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It’s been seven months since I started working from home in Los Angeles full-time.
I’m saving thousands of dollars by not paying commuter costs, buying lunch out, or restocking my makeup or wardrobe quite as much – what’s not to love?
Well, finding my stride outside of an office setting – much less an energetic, active newsroom – didn’t come as easy as the bump to my savings account.
I’m a proud self-starter and a disciplined worker, but I learned quickly that even I could be distracted by the pronounced silence of an empty apartment and the comforts of home.
Plus, there’s no overhearing coworkers chatting about lunch plans or stepping out for their 3 p.m. coffee break. The absence of these proverbial time stamps make it easy to lose track of the day.
I felt like my productivity was suffering. But after about a month of trial and error, I found one strategy that worked: Changing my scenery.
As a remote worker, my office doesn’t have to be an office in the traditional sense – I’d be remiss not to use that to my advantage. I decided to spend at least two hours every day away from my “work desk,” which is in my bedroom, and at least one day a week outside of my apartment at a coffee shop or otherwise.
Moving from space to space may seem a counterintuitive strategy, but when I consulted Brie Reynolds, a senior career specialist at FlexJobs, she said it’s “a great way to stay focused and productive throughout the day.” Plus, it breaks up the monotony we all suffer from occasionally.
“Remote workers can try out external environments to change up their workdays, gain energy, and focus better,” Reynolds said. “Coffee shops, coworking spaces, or working together with a friend or coworker who also works remotely in their home office – these options can all provide the same effects as moving from place to place in your house.”
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On the days I stay home, I always start at my work desk. Within a few hours, after my roommates have left the apartment, I’ll venture out to my living room with my laptop and settle in at the dining room table or kitchen counter – but never the couch (there’s such thing as being too comfortable). I’ll use the transition to grab a snack or make lunch so I don’t have to spend time doing it later.
On the days out of my apartment, I siphon energy from the sound of coffee machines, overhead music, and background chatter. Around mid-day, if it becomes too distracting, I’ll head back home and finish my work day there.
“To take it even further,” says Reynolds, “I’ve noticed that different spaces in the home lend themselves to different kinds of work.”
I’ve found that, too. When I’m at the dining room table, for example, I fall deep into my writing zone. Maybe it’s the energy boost I get from the sunlight streaming in from the balcony doors, or the faint sound of kids playing outside at the nearby elementary school. Whatever it is, I’m happy about it.
It turns out scenery changes may also boost productivity in traditional office settings. According to Ron Friedman, an organizational psychologist and the author of “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace,” great companies design workspaces that “facilitate the work their employees do. No single environment is effective for every task, which is why more and more companies are creating hybrid spaces that offer employees a range of uses,” Friedman writes.
Friedman says studies also show that heading outdoors can “replenish our mental resources.”
I plan to keep up my rotation of work spots as long as they’re keeping me productive, but perhaps I’ll add in a few days working from the beach this summer – now that’s a scenery change.