When You Work At Home, Productivity Takes Planning
By Mike Anderson
Our research at Aragon centers on work, how it’s changing, and as a result, how dramatically the way work gets done is also changing. One of the top issues directly affecting people, me included, is where you work to get things done. The concept of workplace is redefined, and for many the question has become more one of where are you not working than where is your workplace.
A growing number of people call their home office their primary place of work, and many more work from home at least once a week. I’ve been doing this myself part of the time for more than fifteen years. It’s important to remain attentive to the some primary ingredients to keep yourself productive.
My partner at Aragon has been working at home full time for a long time. During one of our weekly video calls I mentioned the changes he’d made to his office and our discussion focused on which things were working better than others. From how well this was working I concluded there are three fundamentals that really make the difference in being effective; preparation, separation and organization.
Preparation means attending to the basics, and I fall into the trap from time to time. For many of us equipped with powerful mobile tools it’s easy to think, “Hey, I can work from anywhere, I just need my laptop and my smartphone (substitute tablet if that’s your method)”. This may be true when you’re at Starbucks, but at the home office you need to plan your work space to account for whatever (or whoever) else may contend for shared space. Your workplace needs to be reserved for your work.
Separation is crucial, and it means putting yourself into a place and mindset that is all business. And it means having the appropriate physical setting. My partner at Aragon has truly mastered this one with a great office in his garage. The “garagepad”, as he calls it, is out of the flow of the house and is mainly off limits for family interruptions. We’ve had productive offsite meetings there, and it creates a protected work environment. Although many don’t have the same ability to leverage their garage, like me, being sure to have your home office out of the main flow and protected from noise and other disruptions is a top ingredient.
Organization serves to put your home office and the other ingredients into action. This one is about minimizing startup time and maximizing focus and attention on the most important work. When the home office is a shared space, it can mean having your important tools stored out of the way in another room. Effective organization will ensure that you have everything you need waiting when work starts. It also means keeping your top priorities in front of you; a whiteboard is a winning approach, as is having project files and data well organized. What has to be avoided is time lost due to repetitive startup activities, and this includes not just getting your stuff together, but also restarting your focus, planning and priority attention.
Whether you work for a large company or are running your own small business, these things have an impact. Whether you work home alone or have family in the house, avoiding distractions from activity or noise, or having someone walk in on you, is important. Making your home office work at its best takes planning and requires organization.