Working from Home? These 3 Tips can Boost Your Productivity!

Give your workspace the thought it needs to help you work successfully from home

Posted Jul 31, 2020

Deposit photos
Source: Deposit photos

It’s happening throughout the world right now: people working indefinitely from their homes. I heard from a reader recently who’s gone from an office to a permanent work-from-home arrangement. For a lot of us, there’s no end in sight to this new way of working. I’ve kept a home office for many years, in addition to my clinical practice. Even as someone who has some real experience working from home, I can say, this experience is different—not least of which is because everybody else in my family is home so much of the time, too! 

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that not all of us are able to work from home. Frontline, essential workers, and others having been going to work every day for months, enabling so many millions of us to stay mostly at home, or return to our workspaces partially and gradually. These folks deserve our attention, respect, and gratitude

I’ve talked about how to create the best bedroom environment for sleep. Tending to your sleep environment is a core element of good sleep hygiene, and critical to maintaining a healthy sleep routine. 

Our home workspaces need this kind of attention, too, to fuel our productivity and to help protect our nightly rest. Sleep isn’t divorced from the rest of our day; to the contrary, everything we do throughout our waking day can affect our sleep, for better or worse. How we choose to stage our work lives at home will influence how well, or not, we sleep at night. 

BONUS: The tips I’m about to share with you for creating sleep-supportive, productivity-enhancing workspaces all apply to kids and schoolwork too! If you’ve got students of any age studying from home this summer or fall, keep these strategies in mind for them. In California, where I live, most schools will not be reopening in the fall. That means kids are learning from home, and that means parents will need to keep up their WFH routine. 

I’ll talk more soon about managing sleep for kids and young adults during what’s shaping up for most of us to be an unprecedented school year. 

Don’t work in your bedroom. But here’s what to do if you must. 

This is important. Keep your work and your work life (emails, Zoom calls, Slack, updating your calendar, etc.) away from your bed and your bedroom. I tell my patients all the time: bedrooms are for sleep and sex. That’s it. Especially in these work from home times, psychological and physical boundaries between work and sleep are critical. 

That said, I recognize that this won’t be possible for everyone. The reader who reached out to me about help with a home-office set up that wouldn’t interfere with her sleep is one of these folks, who needs to use her bedroom as a workspace. Here are my suggestions for how to make this work: 

DON’T work in bed. You can zone your bedroom to include space for work, but keep your bed itself a work-free zone. This goes for everyone, whether you’re using your bedroom as a quasi-office or not. This way, your bed maintains its status as a refuge, a place of relaxation, pleasure, and rest. 

DO create a designated work area. To avoid working on your bed as a default option, pick an area of your bedroom that you’ll use to work. If possible, give it some physical segregation from the rest of your bedroom. Maybe there’s a closet you can slip a standing desk into? Or a corner of the room where you can set up—ideally, near a window? Add a couple of floor plants to section off the spot. The idea here is to focus your work activity to the same, designated area of your bedroom, so the rest of the room stays free of work, and of the association with work in your mind. 

DO keep a light footprint. Don’t leave work materials and electronics laying around your bedroom, even within the area you’ve designated for work.  At the end of your work session, pack up your work gear and store it somewhere other than your bedroom. Staring at your notes for an upcoming meeting, or your folded laptop, while you’re trying to wind down—or get intimate—isn’t going to help your sleep or your love life.  Make a ritual of closing up your bedroom work area at the end of the day, and removing your work life from your sleep space. 

DO set concrete hours for working—and stick to them. New research from a team of journalists at the Harvard Business Review suggests what a lot of us probably have felt over the past several months: that managing work-life boundaries while working from home is one of the toughest parts of this seismic change in our work lives. If your primary workspace is your bedroom, it’s even more important to designate hours for working, and to abide them consistently. Waking up and grabbing your laptop from bed, grabbing just 10 more minutes messaging in your Slack channels before lights out, thinking about work as you’re trying to relax and fall asleep—these are just a few of the ways your work life can permeate your bedroom, and change how you feel about the space. That’s going to affect how you sleep, and not for the better.

Set your hours and when the work day is done, make sure it’s really done—and stays that way until your next day’s designated start time.