5 tips to be productive with a home office schedule

A young businessman is doing paperwork in the cafe and checking his phone.

Image source: Getty Images

Managing employees when they’re working remotely can be difficult. Creating a home office schedule can reduce organizational burden and increase productivity.

When you’re out of the office, it can be difficult to stick to a schedule. But it’s not about remote workers taking their foot off the gas and idling.

Instead, a trend known as e-presenteeism has left employees feeling overworked when working from home. Four in five HR managers believe that working from home has encouraged e-presentism, where employees feel they should be online and available as often as possible.

This can quickly lead to anxiety, a severe drop in productivity and eventually burnout. That’s why it’s important to create a schedule so employees know when it’s time to go to work and when they can step away from their desks and turn off Slack and email.

Getting it right can increase productivity, lead to a much happier work environment, and create long-term best practices for working from home.

Here are our tips for doing just that.

Tip 1: Make sure everyone has their own workspace

Excessive demands are just as much an issue as insufficient demands when it comes to efficient remote employee management. One of the biggest problems with sticking to a home office schedule is that you can’t separate your work life from your personal life.

You feel like you’re working 24/7 and you can’t switch off. You check your email at 10 p.m., finish those last few tasks before bed, or reply to Slack messages when you wake up in the morning.

While space limitations obviously play a role in this issue, especially in a small apartment in an expensive city, it’s still a good idea to find a space that’s dedicated to work only.

Make sure your employees have all the tools they need to create their own workspace, whether that’s by providing a coupon to a furniture store or providing equipment themselves.

In 2020, people became more and more creative with their workspaces, setting up and accessorizing corners in other spaces to make them comfortable and inspiring. These home office corner ideas include:

  • Acquisition of a replacement cabinet
  • Assembling a shelf that works like a desk
  • Use the space under your stairs
  • Invest in a folding table to work on your sofa

A picture of a small closet converted into a desk.

Use all the space in your home to create a workspace. Image source: author

Tip 2: Stick to a schedule

When you work in an office or on shifts, you have a tight schedule. Even if your company has a flexible attendance policy for employees, there is usually a window for your start and end time. It’s just as important to ensure employees stick to this schedule when working from home.

Remind employees that they do not have to start work before a scheduled hour and that they should finish on time. Lead by example by sticking to the work schedule yourself.

You can also set your own hours within a broader schedule. For example, early risers can work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., while late risers can work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. As long as everyone is in meetings and at their (virtual) desks within set times, allow some flexibility to increase productivity.

Try using an employee time clock software and ask your employees to clock themselves in and out when they start and finish. You can then track if someone is overworking. Solutions like Timecamp can also track what employees are doing during the day, so you can see if they’re losing hours on a specific activity.

Timecamp efficiency report with lists of productive and unproductive activities.

Timecamp tracks employee activity throughout the day. Image source: author

Create some best practices to help employees be more productive during the workday so they don’t have to work longer hours. This includes not rolling out of bed five minutes before the workday to avoid feeling groggy for the first half of the workday.

Encourage employees to have breakfast, shower, dress, or go for a walk before starting work.

Tip 3: Schedule regular breaks

If you want to track your employees’ work hours when setting a home office schedule, you need to schedule regular breaks.

Sometimes I sit in the same place for hours, typing and staring at a screen. Then I wonder why I feel so stiff, grumpy, and just plain exhausted at the end of the workday.

Once I started taking regular breaks, I found I was more productive because I didn’t burn out as quickly. Taking a break is important to clear your mind, stimulate creativity, and avoid eyestrain from staring at a screen for too long. Breaks increase productivity and make for healthier, happier employees.

Add these breaks to the work schedule to ensure employees don’t work through every day. Or try the Pomodoro method. Set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. Do four of these sessions and then take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes.

Create a timer for your team and make sure it rings loudly so everyone knows when the session is over and they can take a break or when they need to get back to work.

A screenshot of a Pomodoro timer.

Use the Pomodoro Method to plan breaks. Image source: author

Tip 4: Invest in remote tools for your employees

Trying to set a schedule when you’re working from home is difficult when you have too many distractions. I used to live on a busy street with constant traffic and sirens and general city noise. Whenever I heard a commotion outside, I would be distracted and go see what was going on.

Then I invested in noise canceling headphones. Now I can concentrate more on the tasks at hand. This is a particularly useful productivity tool when I’m doing a task that requires a lot of concentration, such as B. Writing.

Just because employees are working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them all the remote tools they need to be productive. This can be noise-cancelling headphones, a high-quality office chair, a standing desk or computer monitors.

Tip 5: Plan virtual social activities

Your work from home schedule should include time for fun. It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re working from home. You don’t have the same social interactions as you would in a workplace, either with your co-workers or with customers.

We need to work together if we want to be productive, come up with innovative ideas and stay sane, but it’s harder when we’re working from home.

To fix this, add virtual social activities to your employee schedule just like you would at a meeting. Take virtual coffee breaks, play a virtual quiz, or just take time out at the start of a meeting to chat and catch up on what’s going on in everyone’s life. Make fun virtual activities part of company culture.

To make sure you have this covered, use employee scheduling software that allows you to color code different activities on your shared calendar. Homebase is a good example of software that allows you to organize different types of activities on a calendar.

A screenshot of Homebase's shared calendar feature.

Homebase lets you color code your shared calendar. Image source: author

Focus on corporate culture

Working from home is the future. It is important to create policies and optimize working conditions now so that you can ensure that your employees are not only productive, but also happy with their work and the company.

Loyalty can drop when employees aren’t in the office every day and perks like free coffee and foosball lose their meaning. That’s why you need to create a culture that makes it as easy as possible for your employees to do their best work – innovating, being creative and collaborating – from any location.

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