Tips for Working Remotely: 5 Ways to Maximize Productivity
Looking maximize your productivity while working remotely? It’s not always easy. And even the most seasoned work-from-home employees can sometimes struggle.
But luckily, we asked the Career Coaches at FlexJobs for some of their best tips for working remotely and boosting productivity. So whether you’re new to working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, or just need a refresher, we put their advice (and more) into a handy list.
10 Tips for Working Remotely
Remote Work Tip No. 1: Create a Workspace
Rather than take the idea of “work from anywhere” to the extreme, put some thought (and perhaps a bit of investment) into where you’ll be spending your time.
- Dedicate a space as your home office. A central location puts work-related material at the ready and keeps things from getting lost around the house—saving valuable time and sanity. The area needn’t be fancy, but it should allow sufficient room to perform tasks.
- Pay attention to noise levels. Quiet areas promote concentration and convey professionalism when conversing via phone or video chat. When setting up your home office, locate it as far away as possible from common sources of noise, such as the television and the furnace. An office door that closes and a good pair of noise-canceling headphones also work wonders.
- Watch the temptation to “make do,” which could ultimately impact your ability to perform. Pulling a dining room chair over to the computer might seem like a cost-effective idea, but purchasing an ergonomic one that keeps your back from aching might prove a preferable route. Better lighting, a faster Internet connection, and a personal space heater or fan are other potentially wise investments.
Remote Work Tip No. 2: Reduce Distractions
From your comfy couch and a nostalgic Fuller House binge-watching session, to playing with your pet pug, there can be endless distractions when you work from home.
- Explain to everyone in the household the importance of respecting a closed office door.
- Get rid of temptations. Close computer tabs not in use. Consider web browser plug-ins that block specific sites such as social media platforms during the time you’re working. Refrain from turning on the TV “just for a minute,” and definitely don’t install one near your work area.
- Keep a pad of paper next to the computer to jot down extraneous thoughts and eliminate the fear that you’ll forget something if you don’t act upon it right now.
Remote Work Tip No. 3: Develop a Routine
Being productive during your workday takes some planning, and a lack of structure can lead to feeling aimless, overwhelmed, or on-call 24/7.
- Come up with a ritual to mark the start and the end of your workday. Such actions trigger your mind to get into the proper frame. Signal “work mode” by enjoying a cup of hot tea in the morning while looking over your daily schedule. Clearly say to your brain, “I’m done for today” by changing your clothes at day’s end like a commuter arriving home.
- Get in the habit of creating tomorrow’s to-do list before calling it a day, while information is still fresh in your mind. Then, you can jump right into things upon your return instead of trying to remember where you left off.
Remote Work Tip No. 4: Utilize Tools
- Use one central calendar for both professional and personal obligations, perhaps color-coded, to promote readability. Errors will be less likely to occur, such as scheduling a client meeting for the same time as your kid’s soccer game.
- Look into apps that meet specific needs. Get too caught up in tasks to take breaks? Try a fitness app that reminds you to stretch regularly. Need some extra motivation? Consider a productivity challenge app where you can gain or lose achievements based on your work habits.
- Use time blocking to challenge yourself to get more done. People sometimes find that working in 15, 20, or 25-minute chunks of time helps them stay focused and productive and ultimately get more done. Use the timer function on your phone or an old-fashioned kitchen timer to limit yourself to a time block under 30 minutes. Have a specific task you want to complete in that time and challenge yourself to see how much you can complete before the timer goes off.
Remote Work Tip No. 5: Plan Interaction
Remember that remote work is not synonymous with becoming a hermit. Socializing is vital to your mental health and your career.
- Find ways to stay in touch with colleagues. “Arrive” to conference calls early just to shoot the breeze. Become a regular on company chat platforms.
- Investigate alternate places to work on days when your home office seems lonely. The coronavirus pandemic has put a hold on visiting coworking spaces, coffee shops, and libraries, but if you’re still working remotely once these times pass, these are options to consider.
