The personal benefits of remote work are far-reaching, but there is one question that should be addressed — how does one stay productive while working from home?
Working from home is a dream for many who are caught up in the standard nine-to-five routine — and it’s entirely understandable as to why. Instead of being pressed for time when you wake up, you can spend your mornings at a leisurely pace, sipping your coffee slowly.
Rather than adhering to a strict schedule, you can set your own flexible hours, molding your life around your work instead of the other way around. Getting projects done while lying in bed? Sure — if your vocation is remote, you could work from your bathroom if you wanted to.
The personal benefits of remote work are far-reaching, but there is one main question that should be addressed — how does one stay productive while working from home?
You have to set your own “Working From Home Rules”. With so much freedom it’s easy to become distracted, idle, and unmotivated, but there are several ways to circumvent this detriment.
Don’t fall behind! If you work from home already, or are about to delve into this new lifestyle, follow these tips in order to successfully work from home.
How To Survive Working From Home?
If you're asking yourself that you may be one of the thousands of workers who were recently told they'd be working from home indefinitely due to the Coronavirus that halted our every day routines in 2020. While it's true that Work From Home (WFH) life is a dream for many of us - that's not necessarily the case for everyone. Some of us thrive on human interaction, in-person discussion, and collaboration.
At the time of this update things may be starting to get back to some sort of 'normalcy' but many major companies were able to see that WFH actually meant that business could go on and office overhead can be greatly reduced or removed altogether.
So WFH is here to stay and will likely be in your future if it's not already. It'll take some time to transition to and will be tough for some of us, but we're hoping that the following Work from Home Tips help you make the best of these new norms we're facing.
Work From Home Schedules and Routines
Even though remote work breaks the chains of a strict corporate schedule, it’s still important to create a personal agenda. Productivity is reliant on time, so it is crucial to allocate the hours of your day, and break down your weeks in accordance to your workload. Lack of a schedule can rob you of valuable time, and can prove to be disastrous not only to your work, but to your personal life as well. This will require a large amount of self-discipline, but it is a necessity for success.
Healthy Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep routine is key for keeping your mind sharp and focused. This can be difficult when you work from home considering how easy it is to hit the snooze button in the morning, or stay up late during weekdays, but if you aren’t getting proper sleep, it can greatly affect your mental performance.
Learn what kind of sleep schedule works best for you and stick with it.
Many studies have shown that sleep hygiene has a direct correlation with one’s vocational success. Sleep deficits can cost you time, money, and energy — three of the most important variables for successful remote work.
Don't forget that the "blue light" from all the screens on the myriad of devices our eyes are glued to confuses our bodies when it comes time to sleep. As this article explains, being on devices right before bed "damages our body's biological clock". If you must be on your phone or laptop right before bed, be sure to use apps like F.lux or your device's settings that bring down the brightness and minimizes the blue light.
Finding yourself crashing mid day? Don't just reach for the caffeine, but drink that coffee or tea and then head to bed for a quick "coffee nap". Never heard of that? Watch this video below:
Work From Home Routine
And it’s not just sleep – it’s highly recommended that you work on developing a full daily routine. It may be waking up and starting with meditation, yoga or both. Followed by a walk with your dog or a good thirty minute workout at the gym.
Some people like to use their early morning hours to write or to read as well.
Scientists say that on average you need to give your routine a good twenty one days or so before it becomes a habit.
Figure it out and stick to it for three weeks – see how you feel. Make tweaks as needed.
Even if your workload varies throughout the week, it’s crucial to develop a schedule for your work as well. Poor time management is one of the easiest ways to fall behind on your projects, and if you do not have an established agenda, you might find yourself drowning under your own procrastination.
Since you have the freedom to choose when to work, it’s easy to say “I’ll just do it later.” Don’t fall victim to that trap. Break down your workload, understand how many hours per day you need to dedicate to your projects, and create your schedule accordingly.
Stay Organized While Working Remote
If you have papers strewn about your living room and can’t seem to find that flash drive with your company’s project on it, it’s going to be difficult to stay productive while working from home.
One of the key facets of success in regards to remote work pertains to organization — without it, chaos is imminent. But how does one stay organized outside of a conventional office?
How do you develop a streamlined, structured environment from home? There are a few simple steps you can take in order to make your remote vocation optimized for organization.
The Right Work Space
The first step that any remote worker should take is creating a dedicated work space.
A home office should act as your primary work location, and all of your papers, files, equipment, and materials should be kept here.
That manila folder you left on your counter? Stick it in your home office. Everything work-related should be confined to a single space in order to minimize clutter, and the next time you ask yourself where something is, the answer should immediately be “in the home office!".
Don’t ignore the materials that are designed to make your life easier.
Purchasing organizational tools such as file cabinets and folders is a necessity if your work involves physical documents and papers. Create different sections for the projects you are working on, and categorize each facet of your work.
Label everything. This idea is also applicable to the documents that are stored on your computer. Ease of access is crucial for saving time, and if you are finding yourself digging through papers and computer files, you are the antithesis of productive.
Any superfluous or unneeded item you have in your office or computer is a barrier for productivity. For example, if you have an E-mail inbox that is overfilled with old messages and junk mail, finding the emails you need will take much longer.
Examples like this may only equate to a few wasted minutes, but on a day-to-day basis, that time accumulates very quickly. It is also important to declutter your workspace regularly — this isn’t a “one and done” concept. If you don’t keep up, disorganization can easily creep up behind you and wreak havoc. Tame the beast before it tames you!
