Remote work is a new experience for many professionals today, and like all things, it isn’t without its challenges. While you can save significant time and money working from home, you can also become your own worst enemy when it comes to productivity.
We’re not judging you for being in your pajamas right this moment or Ubering Starbucks for lunch five days in a row. We’re here to throw a lifeline to anyone struggling to stay focused despite working on their comfy couch ten feet from the kitchen.
Below is a list of tips to help you establish a better workspace, schedule, relationships, and personal health overall for increased productivity.
There’s an obvious difference between your home office and office office that you just can’t get around. However, what you can do as a telecommuter is create a workspace that reduces distractions, so you can get work done on time. Learning how to work from home starts with your workspace.
Designate a workspace
Whether it’s a specific seat at your dining table or a guest-room-turned-office, make sure you establish a spot for just work. Creating clear boundaries between your workspace and living space has huge psychological effects on how you focus and are able to separate work from play.
Invest in a good chair
Ergonomics makes a world of difference when it comes to productivity. Working anywhere from 40 to 60 hour weeks from the same spot, you’ll need a good chair with sufficient lumbar (back) support and comfort to avoid slouching, getting tired, or taking too many breaks.
Play background noise
If you’re used to office office environments, you’re probably used to – or in need of – background chatter to get into work mode. To replicate that at home, consider playing background music or having a noise machine on during work hours.
Upgrade your internet
When you first started working from home, did your internet suddenly seem slower? If so, that’s because the speeds you originally signed up for were meant to support Netflix nights but may not be up to task for remote work. Make sure you have enough bandwidth to support video conferences, file sharing, and browser use, so your productivity isn’t slowed down, too. To view faster internet options near you, enter your zip code below.
It’s easier to follow a work schedule at the office office where surrounding peers can keep you accountable. It’s an entirely different story when you work at home alone, TV remote within reach. As a telecommuter, you have to be your own boss when it comes to your work schedule.
Stick to a schedule
First thing’s first: you need to create a schedule and stick to it. While this doesn’t have to mirror your in-office routine, it does need to include your daily responsibilities and provide clear separation between work-hours and off-hours. Try to pick a definitive start and finish time and adamantly follow it. This way, you maintain a healthy work-life balance and set your mind to complete tasks on time.
Schedule solo time between meetings
In the “meetings are life” era we live in, don’t assume you will have time between calls to get your work done. More times than not, meetings run over, new tasks pop up, and before you know it, it’s five o’clock somewhere and you’re still at your desk. Be sure to schedule time for solo work on your calendar, so both you and your coworkers know that time slot is dedicated to your productivity.
Save meetings and calls for the afternoon
This isn’t so much a rule as it is a suggestion. Regardless of if you’re a morning person, other coworkers of yours may not be. It’s typically better to save meetings and calls for the afternoon to give you and others time to wake up in the morning, answer emails, and work on to-do lists before anything new is added to your plate. This can help entire teams stay productive and on top of their work.
Create a to-do list at the end of each day
This ties into tip #3 above. We’re all guilty of struggling to keep track of tasks, determined to memorize everything rather than put it down on paper. The problem with this method is it’s unreliable. People easily forget things that aren’t right in front of them, and business naturally carries on regardless of if we do. We recommend writing a to-do list at the end of each day, so you can refocus your priorities and hit the ground running each morning.
Never take your work relationships for granted. Whether acquaintances or best friends, the support system you develop at work can help you grow in your position, act as an outlet for stress, and keep you accountable. Try your best to prioritize creating and maintaining strong work relationships while working from home to stay engaged and on your toes.
Proactively reach out to coworkers, leaders, and clients
Relationships are a two-way street. And while we all enjoy getting messages from coworkers, we shouldn’t rely on others to reach out first every time. Try proactively reaching out to those you work with, be them coworkers, leaders, or clients. Not only will people notice that you take initiative, but it will help build rapport and improve collaboration on projects and overall productivity.
Never. Stop. Communicating. Better yet – overcommunicate! Remote work can be very isolating if you don’t continue to nurture and grow your work relationships. Things like updating your slack status daily, sending “Good Morning!” pings to your team, or checking in on teammates throughout the week goes a long way. It keeps everyone connected and on top of their work.
Follow up after meetings
Whether you send summary notes after a meeting or just want to catch up with a coworker individually, following up with people after a meeting builds that rapport we all long for and need for overall performance and comradery. After your next meeting, try following up with the entire team via slack with a thank you, summary report, or any last-minute questions you think of to start making it a habit.
Slide into DMs to maintain rapport
Similar to overcommunicating, we recommend sliding into coworkers’ direct messages (DMs) throughout the day. On a professional level and on a personal level. People are most productive when they have a friend to relate with and vent if needed. Take some time to maintain that rapport with a casual conversation like you would in the office office.
If there’s one thing to remember from school, it’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This chart lays out what basic needs must be met before we can reach “self-actualization,” or our best selves. The most fundamental needs are physiological (food and sleep) and safety (shelter). Only after those needs are met can we start performing well. So, personal health at its very core is crucial to our productivity.
Get dressed to impress (yourself)
When you work from home, we know how tempting it is to roll out of bed in your pajamas and….stay in your pajamas the rest of the day. Though, much like defining your workspace, getting dressed for the day has a lot more to do with your mental health and focus than you might think. Treat your home office like your office office, and dress to impress. It’ll make video meetings much more enjoyable, too.
Give yourself regular breaks
No one can go, go, go for nine hours a day and maintain a high productivity level. You need regular breaks to rest and continue on with your work. Breaks can be small walks around your neighborhood, grabbing a snack, or squeezing in a workout. Schedule time on your work calendar for 3-5 mini-breaks to recharge.
Meal prep lunches for the week
While it’s nice to be able to cook a warm meal for lunch now that you’re remote, try not to make it a habit. It’s important to take lunch breaks and give your body the fuel it needs, but it’s also important to stick to your work schedule to maximize your productivity. Consider meal prepping for the week or packing your lunch the night before to save time and energy for your daily tasks at hand.
Regardless of whether you work remote or in-office, it’s important you prioritize your overall health and work-life balance. That involves setting aside time for a little self-care. Be it golfing on the weekend, enjoying a face mask, or working out daily, we all need some “me time.”
Making It a Habit
Keeping these tips in mind, start your next work week off by implementing 2-4 of them into your routine. You’ll likely see yourself more engaged, reliable, and most importantly productive as you work confidently from home. If you still feel less productive at home after implementing these, consider upgrading your internet. You’d be surprised how quickly your online experience can improve.