November 2, 2021

2021 is coming to a close and many of us have settled into a comfortable hybrid work lifestyle, spending some days at home and others alongside our colleagues in the office. Lately, I’ve been going in to meet with coworkers at least one day per week and doing most of my heads-down work in the quiet of my home office. In the early days of the pandemic, my at-home setup was limited at best, which made it difficult to focus and do my best thinking; several workdays ended with an achy back, a foggy mind and a feeling of overwhelm. But as I adjusted to the reality of Covid and got back into a consistent routine, I began to appreciate the ways in which my work-from-home setup boosted my personal productivity and reduced my stress.

If you prefer working from home, you aren’t alone. According to a Buffer report on the state of remote workmore than 97 percent of workers surveyed said they’d like to work remotely at least occasionally for the rest of their careers. Although widespread home-based work was an unanticipated outcome of a nightmarish pandemic, a lot of people continue to appreciate the flexibility and freedom it offers (myself included).

Living in Chicago, I typically take public transit to and from the office, which is fantastic unless it’s any time between December and April—then it becomes an exercise in self-imposed wintertime torment. When that icy commute wasn’t part of the equation, I did some of my best work in months, but I also had to make some minor workflow and space adjustments to do it.

To get a better work-from-home experience, these four suggestions can help you streamline your day and be more productive over time.

Use Your Calendar To Your Advantage

Instead of simply using your calendar to keep track of upcoming meetings, try blocking off time intentionally and schedule your day around what you need to accomplish. This might seem obvious, but so many of my colleagues bounce from meeting to meeting, it can be exhausting and difficult to get much else done. If you’ve got a few hours without anything scheduled, block out that time on your calendar to focus on specific tasks instead of cramming as much as you can into the brief window between calls. You’ll find that your free time is actually freer, and you can focus more on what’s important to you instead of going on autopilot and hurrying from one meeting or task to the next.

Recreate Your Office Habits

Try your best to create consistency in how you work. For example, if you use two monitors at the office, consider doing the same at home—if you keep your office desk organized in a certain way, recreate your setup so that you don’t find yourself missing anything. Having a similar experience each day helps you find and maintain continuity in your workflow. Reliability and routine are good for helping us stay on task, so make sure you’re building a work-from-home regimen that aligns with your in-office habits. If you can strike a balance between the two environments, you can stay productive while enjoying the comforts and flexibility of home.

Make Sure You’re Staying Connected with Coworkers

Especially if you’re working from home most of the time, stay engaged and informed on what’s happening with your colleagues. Whether it’s sending messages throughout the day or scheduling regular catch-up calls, find ways to keep your coworkers aware of what’s going on in your world. With hybrid work becoming more normalized, if you primarily work from home, consider going to the office sometimes to collaborate with your team and reconnect in person. Those occasional in-person meetings can reenergize you and fuel your creativity, so make an effort to stay connected however you can.

Get a Good Chair (and Move Around Occasionally!)

Having a chair that doesn’t kill your back is the ultimate productivity booster. Nobody wants to be miserable and in pain at the end of the day, so if you’re planning on working from home in the long term, make sure you’ve got some good back support. Be warned: a new office chair can be a huge investment. But luckily, if you’re not ready to spend a lot of money, there are plenty of ways to make your current chair more comfortable

Also, get into the habit of getting up and moving around a little every hour. If you can get outside for a bit, even better. When you work from home, you can miss out on quite a bit of outdoor time (especially if you’re used to a transit-based commute with lots of walking). As part of your efforts to create consistency in how you work, be sure to include some time to move your body, go on a walk or do some stretches to break up your workday.

Hybrid work offers a higher degree of flexibility than many workers experienced prior to the pandemic. A great home office can improve your productivity and help you create a seamless workflow, no matter where you are.