COVID-19 Apr 3, 2020

The Work Must Go On

How to be productive while working from home

Reviewed by: Cynthia Corral, LCSW
Written by: Ashley Lawrence

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For many of us, the COVID-19 outbreak has completely altered our workplace dynamics as we have been asked to self-quarantine and practice social distancing. Now, we no longer have to wonder if those long, drawn-out meetings could have been accomplished through email, and it’s up to us to create a productive work environment in conjunction with navigating our busy everyday home life. For those of us who haven’t telecommunicated in the past, this can be quite the adjustment. While your at-home work environment may be less than ideal without that office view or shared laughter among colleagues, it doesn’t have to put the brakes on your daily productivity.

Tips to help you eliminate distractions and stay on task:

Have a dedicated workspace

Whether you have a home office or are limited on extra space, it’s important to designate an area of your home as your workspace. Settle on an area that you can commit to working in every day and that will allow for minimal distractions. Try to avoid working from your laptop while on the couch. Sitting in a chair at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor and adjusting your computer monitor or laptop so that the screen is at, or slightly below, eye level can help prevent bad posture, neck pain, and eye strain.

Learn how to create an ergonomic workspace at home.

Set real work hours

Once you’ve set up your workspace, it’s time to take care of business—literally. You probably already have an idea of when you’re most productive, whether that be morning, afternoon, or evening. If you can, try to build your work schedule around your peak performance period to keep you focused and motivated to tackle the day’s workload. Make family, friends, roommates, and pets aware of your designated work hours to minimize unnecessary interruptions and keep you on track.

Create a task list and stick to it

When working outside of the office setting, it’s easy to lose sight of deadlines. Make to-do lists, prioritizing projects and outlining your daily goals. Upon completion of each task, cross it off the list to keep track of your progress. Be sure not to overschedule yourself. If you find that you are struggling to keep up with your workload, carve out blocks of time to dedicate to each task. Time management apps can help prevent procrastination and are available in your phone’s app store.

Stay off social media

We’ve all fallen down the social media rabbit hole. A quick scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter can easily turn into a major time-suck. Eliminate the temptation to check social media by leaving your phone in another room, muting social media notifications, or restricting access to social media apps. Web browsers, such as Google Chrome and Safari, also allow you to set time limits or temporary restrictions on social media websites.

Take short breaks

Working for long periods without taking breaks often leads to stress and exhaustion. You can maintain a good work-life balance by incorporating short breaks throughout the day. This is a good time to walk your dog, check the mail, or help your kids get started on a new project. Figure out what works best for you and schedule breaks accordingly to help refresh your mind and replenish your mental resources.

Eat healthy meals and snacks

Healthy eating is known to increase energy levels, improve mental health, and improve sleep, all of which lead to greater concentration. Avoid frequent unnecessary trips to your pantry and fridge. If you are an avid snacker, prepare a healthy lunch the night before as if you were going to the office. You can also use part of your lunch break to run errands or complete household chores.

Exercise and stretch regularly

Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, improving mood and interest levels, both of which are important for productivity. If you feel like you’re dragging, rather than reaching for another cup of coffee, exercise to get your creative juices flowing. Here are some ways to stay active while at home.

Know when to clock out

Over-committing and working too much can hinder your professional and personal life. Enforce a hard stop at the end of the day to distance yourself from work. If it feels like you are working all the time, you will quickly burn out and reduce your productivity. Setting limits is not only good for you, but the other members of your household, too. Making a conscious effort to put work away allows you to maximize your time with your loved ones. Enjoy your time off so that you can feel refreshed at the start of the next workday.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin is the clinical practice of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide patients with an unparalleled quality of care. Our experienced healthcare professionals deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality and treat each patient as an individual with unique circumstances, priorities, and beliefs. Working directly with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.