Lauren Lindemann and Greg Jarvis

Most of us know how great it can be to have a day working from home. Commuting from your bed to your desk takes mere minutes, you can have your own freshly made food, and – perhaps best of all – you can leverage breaks to get some things done at home you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do. A recent study from Stanford even suggests that employees who work from home are 13% more productive than those who work in a traditional office setting.

However, working from home regularly has its challenges. Millions of working Americans are finding out just how challenging it can be as we distance ourselves to reduce the spread of the coronavirus across the country. We’re all seeing now that it’s not always so easy to be productive in a home setting over the long term.

The lack of structure – mental and physical – makes it easy to find yourself distracted. It’s tough to focus on a conference call with children running around or pets begging for your attention. And how can you possibly crank out that memo or presentation when you can see the growing mountain of laundry piling up?

Having worked remotely for the majority of a combined three years, we have found five things that are essential to unlocking your productivity potential:

1. Getting ready for work: It’s so tempting to just stay in your pajamas, grab your laptop, and get to work. However, part of being productive at work is getting in the mental state of being at work. We’ve found that this means maintaining a similar morning routine as if you were going to the office. You might not need to wear “work” clothes, but you should wake up at the same time, workout, shower – whatever you normally would do to get ready for work – before you start working. Most of all, try to embrace the “morning person” mentality – it will help boost your productivity, not to mention the overall mental and physical health benefits that may come with it.

2. Adhering to a consistent routine: Maybe it’s eating meals at the same time every day, getting a workout in during lunch, or grabbing a coffee at your favorite coffee shop: having a set daily schedule helps. You have newfound flexibility in a work-from-home lifestyle, but you should create and maintain a routine – consistency helps create structure where it doesn’t exist.

3. Creating a space for work: It can be convenient to grab your laptop and start working wherever you want, but this can blur the lines between work and home. You should pick a place in your home where you set up for work each day, whether it is a separate home office or a desk in a distinct area of the home. It is important to have that physical space so that when you’re there you’re fully engaged, and when you leave it, you’ve both physically and mentally “left the office.”

4. Communicating even more with your teammates: You might not realize it, but the frequent informal touchpoints at the office are essential to maintaining a strong working relationships. When you’re at home, scheduling regular, short check-ins – both full-team and one-on-one with team members – is often helpful to help ensure everyone is on the same page and feeling appropriately supported. During these check-ins, you should communicate not just about your projects, but also about things that impact your team dynamic, such as how people are feeling about their workload, when you may be away from your desk, and if you can do anything to improve your support for your teammates.

5. Finding a balance between your work life and your personal life: Working from home provides flexibility, but it is important to set boundaries between work and home life. That could mean reserving every Wednesday evening to cook dinner with your partner or taking your furry friend on a lunchtime walk on Fridays. Achieving a healthy balance will help you maximize your productivity and engagement while working, but also ensure you’re present and happy with your family and friends when you’re not.