Working from home means your professional and living spaces blend in. While this may bring comfort, it also means things have shifted entirely. Your commute time is cut to zero, the kitchen is now your break room, and office chatter is replaced by talking to your housemates (or pet).
Juggling through blurry boundaries is challenging. Here are 10 tips for a more productive remote work experience.
1. Discover Your Work Style
Before getting down to specific tips and strategies, you first want to discover your ideal work style. Whether you work remotely or on-site, you have your unique approach to problems, collaborative working, and prioritization.
If you’ve not consciously thought about these patterns, learning about them now will significantly improve your efficiency. Are you a long-term planner, or do you go with the flow? Do you brainstorm or prefer to build on ideas as you go? Are you a social butterfly or a solo flier?
What worked in the office may not work for you at home. Hence, compare your on-site and remote work tendencies to see how your preferences have shifted. For instance, you can decide which hours of remote work can facilitate a synchronized collaboration, or you can set that task aside for a day you’ll be in the office if you have a hybrid model.
2. Setting Up Your Home “Office”
You should designate a workspace to give yourself a mental note that you will only do work in that space. Just because you’re not in the company’s office doesn’t mean you can’t make your own.
A home “office” can be flexible and may even include that cursed desk collecting dust in your dark basement. Regardless of what the space is like, having a designated setting can allow for better focus. Whether it’s a small section on the kitchen table or a sofa, associating that space with work can help establish boundaries.
3. Establishing a System
Working from home means you are no longer sticking to your previous routine, and you are your own boss. Though this prospect means more liberty and flexibility, it requires more structure. In this case, you should still establish a schedule to give yourself a sense of normalcy and control. As everyone works differently, think about what systems can help you best.
Organizing your calendar to include all your meetings and appointments can help significantly. You can create a healthy mix of office tasks and household chores by blocking out time for focused work and including break-time activities like doing the dishes.
Having your day planned out is likely to boost productivity while reducing stress. You don’t have to plan for every minute, but a general idea can help you feel on top of things and ensure your availability for other commitments during the day.
4. Finding the Right Equipment
Speaking of systems, you want to figure out what tools facilitate you best. Whether it’s traditional to-do lists or project-tracking software, it’s best to lay out the resources you have and the purpose they’ll serve in keeping you on track.
Consider everything from online to offline and hardware to software. Some helpful tools include egg timers, office chat platforms, and project management software. Add furniture to the list, too. Do you have a comfortable chair that won’t break your back? Consider getting a standing desk to increase blood flow or cushions and back pads to relieve the strain of sitting all day.
5. Gearing Up for Work
For remote work, you need more than the essentials, like a laptop and IT equipment. To make your experience as comfortable as possible, consider improving other resources at your disposal. If your profession involves a lot of digital media and video calls, you should change your Wi-Fi or upgrade your plan to prevent lags.
Speaking of calls, maybe it’s time to get a nice set of noise-canceling cat-ear headphones with a decent mic. You can also consider a second monitor, an ergonomic keyboard, or accessories such as a mousepad.
6. Getting a Headstart
With many home-related concerns and tasks merging with your remote job, an air of uncertainty may arise. One way to control your day is by fixing a wake-up time. Clearly marking when a workday starts can help you adjust your headspace accordingly.
Just because you’re no longer in an office or on-site workspace, don’t forego your morning rituals of getting ready, having a hearty breakfast, working out, or just having some time to yourself. This routine of getting fresh and ready can set you up for the day ahead, putting your head in the work zone.
7. Create a Focused Environment
To ensure you draw a clear line between work and personal life, you have to do more than designate an office space. Besides physical boundaries, emotional and mental ones are also necessary. If possible, hire a sitter for the kids just as you would working outside the home.
It’s helpful to schedule uninterrupted focus time. You may want to communicate with others in your living space to let them know when you need focus time and when you can be available.
Your home office should be clean with minimal distractions. The clutter has to go. In addition to visual distraction, you also want to cut down on the noise. Put your devices on mute to avoid interruptions, and communicate this to your team if they reach out.
As remote work is more susceptible to lack of engagement, you can compensate for that by communicating more than ever. To establish trust and connection, you want to communicate with your team, share your workflow, break timings and targets to keep everyone in the loop.
This doesn’t mean you have to talk all day. However, you can set a regular time for check-ins or schedule calls to discuss matters. For calls, you want your cameras on for maximum interactivity.
9. Going Offline
While working from home promises excellent convenience and connectivity, it’s crucial to establish boundaries. Sure, you will get contacted or assigned new work after your designated office hours, but you are not obligated to get back to them until the next day.
Don’t put in extra hours because you couldn’t complete a task during your “work day.” Fixing a work time slot instead of doing tasks throughout the day is necessary for the work-life balance. You need downtime to stay productive in the long run, so don’t hesitate to hit the log-off button after 5 p.m.
10. Self-Care Comes First
There is a severe error in how we frame productivity; we often define it by the number of tasks done in a day rather than the quality of work. When things are unfinished, you don’t have to feel guilty for not being “productive” enough. You’re entitled to your downtime and breaks.
Without taking of yourself, it won’t be long before you burn out and stop performing altogether. So, remember to take a break, move around, exercise, and be mindful. While at it, stroll outside and touch grass to stay grounded.