Productive and organised in home office

Sitting at the breakfast table with the family in the morning without any time pressure, comfortably sipping a cup of coffee and then, after only a minute’s walk to the neighbouring room, already at his workplace. If you work in your home office, the stressful journey through rush hour traffic is eliminated and you can plan your day so that it’s no problem to pick up your offspring from school for a shared lunch or to go walking with your girlfriend in the morning. The lost time can easily be made up for in a suitable place.

Being in a home office means being able to work independently and flexibly. Here you can arrange your working time according to your ideas and according to your activity phases. In order for you to feel comfortable and productive at the same time, some basic conditions must be met. Especially if you are forced to work from home, for example during the current corona epidemic, the conditions are usually not optimal. Especially cramped conditions can cause great difficulties and challenges. This guide is designed to help you create the right basic conditions to make your home office productive but not overwhelming. It will help you to fully exploit your potential at home, benefit from many advantages and avoid potential problems.

11 tips to make your home office work more efficient

Tip 1: Find an undisturbed workplace

If possible, your workplace should be as far away from the rest of your household as possible so that you can switch to work mode without any problems and can concentrate properly in the long term. Of course, a separate working room is ideal, but unfortunately not everyone has this at their disposal. Often, however, a closed door to the rest of the flat is enough to give you the peace and quiet you need to be productive. Try to separate the living and working areas, even if there is no separate room, for example by using an optical room divider.

Also make sure that you do not set up your workplace near a window facing a busy street. To get some peace and quietness, you can also try out noise cancelling headphones, which actively eliminate disturbing noises from outside with counter-noise. This can be an additional contribution to help you block out background noise to a certain extent, even in a busy flat, so that you can concentrate fully on your work.

Tip 2: Watch your health

When setting up your workplace, where you spend many hours every day, you should definitely think about possible health aspects. Starting with your desk chair, which you should choose with great care. An incorrect sitting position will lead to back pain in the long run, one of the most common causes of incapacity to work. A good ergonomic chair can be individually adjusted both in terms of seat height and seat depth. When sitting, you should keep both feet firmly on the ground and the upper and lower legs should form an angle of about 90 degrees to each other. The minimum height of the backrest is 45 centimetres. The support for the lower part of the back, the so-called lordosis, should support the natural curvature of the spine with its curvature. So when buying a matching desk chair, it pays off to put a little more money in your hand to prevent health problems.

Another important factor you should look out for at your workplace is the right lighting. Make sure that enough daylight enters your room and use a lamp to provide additional indirect light. The brighter your workplace, the less strain on your eyes. Several scientific studies have shown that employees can work much more productively if they have sufficient daylight. If, on the other hand, your workplace is only illuminated by artificial light, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol, which disturbs your concentration and has a long-term negative effect on your immune system. The screen of your work computer should also be of an appropriate size to protect your eyes. [1]

Tip 3: Arrange your workplace in a simple but friendly way

Don’t overload your workspace with lots of unnecessary accessories. If your attention is drawn everywhere to holiday photos, stuffed animals or other odds and ends, your thoughts will quickly wander. A tidy and simple working environment, on the other hand, helps you to keep your head in order and concentrate on the essentials.

Don’t spare too much on the technical equipment. The motivation to work quickly evaporates if you have to deal with the technology before every video conference. It’s worth investing in a powerful computer, suitable headphones and a comfortable mouse and keyboard right from the start. This will save you a lot of avoidable annoyance in your everyday work and at the same time you can invest the time you would otherwise spend solving numerous problems.  You can also design your workspace with different plants. They create a cosy atmosphere and provide a pleasant room climate.

