6 Productivity Tips for Working From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic: New Data

By Kristen Herhold / 25 June 2020

The top 6 ways employees stay productive when working from home are using a designated workspace, structuring their day to resemble normal working hours, taking breaks, setting a schedule, reducing distractions, and communicating with colleagues frequently. These productivity tips can help employees work more efficiently and effectively while remote.

Working from home has become the new norm for employees around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses have been remote for several months already, and some, such as Twitter, have decided to let employees work remotely permanently, even after the pandemic passes.

Yet, despite the increased prevalence of remote work, The Manifest found that just 30% of employees are more productive working from home, compared to 45% in an office.

Are people more productive working from home or in an office?

One-quarter of employees (24%) say they are equally productive working from home and in an office.

With so many people unable to stay productive working remotely, what can employees do to make sure they’re still getting work done efficiently?

Employees should find a space at home they can turn into a workspace, take breaks, and set a schedule, among other productivity tips.

The Manifest surveyed 365 workers across the U.S. about how they stay productive while working from home.

Employees can use these productivity tips to stay motivated while working remotely — especially when remote work is likely to last for several more months for many employees.

6 Productivity Tips for Working Remotely

  1. Use a designated workspace
  2. Structure your day to resemble normal working hours
  3. Take breaks
  4. Set a schedule
  5. Reduce distractions
  6. Communicate with colleagues frequently

1. Use a Designated Workspace

Just like having an assigned space at an office, it’s important to have a distinct workspace while working from home.

Using a designated workspace is the number one way people stay productive working remotely — 43% of employees say they do this.

43% of remote workers use a designated workspace to stay productive

Bethan Vincent, marketing director of app and web developer Netsells, converted a spare bedroom in her home into an office.

“This ensures I have a dedicated space to work from and ‘commute’ to each morning,” Vincent said. “Even if you can’t spare a whole room, I do believe it’s important to have a dedicated space you work in and leave at the end of the day, even if it’s just clearing away your laptop from a kitchen table.”

It’s important to have a dedicated space you work in and leave at the end of the day, even if it’s just clearing away your laptop from a kitchen table.

People who don’t have space to use a whole room as their office are creating work areas in their living spaces.

Tony Mastri, digital marketing manager of marketing agency Marion, uses a small desk for his work that includes a laptop, second monitor, and notepad.

“I find that this does help me stay productive by separating work from personal time,” Mastri said. “Even if I need to get on my personal laptop after hours, I don’t do it at the computer desk because that is emotionally and physically designated for my working hours.”

Having a designated workspace — whether it’s an entire room or just a corner — is helpful for many employees looking to increase their productivity when working from home.

2. Structure Your Day to Resemble Normal Working Hours

When your office is also the place you sleep, eat, and spend your free time, it’s easy to work less than your average work day — or even more.

One-third of employees (36%) say they structure their day working remotely to resemble normal in-office working hours.

36% of remote workers structure their day to resemble normal working hours.

Jenna Carson, HR director and hiring manager at Music Grotto, which teaches people how to play guitar and sing, works the same hours at home as she would in an office.

“It’s important to me to replicate a ‘normal’ working day so I know how much work I can get done and what I can achieve,” Carson said. “A routine helps me organize my day more efficiently and be more productive.”

A routine helps me organize my day more efficiently and be more productive.

Creating a regular routine while working remotely that is similar to one in an office helps Carson maintain a work-life balance.

Working typical work hours is also important for communication with your co-workers and clients.

“Keeping similar hours is critical to keeping things running smoothly,” said Adam Sanders, director of Successful Release, a company that helps former felons find jobs. “It would be very difficult to operate effectively if we all worked at different times and could never sync up for meetings or discussions.”

Structuring your remote work hours to resemble in-office hours can help you stay productive both as an individual employee and as part of a team.

3. Take Breaks

The most productive workers aren’t those who work 8 hours per day nonstop; taking frequent breaks actually increases work productivity.

Thirty-four percent (34%) of people say taking breaks is an essential part of staying productive while working from home.

34% of remote workers say taking breaks helps them stay productive.

Some employees use the Pomodoro Technique to improve productivity. This technique breaks up work into 25-minute increments with short, 3- to 5-minute breaks in between.

Pomodoro Technique

Source

After a major task is finished, you can take a longer break to refresh. 

“This helps me laser-focus and not grab my phone every time there’s a notification,” said Tom De Spiegelaere, founder of digital marketing agency Tom Spicky. “This not only helps me stay productive, but it increases the quality of my work as well because my brain is in tip-top thinking condition.”

The Pomodoro Technique keeps workers focused on the task at hand, knowing they can take a short break every 25 minutes. De Spiegelaere also takes a bigger 1-hour break in the middle of the day to “refocus, regroup, and recharge.”

Workers shouldn’t be afraid to take a short break several times each workday. Companies should encourage it, as it increases productivity.