- Maintain a satisfying social life outside of work. Schedule virtual happy hours with your friends and family, or (socially distant) get togethers.
Remote Work Tip No. 6: Get Your Family on Board
You might not think that getting your family to agree to the idea of you working from home is a big deal, but it is. After all, if your family is used to you working outside of the home and you’re suddenly around all day every day, requests may come flooding in to handle more chores around the house. It’s up to you to ensure that everyone learns to respect your schedule by you respecting it first.
- Manage expectations. When you work at home, have a chat about what you can realistically manage. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re not working. Your job matters, so brainstorm solutions to help share the work.
- If you have kids, explain your situation to them. Kids aren’t always the best “co-workers.” They don’t understand that when you’re on the phone, you can’t help them tie their shoe and that when the door is closed, you can’t play games. Talk to your kids about what working at home means, but stay flexible, too.
Remote Work tip No. 7: Start Big and Work Your Way Down
No one likes to feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to accomplish all that you’d like to. So, start big and work your way down.
- A quote wrongly attributed to Mark Twain goes like this: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Simply put, if you have several tasks to do, tackle the biggest or hardest one first. There’s even a productivity book called “Eat that Frog!”
- Remember the “Compound Effect.” This theory says that to accomplish anything major, break it into smaller pieces that we accomplish day-after-day. That consistent, small effort adds up over time to a big result. “The steps, in the moment, don’t seem significant, but the results are massive.” Check out the book by Darren Hardy and this YouTube video.
Remote Work tip No. 8: Don’t Forget to Take a Break
Because we work from home, it can be easy to jump straight from work into home activities or vice versa.
- Leave time for white space during your day. If you’re feeling overloaded, tired, stressed, or exhausted in one situation, don’t jump right into the next. Take five minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply (outside if you can!). Call it meditation or just taking a break, this sort of white space between work and home can help us reduce stress and feel less crazed.
- Use your open tabs for a moment of zen. Do you have dozens of tabs open during the workday? Use one of your open tabs for a meditation reminder: always have it open to a Google Image search of something peaceful and serene. Try sunny beaches, snowy mountains, puppies, organized closets, whatever floats your boat!
- Rest your eyes. We work on computer screens a lot! And that puts us all at risk for developing Computer Vision Syndrome, which includes eye discomfort, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. The American Optometric Association recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20-second to look at something (not a screen) 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Bonus points if you get out of your chair and stretch!
Remote Work Tip No. 9: Don’t Be Afraid to Disconnect
Even when we work from home, we find ourselves distracted by the outside world. Don’t be afraid to disconnect when you need to focus and produce.
- Turn email off when you need to do “deep work.” Seeing your unread email counter tick up, up, up as you work on an important project is a huge distraction and keeps you from deeply focusing. Closing your email program for even 30 or 60 minutes can help you truly focus on the work at hand and ultimately get more done in less time.
- Don’t check email first thing in the morning. This may not be an option for everyone, but if you can, try not to check your email as your first work task of the day. Instead, tackle one thing on your to-do list first, and then check emails. Checking emails first often throws us off track as we start responding to other people’s needs before our own. Put your own work priorities first by completing one important task before diving into the email rabbit hole.
Remote Work Tip No. 10: Not Every Day Needs to Be Perfect
We’re only human, and some days, being human means not getting it all done.
- Having an off day? It’s normal. Remote work is typically a highly productive way to work, and that’s why it may feel even worse to have a day where your productivity isn’t at its maximum. Some days, we’re going to make mistakes, feel unfocused, and be off our game. The occasional off day isn’t uncommon, so long as it doesn’t become a trend.
Do Your Best Work
Whether you’re new to working remotely or you’ve been doing it for years, these work-from-home tips can help anyone maximize their workday when they work-at-home, or anywhere.
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Jennfier Parris and Rachel Pelta contributed to this article
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on June 23, 2019.
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Beth Braccio Hering, Writer
Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and…Read More >
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