for companies to have their employees return to the office, either fulltime or with a hybrid model. But despite notable companies like Apple, Peleton, and General Motors advocating for this return to the office – with varying levels of success and in some cases, backlash – recent data suggests that many Americans now prefer the flexibility of working remotely. In fact, a Gallup poll conducted this past June revealed that “approximately 56% of full-time employees in the U.S. – more than 70 million workers – say their job can be done working remotely from home” and just two out of every 10 remote-capable employees are currently working on-site fulltime.

For those of us who are still working from home, either fulltime or part-time, the perks often outweigh the challenges. Personally, I’ve found that not having to commute to an office has led to several more hours of free time each week, and I’ve been able to save a significant amount of money by making almost all of my coffee and lunches at home.

On the flipside, working from home presents a unique set of challenges that can in some cases have an adverse impact on productivity – especially if you happen to live in a 500-square-foot studio apartment, like myself. Here are a few simple tips and tricks I’ve picked up since the start of the pandemic that help keep me motivated and on task while working from home:

1. Elevate Your Home Office Setup

Looking back on the early days of the pandemic, I can hardly believe I used to work from the couch every day. In addition to causing horrible back pain, I quickly realized it was difficult for me to stay focused and productive in the very same space where I typically like to relax and unwind after a long day’s work. While I still don’t have a dedicated home office – it’s simply not possible when you only have 500 square feet to work with – I’ve found that setting up a desk has significantly increased my daily productivity. I’ve added a few items I would normally keep at the office, like a business card holder and vast collection of pens and highlighters, to make the space feel like a “real” office (that being said, I occasionally take my laptop to the kitchen table, the patio, or even the couch to keep things interesting!).

2. Plan Out Your Day

It can be easy to fall out of a routine when working from home, and let’s be honest, sometimes the days even seem to blend together. I like to start and end each day by going over my to-do list and planning out my schedule based on current projects, meetings, and non-work activities to make the most of my time. It’s also important to schedule time for yourself, whether it be reading the news or a book in the morning, listening to a podcast, or going on a coffee run in between tasks.

3. Switch Up Your Scenery

While many of us have come to enjoy the flexibility of working from home, there are some days when it feels less than ideal. Maybe your neighbor is blasting music, there’s construction going on outside your window, or you’re just feeling a bit stir-crazy (unfortunately, all these things have happened more times than I can count). When I’m starting to feel the walls closing in, I like to take my laptop to a local café or coworking space, even just for a few hours. A simple change of scenery every now and then can do wonders for your productivity and creativity at work – plus, why wouldn’t you want to treat yourself to a nice latte and pastry?

4. Take a Mindful Moment

When all else fails, step away from the computer and take a moment to re-center yourself. While working in an office offers plenty of opportunities for social interaction and “water cooler chat,” working from home can at times feel isolating and monotonous. To break up your workday, consider getting some fresh air by taking a walk around the block, putting on your favorite song, or making yourself a cup of tea – engaging in any activity, no matter how simple, that brings you joy. Earlier this year I started using the Calm app (free for Kaiser Permanente patients), which offers a wide variety of meditations, music, and more to help bring a daily dose of relaxation to your routine. Some of the mindfulness practices are as short at 5 to 10 minutes, making them achievable even on the busiest of days.