The gig economy in the United States was already in full-swing before President Trump declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 13, 2020. According to Gig Economy Data Hub, between one-quarter and one-third of American adults already worked from home or had other flexible arrangements before the pandemic. Millions more have joined the ranks of those working from home since that time.
While the sudden switch to working in an office surrounded by others every day to working at home alone or with family around was seamless for some, others continue to struggle with productivity in a home office environment. The tips below should help anyone who has seen their work productivity suffer since they began working from home.
Start by Establishing a Consistent Schedule
Some companies that sent employees home to work earlier this year required them to keep the same schedule they had in the office while others offered greater flexibility. Not surprisingly, people left in charge of their own schedule and the self-employed tend to struggle more with productivity than those expected to follow a set schedule.
Establishing a daily schedule and sticking to it is one of the simplest ways to remain productive without a boss or supervisor there to keep employees on track. Once they set the schedule, however, at-home workers need to set boundaries around their time away from work. That means resisting the temptation to check emails and voicemails after hours and letting others take advantage of them by being a bit too flexible.
Choose an Area of the Home as an Off-Limits Work Zone
Maintaining consistent productivity can be difficult when continually working in different areas of the home. Although sitting at the kitchen table or the living room sofa might be comfortable, it can detract people from staying focused and treating work as seriously as they should. For those with an extra bedroom available, establishing a home office is ideal. This allows them to shut the door to minimize distractions and send a message to the rest of the family to not disturb the person working unless it is an emergency.
If that isn’t possible, selecting a corner of a bedroom or putting up a dividing wall in a common area of the home can work too. At-home workers should let everyone else in the home who is old enough to understand that this is a work area, and they are not to touch anything nor disturb the person working.
Soundproof Windows to Reduce Outside Distractions
The noises people hear at home while working are typically much different than the ones they became accustomed to in the office. From traffic noise to barking dogs to children playing outside, staying focused and on-task can be challenging for the at-home worker.
Earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones typically work well for people facing minimal distractions or who don’t have to make phone calls. However, people dealing with consistent noise pollution need other options. Soundproofing windows can be especially helpful.
Upgrade Windows to a Higher Sound Transmission Class (STC)
For people considering replacing their current windows with something more soundproof, the most important thing to look for is a high STC number. Window manufacturers calculate the STC by studying the effectiveness of each pane of glass at reducing incoming sound. An STC rating of 34 or higher can reduce the loudness of incoming sound by as much as 50 percent. Window inserts and window plugs are additional options.
People who have been working at home for several months and still struggle with productivity may feel discouraged. The important thing to keep in mind is that this is a major transition, and it will take time to get into a comfortable routine.