Remote working is slowly becoming the new normal, but for many of us adjusting to this type of arrangement has not been easy. Every person faces the difficult task of figuring out where to work and how to do so in order to maximise their performance, but also to maintain a work life balance by knowing when to disconnect. If you’re wondering how to overcome challenges associated with working outside of the office, such as feeling distracted, unmotivated and out of the loop with colleagues, try out our top 10 tips below which may be the advice you need to remain productive and active from the comfort of your own home.
1. Maintain Your Regular Hours
One of the biggest problems with transitioning to working from home is knowing when to disconnect. While working remotely offers employees a lot of added flexibility, many are struggling to preserve healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives, since both of these are taking place in the same physical space. Working from home may mean you’re more productive, but it should not result in increased working hours. You must strive to disconnect on time for the sake of your mental health and to avoid burnout, and you should resist the urge to fill every spare minute at home with work just because it’s convenient. Set yourself realistic goals every day, prioritize, and learn to accept that regardless of how efficiently you organise your time, sometimes you simply won’t complete everything you set out to do the night before. Remember that working incredibly long hours over an extended period of time will serve to do more damage than good to both you and your organisation in the long-run due to the increased risk of mental and physical health problems. To deliver consistently high results, you must ensure you’re taking care of your well-being first by getting enough rest from work.
2. Have a Dedicated Office Space
Although it may be tempting to work on the sofa or in your bed, doing so is not recommended. It’s important for your brain to associate certain activities with a certain space. Your couch and bed should be associated only with rest and relaxation, whereas sitting by a desk, that is your designated work station, will ensure your brain associates that area with work. This will help prevent restlessness as you try to fall asleep at night, and may also ensure you don’t fall asleep at your desk! If you don’t have access to a desk, using a dining table will do. Ensure your work station is distraction free and sit close to a window if possible so you don’t miss out on any sunshine and get some fresh air when needed! Sitting at a desk will not only help you feel like you’re in an office, but will also support good posture and therefore help prevent back problems.
3. Prepare Yourself for Work
The importance of having a morning routine should not be underestimated when it comes to working from home. This could involve something as simple as getting up at the same hour every workday, taking a shower, dressing in work clothes and having breakfast. Carrying out these same actions every morning will set you up for success throughout the day and the routine will ensure your brain enters into work mode. It may seem rational to stop preparing for work in the mornings since there is no pressure to be presentable, but beginning your morning organised will help you stay focused and feel professional throughout the work day. As the saying goes – a good start is half the work!
4. Structure your Day
So you’ve set yourself appropriate working hours, a great desk, and carried through with your morning routine…you’re feeling great, but how can you keep this momentum going? Ensure that you have a structured work day based on the objectives you’ve set out to achieve. Have your planner nearby and begin tackling the goals you’ve set yourself today, and crossing them out as you go. It is the best way to ensure you are productive and not simply doing tasks on autopilot that have little real impact. It’s easy to get caught up in the little tasks and lose track of your priorities without a plan in place.
Furthermore, working from home will likely involve a lot of distractions throughout the day, whether that’s because you have kids or pets or roommates who work at a completely different schedule to you. Your work will be disrupted at some point; it’s good to accept that and make room for the unexpected in your schedule, but structuring your day around your goals will ensure you get right back on track as quickly as possible.
5. Schedule Breaks
Make sure you incorporate timed breaks within the structure of your day. While working at a desk has many benefits, avoid sitting there for extensive periods of time. It’s important to move around, get some fresh air, have a snack to boost your energy. You should disconnect not only at the end of the day, but also at timed periods throughout the work day to allow your mind and eyes to rest, and to stretch your legs. If you’re someone who frequently forgets to take breaks, consider setting a reminder on your phone.
6. Create Background Noise
While working in a quiet space may be perfect for some, for others the extended silence may feel a little strange, and may even be distracting. If you were used to working in an office setting, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of your colleagues, feeling uncomfortable working in silence is not that odd at all, when you think about it. A good way to create the illusion of such noise at home is by turning on the TV at a low volume. Simply put on a show in which people are engaging in casual conversation and let it play in the background. Alternatively, you can find many ambient sound tracks on Spotify and YouTube that can help you avoid the silence. If you’re someone who does productive work in a coffee shop, for example, playing some coffee shop ambience sounds can help to create a similar atmosphere at home. While this may seem like a strange way to work, if you find yourself unmotivated and sleepy during the day, this may be a great trick to create a more pleasant and vibrant work environment. Give it a try!
7. Plan for Tomorrow
At the end of each day, leave yourself some time to plan for tomorrow. You’re in the best position to plan for the next day at the end of the current one as you know exactly where you left off. It will ensure you begin the following day organised and that no time is wasted trying to figure out where to start. It will also give you an opportunity to reflect on your productivity during so far and see how you can tweak your plan to improve it for tomorrow. This will help you gradually work out a system of managing your time that works best for you.
8. Over communicate
One of the major disadvantages of working remotely is that communication is more difficult and may require a lot more back-and-forth to get a message across than would be required in the office setting. For this reason, you should make an effort to communicate more than may seem necessary to you. For example, make more frequent use of the “cc” function in emails, which implies “I want you to see this, but there is no obligation to reply” and ensures that the relevant people are up to date about what you’re doing and that no time is wasted doing tasks others are working on. Make sure to reply to your colleagues acknowledging receipt of their emails, call to check and double check important details, pay extra careful attention in meetings and take advantage of every opportunity to ask important questions – try to leave as little room for misunderstanding as possible. Overcommunication is key to successful collaboration with your colleagues when working remotely.
9. Socialise with Your Colleagues
The lack of social interaction is a particularly difficult part of the adjustment to remote working. Formal meetings may be the place to catch up professionally, but it’s also important to retain strong ties with your colleagues on a more personal level, whether that be through technology or in person, to the extent that it is safe and permitted to do so. A good method of keeping up to date with your colleagues is by having a group chat and participating in it by sharing appropriate pictures and videos and relevant news from your life. Schedule Facetime sessions with colleagues as a group or on a one-to-one basis. This is particularly important for new employees who really may have no other way of getting to know their colleagues. We realise that for many, meeting their employees virtually may feel a little awkward, but as remote work is slowly becoming the norm, it may be time to start embracing such arrangements to ensure that you create and retain close bonds with your colleagues.
10. Spend Time Outdoors
Finally, remember to go outside for some fresh air on a daily basis, whether that involves taking your dog for a walk at the end of the day or going for a run during your scheduled break. Something as simple as a short 20-minute stroll will refresh your mind, stretch your legs, provide some exercise and may even help you sleep better. Summer is slowly coming to an end, so to the extent that it’s allowed and safe to do so, don’t miss out on the warmer weather. Not only will spending some time outdoors help your overall fitness and wellbeing, but you may also notice a boost in productivity and creativity!
We hope the above tips will help you overcome some of the challenges you may be facing as you work remotely. Understandably, you may be keen to return to the office – at least for a couple of days per week – but we hope, nevertheless, that you can embrace the many benefits of working from a home and figure out a routine that suits you best during this unprecedented time. Wishing you every success!