Can Working from Home Be Productive?

Anna Majowska
5 min readJan 30, 2018


If you’ve recently started working from home, and after expecting a complete transformation of the way you’ve always been thinking about your work — you’re starting to feel somewhat disappointed — you may not be alone.
People who have a basic office-based work experience under their belt, often expect that a jump to working from home will completely change how they work and think of working. No disruptions, no boss hanging behind their shoulder, lack of time-consuming office gossip and no meetings. Just peace & quiet and you with your computer. Yeah, right — if only it had been this simple.

After a little while you are more than likely to start noticing little problems:
I’ll start at 9, but actually, why not start at 10.. who’s gonna now?! or: I’ll take the dog out now, since I’m home, and just carry on working that half hour later at the end of the day.. why not?
The next step is: Perhaps, rather than sitting down at my desk, I’ll bring the laptop in to the living room? After all, I am working from home, aren’t I?. In worst cases, things go as far as: ..why get up in the morning, when I can just as well start in the evening and carry on till late at night, when I always do things so much faster anyway?
And then the day goes by, you get tired and less eager to do the work with every passing hour..
Sure, there is nothing wrong with any of the above. But the general lack of control and structure on how you go about the workday is never good in the long run, neither for you nor for the work quality. What tends to go wrong, then?

The Space

Although you’re no longer needing the office environment, the suit and tie or high heels, your brain still needs to know that you’re at work, even though you’re in your home.
Many home-officers practice getting dressed as if they were going into the office, just to ease the mind into the working mode — it really can make a difference, especially if at any part of the day you will need to make some calls. Talking business while sitting on the couch in your pyjamas and slippers can be really tough — just try it and you’ll know what I mean.

Despite no longer having to sit in a cubical, at an office desk or in an open space full of suits, it will make a world of difference if your workspace is clearly defined and sufficiently official.
We’re not talking xerox machines and water coolers, but a clean, comfortable desk, suitable chair and as little visual clutter as possible. Make it possible for your brain to focus on work, not on the crossword puzzles your kids were playing with last night.

The Time & Mindset

You may be prone to believing that it makes no difference what time you’ll start and finish work, since you’re home all day anyway. Wrong. Unless you put a clear division between work time and home time, sooner or later you will be exhausted, frustrated and definitely not productive.
It’s not necessary for you to stick to a forever-set working hours, what matters the most is making a clear division in your mind as to whether you’re working or resting at a given time. This is most easily achieved by always sitting down to your desk when working — your brain will associate this place with a certain mind-frame, making it easier for you to start working.
Conversely, what will not be helpful in establishing a home-working routine is using the same workspace for hobbies and play. Can be tough if your space is limited, but the least you can do then is at least use different computer users — visually different from one another.

The Motivation & Control

None of the above will have any effect at all, if your idea of working from home is along the lines of pretending to work while surfing the net. If you’re not overly keen on what you do, you’ll have a very hard time transitioning to working from home, since being at the office (watched by co-workers) was probably the single factor motivating you to start working each day in the first place.
But even in these cases, it is still possible to make working from home a success — for as long as there is a defined job control mechanism implemented. Among good solutions are a daily report or direct assignments and tracking by a supervisor — and if you’re a freelancer especially — you should try tracking yourself by yourself.
With task boards and time tracking available — look no further than Kanban Tool itself — checking up on your daily progress is a piece of cake. Therefore the lack of any is a clear sign, you’re not getting anywhere while working from home.
A task board can also work in another sufficiently prompting way — when using time tracking for work items, after about 2 weeks you get into the habit of not leaving the timer running, when you pause or leave for a cup of coffee. This way, it’s dead easy for your mind to make an association between focusing on work and having the timer running. Check this out to see of it works on you too.

Tips & Reinforcements

If your mind is set on making working from home a raving success, it’s good to set up some periodical reviews. Rethinking of the workspace you have, reviewing the hours that may be better — while keeping the same, already set working approach and mindset, trying out various improvement techniques.
A fantastic way of keeping standard distractions at bay are placing the phone in a drawer (of a desk [possibly in another room {locked with a key}]).
You can also set a limit to the number of tabs you can have open in the browser, making social sites off limits completely while on working time. Better still — if your work can be done offline — let it be so and only go online at set times of day (the fewer the better).
It’s useful to share your work calendar with the family members or house-mates as well as co-workers and the boss. This way, regardless of what hours you decide to keep for your home office — others will be informed about when you can be approached with a work query and when you can be offered dinner.
Remember to take breaks — as you would in the office. A few breathers will make your energy go much further.
Also, consider keeping a set, routine schedule — same starting hour, same finishing hour, same lunch time break. If you’re really ambitious, there will be a time for a short exercise in there too!
Finally, though your intention for working from home might have been to attend fewer meetings, it may be worth making a point of leaving the house — to see other people — every once in a while. Don’t let yourself become trapped in your own home-working dream!

Originally published on the Kanban Tool Blog.