4. Set a Schedule

People working remotely may feel they increasingly experience time famine — the feeling of having too much to do but not enough time to accomplish it. Planning your workday ahead of time can help you feel more productive.

More than one-quarter of employees (26%) currently set a schedule to stay productive while working from home.

26% of remote workers say setting a schedule in advance increases their productivity

Some employees find it helpful to set a weekly work schedule, while others benefit from a daily one.

De Spiegelaere plans his work for the following day every evening.

“This ensures I know exactly what my priorities are and what I will be working  on,” De Spiegelaere said. “I’m finding this approach really keeps me motivated and on track, as there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking something off the list.”

There’s nothing more satisfying than ticking something off the list.

People also find that setting a schedule for non-work activities helps them stay productive when they do have to work.

Kateryna Reshetilo, marketing and business development manager of Greenice, a web development agency, keeps her daily schedule the same as before the pandemic.

“I make sure to have an optimal regimen and routines that help me stay disciplined and energized,” Reshetilo said. “Whenever I go off track with my regimen, it always negatively reflects on my productivity.”

Resheltilo goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time as she did when working in an office, and she also maintains a regular workout schedule. This helps her remain productive when working — if she keeps the same daily schedule she had when working in an office, it helps her get into the right mindset when it is time to work.

Many employees plan their schedules in advance to keep on task, stay productive, and reduce time famine.

5. Reduce Distractions

It’s easy to become distracted when working from home, whether it’s by your children, pet, roommate, or even noise outside your home.

Twenty-four percent (24%) of remote workers say they actively try to reduce distractions to increase productivity while working from home.

24% of remote workers say reducing distractions helps them stay productive

Communication is essential to reducing distractions within your home, such as putting a sign on your office door that you’re working or letting your roommates know you’re on a call.

“Getting everyone in the house on the same page that I’m at work has been critical,” Sanders said. “It’s a lot easier to work uninterrupted if everyone treats you like you’re in the office.”

It’s a lot easier to work uninterrupted if everyone treats you like you’re in the office.

Setting boundaries with your housemates while you work is important.

It’s impossible, however, to eliminate distractions from outside your home, so a simple investment in noise-cancelling headphones can reduce the loud distractions.

“I currently have some very loud neighbors, and [noise-cancelling headphones have] been a godsend in shutting them out and allowing me to focus,” Vincent said.

Noise-cancelling headphones range in price from about $50 to more than $400, but they are a worthy investment if they help you concentrate better on your work.

Employees that actively reduce distractions within their homes and avoid distractions outside their home can improve their productivity.

6. Communicate With Colleagues Frequently

Just because you can’t communicate with your co-workers face-to-face doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be communicating with them regularly.

Around one-quarter of employees (23%) say frequent communication with colleagues is important to staying productive when working remotely.

23% of remote workers say frequent communication with colleagues increase their productivity

Modern technology makes it easy to keep in touch with colleagues. Platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype allow for seamless video and instant messaging discussions.

“When working in the office, it was so easy just to ask a coworker to show me how to do something or to get an answer,” said Elandas Miller, CEO and founder of Kicking It Sports, a recreational sports league in Atlanta. “I have been using our chat platform and video sharing to get the answers that I need to complete my everyday tasks.”

Communication platforms make it easy to chat with colleagues quickly and efficiently.

Other workers are having more frequent stand-up meetings with colleagues.

Public relations firm Rebellious PR & Consulting, for example, has 30-minute meetings every morning to start the workday.

“This helps my team update each other on what we’ve done for the previous day and what we plan to do for the current day,” said Rebellious Account Associate Kaulana Dilliner. “This also helps my team check on each other, see how we’re doing, and see if any of us need help on anything.”

You can no longer walk across the room to communicate with your co-workers, but employees shouldn’t be afraid to communicate with colleagues remotely the same amount they would in an office.

Work From Home Successfully With These Productivity Tips

Some states are beginning to reopen or have already reopened, and some businesses are slowly starting to let employees return to their office. Other businesses, however, are remaining remote indefinitely, which means that employees must find ways to stay productive from home.

Many workers find that using a designated workspace increases their remote productivity, while others find that setting a schedule and structuring their days is important to staying on track at work.

Disruptions are common when working from home, so employees should reduce distractions as much as possible both within and outside their home.

Employees shouldn’t be afraid to take breaks when needed, and they should communicate with co-workers online the way they would in-person.

Whether you are more productive working at home or in an office, following these productivity tips can make sure you’re working remotely as effectively as possible.

You can learn more about your own productivity habits with this quiz from the Harvard Business Review, and read this list of habits that are ruining remote-work productivity from Yahoo Finance.

About the Survey

The Manifest surveyed 365 workers across the U.S.

Forty-three percent (43%) of respondents are female; 35% are male; 22% declined to share their gender.

Respondents are 18-24 (8%); 25-34 (14%); 35-44 (15%); 45-54 (13%); 55-64 (11%); 65 and older (11%); and unknown (27%).

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