There was a time when the prospect of working from home felt exciting and new. You can sleep later! Take a longer lunch! Work from your couch! Wear your PJs! What’s not to love?
But as we creep closer to the year mark of the pandemic, the novelty of working from the same place you live, sleep, eat, and, well, do pretty much everything is wearing off BIG time. And for some, the fatigue translates into decreased productivity. Fortunately, there are easy hacks to make your desk setup feel new, give your energy a reboot, and up your productivity during the workday.
1. Make sure you’re not sitting in a sparse, white-walled room
Although all-white walls carry a sophisticated, classic look, they don’t work wonders on your productivity due to the lack of stimulation. Instead, we suggest contrasting them with bright colors, textures, and patterns. You don’t need to go crazy hanging up dozens of frames — sometimes one statement piece can do the trick. We’re partial to Framebridge and anything on Etsy.
2. Bring the great outdoors inside
There’s more promise to plants than their visual appeal. In fact, psychologists at Cardiff University have found that, in addition to oxygenating the air, they can increase productivity by up to 15%, as measured by workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality. (Source)
Not sure where to start? Try a low-maintenance Snake Plant (which has been shown to filter out chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene) or ZZ Plant (only needs water about once a month).
3. Make sure your desk is clean before you start your day
Starting fresh every morning with less clutter is truly a game-changer when it comes to productivity. If you can, take everything non-work-related off your desk — as well as any unnecessary papers, office supplies, pens — and just leave your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. By keeping it simple, you’ll only have what you need nearby, and nothing that can distract you.
4. Carve out time for a morning routine
Nobody should be rolling out of bed and onto Slack...like, ever. In order to retain some semblance of normalcy, take time for a morning routine before sitting down at your desk. That can mean reading the newspaper, working out, meditating, savoring a cup of coffee — there’s no right or wrong. The important part is that you are giving yourself space to exist outside of the confines of the workday, which will only increase your productivity and reduce chances of burnout over time.
5. ...and intermittent breaks during the day
Just as you would take a few minutes to go grab afternoon coffee or with a colleague at work, you can be doing the same at home. If you can get outside, great. The fresh air and sunshine will only help your productivity. But if you can’t, be sure to at least take your coffee break in a separate room (or, if space doesn’t permit, a different part of the same room). This way, you can mentally differentiate and avoid the temptation to look at your computer during this time.
If you find that your days escape from you (especially on marathon meeting days), schedule time in your calendar to hold yourself more accountable. And remember, an hour lunch and two 15-minute breaks are typically standard for all full-time US employees.
6. Divide your day into focused increments
If you find yourself distracted with simple tasks taking longer than they should, experiment with timer tools such as TomatoTimer to work in 30 - 50 minute increments before taking a timed break.
7. Don’t feel glued to your desk
While it’s crucial to feel comfortable working in your main desk space, some people find that their productivity increases the more they switch things up. Don’t be afraid to spend the morning at your desk and the afternoon at the kitchen table. You’ll be surprised how something as simple as a different view can energize you throughout your day.
8. Snack smart
While it’s tempting to graze all day due to your proximity to the pantry, doing so can cause spikes in blood sugar that mess with your energy and, thus, productivity. Try carving out a dedicated time every afternoon (say, 3:30pm) for a light snack — and be sure to mix things up to keep it interesting. Celery with peanut butter, carrots with hummus, an apple with almonds...the possibilities are endless.
9. End your day by creating the following day’s to-do list
This way, you can kick off every morning with an organized list of what needs to be done that day rather than sitting, trying to remember that one thing that one coworker told you to do the other day. Less time spent making your to-do list. More time spent crossing items off. THAT’s what you’re going for here.
10. Try to get on a consistent sleep schedule
While it may be difficult to go to bed and get up around the same time every day (even on weekends), it’s worth it. The physiological part of our bodies thrive off of the consistency of a 24-hour routine, so if the schedule of when we are awake and asleep varies considerable, it can confuse the body and result in feelings of never-ending jet lag. And fatigue isn’t the most compatible when it comes to productivity.