Staying Effective & Productive
From business professionals to students — everyone is prone to distraction. Diversions and inadvertent interruptions are capable of destroying work flow, and impairing one’s productivity.
Working from home is a double-edged sword in this regard. You might avoid being bothered by pestering coworkers, but there are a plethora of other distractions that manifest in a home environment that do not exist elsewhere.
It's almost impossible to completely remove distractions while working remotely, but there are several methods you can use to reduce them and maintain a consistent level of focus.
Preemptive preparation is a perfect way to keep those small, unwanted distractions at bay. Ensure that you have all of the materials you need at your desk, keep a drink handy to avoid those intermittent water breaks, and ensure that your workspace is comfortable. When you find yourself preparing for work while working, you are only inviting procrastination to your front door.
Your smartphone is undoubtedly a useful tool, but it can also be a sinister distraction. Continuously checking for messages, experiencing noisy notifications, and answering phone calls are the easiest ways to break your attention, and minimize your productivity. If your phone is a major source of distraction for you, consider keeping it in another room, or shutting it off entirely during your working hours.
Consider the Pomodoro Technique.
As Ignore Limits explains, a pen, paper and timer is all you need. Work in very focused intervals or bursts, giving yourself a break in between each one. Set your timer to something like twenty or thirty minutes.
Keep yourself extremely "in the zone" during this time, and then get up to take a mental break for a few minutes after the timer goes off.
Turn on a white noise or ambient music app, or consider creating work playlists on Spotify.
Better yet use your playlists as a form of the Pomodora Technique. Tell yourself that you have to stay ultra focused on the task(s) at hand, and can't stop working while the playlist is on. Once it's over then give yourself a break.
Try not to do chores while simultaneously working. If you wish to bolster your productivity, it's important to keep your home tasks and work tasks separate. Multitasking may seem convenient — taking a few minutes to wash the dishes or load up the dryer — but when you shift your focus to a different task in the middle of your work, you immediately break your workflow.
Make Clear Goals
Don't just block out your calendar with something like, "customer emails", instead your task list should include the exact customers who need to be responded to. Mark them off one by one as you respond.
Along those same lines, don't just put "social media marketing" down on your list for the day, instead, have an itemized list of each channel and how many new accounts that you want to reach out to and interact with today.
Be as specific as you can - vagueness allows procrastination to creep in!
Consider tackling your largest or most important task of the day, head on, first thing in the morning when many of us are most motivated and driven. Do your worst task first and the rest of your day should look pretty good!
Tools For Remote Workers
Apps and software have made productivity easier than ever. Whether you're working remotely for a company, or if you own a sole proprietorship, utilizing these tools will be able to streamline your work day, and squeeze efficiency out of every hour of your week.
- Connectivity: If you work remotely chances are you need to stay in touch with several coworkers and clients—and sometimes phone calls and e-mail don’t quite cut it. Platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts provide conference calling on an international basis. If you need a means of contact for your customer base, it may be beneficial to use a paid service such as Groove.
- Collaboration: Working as a team can be difficult when each member is not physically in the office, but it's still possible to be highly productive. Collaborative platforms like Slack, Google Docs and Trello are essential for completing joint-effort projects. There are also team scheduling services such as Teamweek that are beneficial for dividing up tasks between multiple people, and ensuring that every day is being utilized to its fullest.
- List and Schedule Apps: As previously mentioned, your smartphone can be an integral tool for remote work. Seeing as lists are essential for prioritizing and completing tasks, using a simple list app on your phone can prove to be both efficient and valuable. The standard note apps on most phones are usually adequate, but you may want to find an alternative such as Minimalist, Todoist, Google Keep or Asana. If you prefer to have a digital schedule, rather than written, apps such as Google Calendar, Informant 5, and Wave might pique your interest. You can also try something like Bullet Journaling as seen in this video below:
Additional Working From Home Advice
The aforementioned tips are a solid foundation for working productively from home, but of course, there are several other actions you can implement on top of them (if you want to become a productivity master, of course).
- Dress For Success: If you stay in your sweatpants and Seahawks sweater all day, you might be impacting your own performance. It has been found that dressing professionally allows individuals to feel more competent, authoritative, and confident. Showering in the morning, and choosing a business-casual outfit will allow you to feel prepped and ready to start your workday.
- Change Your Scenery: When working remotely it’s easy to fall victim to working in the same place every day. If you’re getting tired of the repetitious atmosphere, consider switching up your scenery every once in a while.
Monotony can be disastrous for productivity, so be sure to keep things new and fresh on occasion. Some people simply cannot work efficiently from their home due to other distractions such as kids, housework, and the sheer temptation of plopping on the couch and binge watching Netflix.
If you find that this is the case for you, it might be in your best interest to work elsewhere. Your local library or a quiet coffee shop are perfect options for working remote outside of your home. Give yourself time to learn about and explore your city to find places where you can work from. Odds are you will reach that point where you say, "I just can't work inside today!". If you do your research, you might also be able to find private office spaces for rent in your area too.
- Your lighting is more important than you might realize. On video calls a lot? Shed some light onto your face with these desktop lights for Zoom calls.
- Check Your Posture: Most remote work is going to involve a lot of sitting. Because of this, it's crucial to make sure your posture is optimal throughout the day. A hunched back can cause pain and discomfort, as can a craned neck. Working while sore is never ideal, and poor posture is not only bad for your productivity—it’s bad for your health as well.
Be aware of how you sit, for how long, and the comfort level of your chair. Regular exercise breaks throughout the day are also beneficial in this regard.
Sit up nice and straight like this guy below ;)