By David Nield for Popular Science
With a changing economy, more flexible job roles, and the continued spread of broadband internet, more and more of us are working from home. According to the most recent statistics, more than 5% of the U.S. workforce spends at least part of their office hours at home.
While this habit lets us avoid the stress of commuting and spend all day in sweatpants, the consequences aren’t all positive. With so many distractions at home, and no manager looming nearby, productivity can take a hit. To avoid this, we rounded up some apps and tools to help you stay on task. Include some of these in your home office setup to raise your productivity and motivation levels.
Play background noise
If you work best with a constant murmur in the background, you’ll find plenty of white-noise apps to provide that hum.
Pick the noises you want to hear, and the relative volumes you’d like them to play at. Preset soundscapes are designed to help with relaxation or productivity, helping to optimise your brainwaves to improve your cognitive function, helping you focus, relax, or drift off to sleep.
Track your time
Where does all the time go? With no boss around to check when you start work or take a break (or three), your routine can quickly stagnate. That’s why you need an app to help you keep track of how you’re spending your time.
Cut out distractions
At home, you’re surrounded by temptations like your snack-filled kitchen, potential Netflix binges, and, of course, the ever-present siren song of your smartphone. You need help tuning out these distractions in order to stay on track.
Include some break time
All work and no play is a recipe for burnout: If you don’t take the odd breather, your productivity will experience diminishing returns. You should take five minutes of rest for every 25 minutes of work, and you can also adjust these parameters to split your time differently.
You should use those break minutes to refresh your brain. If you’d prefer distraction to meditation, why not rest your eyes while listening to a podcast?
Even when you’re not in the office, you need to stay in touch with your colleagues. So apps that connect you with other members of your team are an essential part of working from home.
Improve your workspace
Besides the apps we’ve mentioned, you can also modify your physical home-office setup. A more comfortable working situation will make you more productive—and less vulnerable to distractions.
For your comfort and your health, you should make sure your chair and desk help you sit without straining your body. For example, keep your screen at eye level to avoid damaging your neck and back.
Consider building a custom computer desk designed to help you sit ergonomically.
In addition to your computer, you probably have a few other gadgets on that desk. You’ll want to keep them all charged to make sure a dead battery doesn’t make you miss a call from the boss.
Finally, illuminating your workspace is essential for both staying focused and reducing strain on your eyes. You can pick any lamp that fits your tastes and needs.