17th April 2020

How To Be Productive in an Unproductive Working Environment

By now we’re about 3 weeks into our new ‘work-from-home’ set-up. Realistically, we should probably have adapted by now and most of us will have but on the flip side, we’ve been lucky with some glorious spring sunshine, things are getting a little restless and hosting an important Zoom meeting in the midst of your flatmates or family members floating in and out is getting a little tedious. 

Originally, we posted this blog entry all about working from home tips but now it’s time for an update as we look more specifically at maintaining productivity while working within an otherwise unproductive environment. 



You look at your diary for the week and see you’ve got meetings, deadlines and a presentation scheduled. Oh and then there’s the overflowing inbox to get to. It’s tempting to simply take each day as it comes, see what you feel like doing that morning, keeping your plan in your mind but never going much further than that. Suddenly those deadlines have crept upon you, you’ve not done any preparation for the presentation and you’ve lost a whole day to clearing out your inbox and responding to new messages as they come in. 

You may think this approach is working for you but the second your productivity or focus starts to flag, that lack of planning will come back to haunt you. Without a plan, there’s more room for procrastination to worm its way in there and throw you off course. 

Instead, group your tasks into time slots such as two hours a day spent returning calls and emails but turning off notifications for the rest of the time or dedicating a particular day to creative work.

In your calendar, block out time specifically for each project so that you know what work is being done when and not only can you meet your deadlines in a more productive manner but by preparing your working day or week in advance you reduce decision fatigue and free up brain space to complete tasks of a much higher quality.



If you’re living with a spouse, family members of flatmates, make it clear to them that you are still on the clock while working from home. As our work/life balance has been combined and confined to existing under the same roof, the people around you may not understand that you need to stay focused on work for a fixed period of time each day. Communicating your boundaries with working hours from the start is key to creating a productive space as best you can while working from home. This is particularly important if you have scheduled calls and video meetings. Make sure those around you know not to disturb during this time. 

On the flip side, if you’re working from home alongside others in your home, communication plays a key role in establishing a WFH co-working etiquette. Get clear on expectations when taking or making calls, who will work from where and if you’ll take breaks together. 

At this point, while we have been working from home for a few weeks, it may be a good time to reflect and assess your work from home routines so far, switch things up that aren’t working while creating more of the habits that promote productivity for everyone.


Reality check

Firstly, be honest about what you’re putting off. Rare (but glorious) are the days that we make it through our entire to-do list but if you find there’s one particular task that never seems to make it to the completed stage, it might be time to rethink your approach. Is there a way that you can break it down to feel more manageable? Or bribe yourself with a reward? 

The other reality check to consider is that we all have a lot on our plates with worries and concerns to manage as we try to keep going through coronavirus and adapt to life in lockdown or self-isolation. With that in mind, you’re likely to struggle to work as efficiently or productively as your norm and that’s ok. Cut yourself some slack. Frustration is usually fast to follow an unproductive day which only depletes productivity even further so recognise priorities that may have shifted and remember that tomorrow is a new day.