Tip 4: Structure your working day

Keep the inner pig dog in check

If you’re just starting out with home office, you’ll have to get used to a whole new work routine. Working at home requires a lot of self-discipline, because we are left alone with our inner bastard. We don’t have a boss or work colleagues looking over our shoulders. What and how much we work, is largely up to us. So much personal responsibility can of course spur you on and enable you to achieve new heights of performance, but there is always the danger of distraction. Often small interruptions creep in at first. You just want to look something up on your mobile phone or, exceptionally, you can extend your break by ten minutes to cuddle the cat for another round. No big deal, you might think. I’ll make up the ten minutes again some other time. But what starts out with small concessions can quickly develop into more and more excuses and longer and longer breaks. Here it’s important to put a stop to this right at the start so that you don’t betray your employer or yourself.

Do not work more than what you should

Home office workers generally tend to work too much rather than too little. Due to the lack of control by the direct working environment, many people have the feeling that they have to perform particularly well in order not to be suspected of indulging in idleness during working hours at home. This is why employees often take on more work than they would do in the office, and perhaps even without recording it as overtime. However, if you do not allow yourself enough free time at home, if you never really get to switch off and always feel that you have too little to do, this will have a considerable effect on your well-being in the long run. So you should put a stop to this as well.

The working day needs structure

Both phenomena are intensified or arise from simply working into the day without structure. Of course, one of the advantages of the home office is that you can organise your own working hours. It’s also completely ok if you distribute your work throughout the day according to your ideas, but you should still stick to fixed working hours. Keep these times in writing. This is the only way you can switch off the computer at the end of the working day, leave work and switch to recovery mode. Reflect again and again on whether keeping to your work schedule really works. In time, your new work plan will become second nature to you.

Tip 5: Draw a clear line between work and private life

In order to be able to switch to a productive working mode, it is important that you separate work from private life as much as possible. This is not so easy at home. Little rituals will help you switch the switch to work mode in your head. For example, it’s not necessarily good for your work headset if you just get up in the morning in your baggy clothes and move from the couch to the PC. Instead, try to maintain your morning routine. Just as if you were about to leave for the office as normal. Take a shower, put on your work clothes, do your hair and sit at your desk all dressed up. Through these little rituals you not only put your appearance but also your mind into work mode.

Tip 6: Take your breaks properly

Breaks are the periods of your working day during which you should regenerate. Of course, they also play an important role in home office and ensure that you remain healthy and productive in the long term. In home office, you are entitled to a half-hour break, as in normal operation, if you work 6 hours, and 45 minutes if you work more than 9 hours. At work, you probably spend this time often with your colleagues, chatting or having lunch together. If you work at home, however, this social interaction is naturally missing. So if you don’t have the social contacts you need, you should plan time for lunch with your family or a friend. Small, unhealthy snacks in front of the computer should be the exception.

You can also get help to relax and unwind during your break. For example through a guided meditation by sonamedic. The gentle method of binaural beats helps you to switch off and recharge your batteries even during short breaks of only 10 minutes. Also try to go outside at least once a day to get some fresh air and exercise. That way you revitalise your body and mind.

Tip 7: Stay organised

In home office, too, it is important to approach the day with structure, and not only in terms of working hours. The best thing is to draw up a priority list or plan that shows what needs to be done and when. Because if you are always working away of you, you will quickly lose track of what is going on, start one thing without finishing another or do too many things at once. It is also a very satisfying feeling to be able to tick off tasks that have been completed. To see what you have achieved motivates and replaces the praise from colleagues and boss, which you often have to do entirely without due to the physical distance.

Tip 8: Attempt not to be permanently accessible

In the home office, the boundary between workplace and recreational space becomes blurred. But if you are constantly confronted with your work and always available, your home loses its function as a place of retreat and you are always under tension. Therefore, try to agree with your boss that you would like to be contacted during working hours but only in exceptional cases outside these hours and put your work mobile phone aside. This is the only way you will be able to continue to recover effectively at home.

