5 Simple, Science-Backed Tricks to Help Improve Home-Office Productivity
For many, working from a home office is the ultimate dream. But as many entrepreneurs discover, it’s not always easy to stay focused and productive when you’re working in the same place where you spend time with family or friends, or unwind on the couch watching Netflix.
In fact, it's all too easy for the distractions of home to keep you from delivering the results you need to launch a successful entrepreneurial career. Thankfully, though, there are strategies you can use to improve your focus and productivity. These science-backed tricks will keep you on track throughout the work day:
1. Maintain a dress code.
People who work from home often imagine that they will be able to go to work dressed in their pajamas. However, research has consistently shown that dressing up as though you’re going into the office will help you perform better.
A study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology noted that all clothing has symbolic meaning. In other words, when you wear certain types of clothing, you tend to adopt the behaviors associated with those who wear that clothing.
In the study, participants who wore a lab coat performed better at “attention-related tasks” because, the researchers explained, the coat had a symbolic meaning of attentiveness and care. Similarly, wearing the attire you associate with a successful workplace -- be it formal or casual businesswear -- can subconsciously put you in the right frame of mind for work.
2. 'Green up' your office.
You have total control over how your home office looks -- but certain kinds of decor will be more beneficial to your productivity than others. A study published in Science Daily found that offices with plant decorations had 15 percent higher productivity than those without. Interestingly, the presence of plant life was also associated with greater satisfaction with one’s work.
Even a single decorative plant on your desk can improve indoor air quality and help you remain better focused on your work. Keeping your plants healthy through exposure to natural sunlight can also improve your own energy levels.
For best results, place your plant in an area easily visible from where you work. Make sure you account for whether a particular plant grows better in sunlight or shade, so it will stay healthy in its selected space.
3. Use music to help you focus.
As Eric Stensvaag wrote in a blog post for music platform Feed.fm, “Over the past half-century, countless studies have shown the positive correlation between music and activities as diverse as exercise and shopping. Music’s ability to help us perform better and ‘stick it out’ is a behavioral result … Listening to (and making) music has been proven to reduce garden-variety stress and treat specific mental health illnesses.”
So what is it that causes music to make such a difference?
Listening to music helps release dopamine in the brain, relieving stress and helping us feel more motivated, even happy, while we work. Studies have further shown that listening to music can help us work faster and generate new ideas.
In a blog article published on Medium, Melissa Chu noted that music without lyrics, such as classical music or music from a film soundtrack, is generally better at improving mood and concentration. It’s your home office -- so you can experiment to find the music that works best for you!
4. Avoid distractions, but not rest breaks.
Smartphones can be a significant (and debilitating) distraction in a home office. However, by exercising greater self-control, time spent not focused on work can be of great benefit. Breaks are essential because they help your prefrontal cortex rest and recharge so you can stay focused on what matters most.
As Meg Selig wrote in Psychology Today, “Prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance … Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.”
When you work from a home office, you have greater control over when and how you spend your breaks. Whether you need to go for a brief walk, read a chapter from your favorite novel or simply watch a few YouTube videos, you can rest your brain in a manner that works best for you, and ensure that you return to your task rejuvenated and mentally focused.
5. Stay warm.
Working from a home office, you have much greater control over the thermostat, allowing you to create a more comfortable environment. However, in addition to general comfort and your utility expenses, you may also wish to consider how your thermostat settings affect your productivity.
A study by Cornell University found that in offices that kept temperatures at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, “Employees committed 44 percent more errors and were less than half as productive” in comparison to those working in offices kept at 77 degrees.
Turning up the heat during the winter and dialing back the air-conditioner in the summer will help your body devote less energy to trying to stay warm and more energy to focusing on the work-related tasks at hand.
Working from home certainly comes with its fair share of challenges -- but it can also be extremely rewarding. As you use these simple science-backed methods to improve your productivity, your home office will become the right kind of space for fueling success.