Nearly 4.2 million people, or 13.9 per cent of the entire workforce in the UK, worked from home during the first quarter of 2014, as per statistics released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). With improvements in technology and the changing nature of work itself, this number is only going to rise in the coming future.
Working from home does have its challenges, particularly when it comes to maintaining efficiency. Fortunately, there are plenty of technological solutions to keep your productivity levels high. Some of these are:
1. Use a Time Management Technique
With countless distractions just a click away, it is very easy to lose track of your time when working from home. This is why you need a robust time management technique to keep track of your work and make the most of your day. The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for this. Essentially, it involves working in intervals of 25 minutes with five-minute breaks in-between. After every four such 25 minute intervals (or “pomodoros” – Italian for ‘tomatoes’ – as the technique’s followers call them), you take a longer 30 minute break.
This technique not only helps track your time, but also helps maintain a proper work/break balance. The frequent breaks ensure that you never get overwhelmed with work, thus boosting your productivity.
You can easily download apps for your phone/computer/tablet to help you keep track of these intervals. Some of the popular ones are 30/30, Simple Pomodoro Timer, Flat Tomato, and Pomodoro Pro.
2. Leverage Technology
What does your home office filing system look like? How do you manage notes, appointments, tasks and to-do lists? How do you handle paperwork?
These are important questions to answer when you are working from home. Little changes to how you take care of your files, notes, and other paperwork can have a drastic impact on your productivity. Digitizing all your documents and storing them in a cloud-based service like Dropbox, for instance, can make the filing process easier. Using software solutions such as Evernote or OneNote to manage notes can make you more efficient. Cloud-based calendar tools such as Google Calendar, to-do apps like Clear+, etc. can improve your productivity manifold. More importantly, since all these software solutions are cloud-based, you can access your files and documents from anywhere.
In other words, leverage technology as much as possible when working from home. It will make you much more efficient and help keep track of your documents on any device, in any location.
3. Eliminate Distractions
On the above note, it is a good idea to take a close look at your workspace and identify distractions that affect your productivity. This can be anything, from poor lighting and background noise to digital distractions such as Facebook and Twitter. Your home office should be a place for work; everything superfluous should be eliminated. You should treat it with the same seriousness as you would a conventional office.
For example, one of the biggest challenges when working from home is balancing work priorities and the urge to take care of household errands. Since you do not really have any “office hours”, you might feel that you can run an errand in the morning and catch-up on lost work later in the evening. Such thinking affects the work/life harmony and is a huge drain on your productivity.
Thus, your objective should be to identify and wring out all distractions while you work. Try to maintain a semblance of “office hours”, halting all work after a set number of hours. Take care of all errands – paying the electricity bill, buying new printer toner, etc. – only your “office hours” are over. While you are at it, make sure to leverage technology as much as possible to help in these tasks. For example, you can hire virtual assistants off sites like Zirtual.com to take care of grocery shopping, and you can order your printer toner directly online, saving you a trip to the local office supplies store.
Working from home can be great for your overall health and happiness, but it can also eat away at your productivity. However, by leveraging technology, you can make yourself far more efficient and get more time to do the things you truly love.