Tip 9: Make sure not to lose connection

If you work from home, there’s no need for the gossip in the corridor, the chat with colleagues at the coffee machine or the shared meals during the breaks. This may not be a big problem for some people, but overall you should be careful not to become an outsider in your company, but to remain present in the working and social community. This is the only way you can continue to play an active role in shaping processes and be noticed by your colleagues and your employer, even when it comes to assigning new tasks or even a promotion. If you only work from home, at least try to take part in regular video conferences with your team and have a private chat with your colleagues.

Tip 10: Practice mindfulness in dealing with yourself

Especially when you are alone at home, only you can provide an appropriate working environment where your well-being is not affected. That is why you should always reflect on yourself. How do you feel in the current situation? Where could you possibly improve something for the better?

A mindful approach to yourself also involves openly communicating your limits and wishes. For example, if you feel overloaded by the work you are asked to do. Especially when you are not present in the office, it is difficult for someone else to assess how busy you are already in your working hours and what capacities are still available. Here it is important to be able to say “no” for once and not have to deal with a mountain of work that is hard to manage.

Tip 11: Challenge and educate yourself

When we work in home office, we deal mainly with ourselves. But this also means that you lack the input from outside for new ideas and suggestions and you can only benefit to a limited extent from the expertise of your colleagues. In this case you have to become active yourself in order to be able to educate and develop yourself further. This is the only way to get ideas to break old patterns and to creatively design work processes. In addition to your normal work, you might want to take half an hour every two days to read a book that will help you improve your qualifications. [2]

Legal regulations concerning work in the home office in Germany

The rights and obligations of the employer

As a rule, no separate contract is drawn up for working from home, but a supplementary agreement is drawn up. In this agreement, the conditions for home office are regulated (what the workplace looks like) and it is also agreed how the working time must be recorded. The necessary equipment for the work is usually provided by the employer. These are also noted in the supplementary agreement and, if necessary, an exclusion of use for private purposes is stipulated. A data protection clause should also be included in the supplementary agreement. The employer can revoke the home office agreement after notice, for example if the workplace does not meet the necessary requirements for the employee’s health. For this purpose, the employer should, if necessary, obtain a picture of the work situation on site.

In which cases does the work accident insurance apply at home?

As an employee you are basically insured against accidents in all areas related to work. In the home office, however, this insurance only applies to activities directly related to work. If the employee falls from his work chair, the insurance cover takes effect, but if he falls on his way to the coffee machine in the kitchen, he cannot count on the employment insurance, as this activity is not exclusively related to the job. [3]

Home office in Germany – Now firmly established?

According to a survey from 2018, 26 percent of all companies in Germany at that time offered employees work from home. 2] In the current corona pandemic, the proportion of those who (have to) work from home is likely to have increased significantly again, the question is how sustainable this shift will be beyond the crisis. In an interview with t3News, Jutta Rump, professor of general business administration, assumes that home offices will remain after Corona. Many employers have seen during this time that their employees are productive at home as well, and for employees, home office offers many opportunities, especially for the compatibility of family and work. In particular, mixed models that require only a partial presence at the workplace are likely to become firmly established in everyday working life in the long term, depending on the field of employment. As early as 2017, 63 percent of those who work in a home office said that they had decided in favour of a mixed model. [4]

List of sources:

[1] Rehbock/ Larissa: So finden sie den perfekten Schreibtischstuhl, impulse.de, Datum des Zugriffs 04.06.2020, Online

[2] Phillipp, Grunau / Ruf, Kevin / Susanne, Steffes / Stefanie, Wolter: Mobile Arbeitsformen aus der Sicht von Beschäftigten: Homeoffice bietet Vorteile, hat aber auch Tücken, IAB-Kurzbericht No. 11/2019, Online

[3] Arbeitsrecht.de: Home-Office: Gesetzliche Regelung & Voraussetzung der Heimarbeit, Datum des Zugriffs 29.05.2020, Online

[4]t3n.de: Interview mit Jutta Rum: Nach Corona: Was vom Homeoffice für alle bleiben kann, Datum des Zugriffs 02.06.2020, Online 

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