Over the course of 2020, an unprecedented 88% of global businesses required or requested employees to work from home. Even with new precautions in place to ensure worker safety, many businesses have expressed an interest in moving to a permanent work from home system. For many employees accustomed to the structure that working in the office provides, the switch has been jarring. If you’ve been struggling to adjust to the remote work life, read on to learn eight ways to make working from home more productive and enjoyable.
1. Designate a Workspace
When you first start working remotely, it’s natural to think of your whole home as the office. Couch, bed, computer desk – it makes no difference, right? As a matter of fact, it does. You may enjoy working in a relaxing setting, but it could negatively affect both your work and home life.
We tend to associate rooms in our home with certain activities. For instance, the dining room is for eating and the bedroom is for sleeping. When we add new activities to the mix, it can wreak havoc on our subconscious. Working on your laptop while lying in bed may seem harmless enough, but according to a Harvard study, over time, your brain will come to associate being in bed with office work. As a result, bedtime could bring with it all the stresses of the workday.
It’s important to designate space in your home as a strictly work zone. Since we don’t all have spare rooms to work in, this could be something as simple as a small table setup in the corner of your living room. What matters is that when you are in this space, you are working. Maintaining this strict boundary will make it easier to stay focused during the day and to mentally detach from work when you’ve finished.
2. Keep a Regular Schedule
One of the biggest benefits of working remotely is also the most difficult hurdle to overcome. In theory, working on a flexible schedule allows you to get enough sleep, work during your most productive hours, and maintain a proper work-life balance. In practice however, an overly lax schedule makes it difficult to make meaningful progress.
Even if there’s no one around to notice you’re not at your desk at 9 AM, maintaining a regular schedule is essential for productivity. Without the structure that a fixed schedule provides, it becomes too easy to put off tasks for later. That’s not to say that your schedule must align with the traditional 9-5. Find the hours during which you work best, and stick with it consistently. In time, you’ll find it easier to mentally shift into and out of work mode at the appropriate times.
3. Create a To-Do List
With little to no oversight, employees who are working from home are often trusted to self-manage. While this affords a greater sense of control over one’s work, it also makes it easier to get lost and overwhelmed amid their tasks. To counter this, try writing a daily to-do list. By listing the work that needs to be accomplished that day in order of priority, it not only enhances focus, but increases motivation as well. To keep on top of your list no matter where you choose to work, make use of a to-do list app that syncs between your computer and phone.
4. Dress Like You’re Headed to the Office
We’ve all heard the expression, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. When it comes to working from home, we should at least strive for the latter. Sweatpants are great for napping and all-day movie marathons, but not for instilling motivation within you.
Even if you don’t intend to leave the house that day, dress as though you’ll be in the office later. In addition to sparing you the embarrassment of an unexpected Zoom call, dressing in work-appropriate clothes has a positive effect on your mentality. As mentioned in the first tip above, our subconscious is easily manipulated.
By dressing in loungewear every day, your mind is lulled into the sense of extended vacation, hampering your productivity. Conversely, dressing in clothes you’d normally wear to the office can signal to your brain that it’s time to do work. All that’s not to say you need to don a suit everyday, but “comfortably professional” is a good point to aim for.
5. Remove Distractions
These days, an endless rabbit hole of distractions is just a click away. Be it newsfeeds or social media, it’s all too easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of content at our fingertips. Without the prying eyes of coworkers around, it becomes even easier to give in to these temptations. When it comes time for work, it’s essential to separate yourself from these distractions entirely.
Even during normal working conditions, the average person spends 144 minutes a day checking social media. Drop that same person in the comfort of their own home, and that number undoubtedly increases. Rather than relying on willpower alone, website blocking apps can help you to stay diligent during work hours across all of your devices. Add your most-visited time killer websites, set a timer that coincides with your work schedule, and the app will remove the distractions for you by blocking access to the site.
6. Reward Yourself
When working from home, managing your time without oversight can be a challenge. While some struggle to get motivated, others find that they are unable to disconnect from their work. Going above and beyond in your role is admirable, but you also run the risk of getting burnt out. To avoid mental fatigue, it’s important to take regular breaks throughout the day.
In general, people can work anywhere from 60-90 minutes on a task before they start to lose focus. After that, the quality of work begins to diminish. To counter this, schedule a 10-15 minute break for every hour of work you do. During this time, take a walk, watch TV, or do whatever else makes you happy. To help stick to a break schedule, make use of the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for one hour, and while it is running, commit to doing nothing but work. When the timer goes off, step away from your work and do something just for you. Lather, rinse, repeat.
7. Take Days Off When You Need Them
It’s easy to slip into the mentality of, “I’m working from home, so I have no excuses not to be doing work”. However, just as if you were in the office, the occasional day off is not only justified, but necessary. When you’re feeling sick or mentally unwell, don’t hesitate to ask for the day off. If what you need is rest or some you time, simply being at home isn’t enough. Vacation and sick days exist for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them.
8. Keep in Contact With Coworkers
Often times, what people struggle to adapt to when working from home is the absence of a familiar routine. Our morning commutes or our coworkers listening to music too loudly may annoy us in the moment, but we come to miss the familiarity of them when they’re gone. Working from home may keep us from some of these things, but others can be adapted to our new remote lives.
Keeping in contact with your coworkers throughout the day is effective not only for keeping you on task, but for maintaining a sense of normalcy as well. Office communication apps like Slack or Zoom make it easy to have a virtual face to face with your team members and shake up the isolation of remote working.
Make the Best of Working From Home
Remote work is a big change for many people, but it need not be an unpleasant one. With a few simple adjustments, you’ll soon find yourself as productive as you ever were at the office. If you’re currently looking for remote work opportunities, head over to our jobs page to see opportunities from around the world.