When you’re building a business, it’s common to snag workspace anywhere you can find it, and for many of us that means some (or, ahem, many) hours put in from the couch or the kitchen table.
But getting into a groove when you’re seated right next to a fridge full of food, or in the same place you binge Netflix, is easier said than done.
Luckily, we’ve got many remote workers on our teams at Shopify who live this day in and day out. With employees working from home in Canada, Ireland, and other countries, lots of people at Shopify have figured out how to be productive in their living space.
So we sent them your question, and got some great advice in return.
There’s no one, universal answer
Before we dive into the tips and advice our team shared, one thing quickly became clear. Even when it came to tips that most people swore by, there were others who piped up with a quick “That doesn’t work for me!”
One of the biggest perks of entrepreneurship is that it gives you the power to design a life that works for you. While these tips can help you craft a productive work-from-home experience, it’s not a prescriptive list, and you should take each tip as a suggestion—not a mandate.
Build a routine
When you’re working from an office, there’s usually a routine involved. Get up, get dressed, commute into the office, guzzle some coffee, rinse, repeat. No matter how much you may have hated the forced nature of that routine, the sheer fact that you had a routine helped prepare your mind that it was time for work. Bringing back elements of routine, customized to what you like to do every day, can help do the same thing.
Financial Services Support Specialist
Set clear expectations
When you’re home and accessible, it’s easy for your family, your roommates, or your pets to think they have unfettered access to your time and attention. That can lead to a series of interruptions, which is why setting clear and consistent expectations around your availability can be so key in getting work done at home.
While a one-time conversation about your work hours is good, an easily-updated communication tool is even better.
Have a dedicated workspace…
It’s a classic piece of work-from-home advice for a reason: setting up a dedicated workspace can help you make the transition from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work” in a matter of seconds.
And no need to panic if you don’t have a spare room or vast, open space waiting to be transformed into your new home office—there are ways to make this work for living spaces of all sizes.
…or work where you’re productive
Just because a piece of advice is a classic of the genre doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. A few remote team members piped up to share that the dedicated workspace tip wasn’t a must.
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Build breaks into your routine
In an office setting, you don’t glue yourself to your chair for eight hours, and there’s no reason you should try to do it at home either. Planning intentional breaks throughout your day to grab some caffeine, chat with a friend (or your dog), or just step away from your desk can make a big difference in creating a sustainable and productive work session.
You can even use your breaks as rewards for tasks completed, or triggers to do something active.
Plus Sales Concierge
Set clear, measurable goals
What does productive really mean to you?
That question is critical if “productivity” is your measure of success for your home office. To help define it, set measurable goals each time you sit down to work, whether it’s for a few hours or a full day—and remember, to be truly productive, you’ll need to make sure you’re working on high impact tasks, not just ones that are easy to check off your list.
Pay attention to your energy levels
Different tasks on your plate will require different amounts of both focus and energy, two things that can vary greatly over the course of the day. Make the most of the flexibility you’re afforded as the boss of your calendar, and schedule your tasks based on when you’re most prepared to tackle them.
As a remote employee myself, I make sure to know what times and states of mind are best for getting in the zone to write. Before those times, I make sure I have everything I need to make the most of it, including coffee and a fully-outlined skeleton of an article. When I sit down, all that’s left to focus on is the writing.
Invest in the right gear
The right gear depends on your work, but if there’s a piece of equipment you find yourself yearning for to make your job easier or save you time, it’s likely a good investment in your business.
Escalated Technical Support Lead
If you work with remote team members, wholesalers, or suppliers on video calls, those might be great investments. If it’s just you, think about the other major tasks that take up your day. Spend a lot of time packing orders? A shipping label printer might make your day much more efficient.
Have childcare available
If you have children, you know that caring for them is important work in and of itself. Trying to do that alongside working on your business may not result in the productivity you want to achieve.
And since childcare is an expensive addition to your budget, flexible options like a part-time nanny or a list of baby-sitters who can help out for a few hours may be an option to consider. It could also be worth reaching out to friends, family, or fellow entrepreneurs in your network to ask if any of them might be interested in swapping days of childcare: for one day, you handle the kids, and in exchange, the next day you get a solid day to work as they do the same.
Take advantage of the flexibility
No matter which of these tips you implement to help make the most of your work-from-home time, the beauty of the situation is that the choice is entirely yours. As an entrepreneur, you can structure your workspace and your days exactly as you see fit, to maximize your time spent on high-impact work that actually grows your business.
No matter what your current or future office setup looks like, figuring out what a productive workspace looks like for you, and building habits to support it, are efforts that will pay off over the long term.