In a 2018 study, 70% of people work remotely at least once a week. Most people associate working at home with convenience, no commuting, wearing whatever you want, flexibility, and control over your schedule. Working at home certainly comes with these perks, but can also come with challenges of being distracting, isolating, demotivating, and stressful due to a lack of office structure or team engagement.
Throughout my work experience, I have always worked in remote positions. Initially, I was captivated by the many positives that came with it, like the ones mentioned above. It meant I got to work from anywhere, added to my personal freedoms, allowed me a lifestyle similar to being my own boss, and saved me the time of having to get ready and go into work everyday.
Although all of these are valid and beneficial perks of working remotely, I have seen both the positives and negatives in my own experience. Being in remote positions taught me self-discipline, reliance, and significantly increased my organizational skills due to the high level of independence within a remote role. I am going to share some of my personal tips and tricks for staying productive while working remotely that I’ve learned in my three years of experience working remotely.
#1. Separate Your Living and Workplace
One problem that can often arise when working remotely is defining the line where life and work separates. When you work from anywhere, that means almost everywhere can become your workplace. It’s hard to escape the work mindset and relax when you’re done without feeling like you’re in the same spot or not knowing how to fully turn off.
That’s why it’s vital to have separate work and living spaces. Co-working spaces are awesome if you have the income or your company offers it, however they aren’t necessary. A library, cafe, or even just a dedicated office (or desk/corner) at home allows you to create boundaries so that work doesn’t end up becoming your life. When you only work in that specific area, it’ll become more natural to separate from that area and work-related tasks once you’re done.
Another tip to add to this is to mix up your environment every now and then. You have the freedom to go anywhere…so why not check out a new cafe every once and awhile? Changing your environment may give you a wave of inspiration just from trying something new and getting out of routine.
#2. Have Set Times (And Breaks) to Regulate Work/Life Balance
Similarly to not drawing boundaries with your environment, the same thing can be said of creating limitations with your time. Working on your own means setting your own schedule, and can lead to overworking by not knowing when to stop or underworking by setting too many breaks. Working too much leads to burnout and ruins your productivity in the long run. “Making up time” by not getting things done within scheduled hours extends your working hours and cuts into recuperation time, which is needed within any job to produce quality work.
Allow yourself to set up a schedule or time clock…and then once you’ve hit your mark, allow yourself to stop. That’s it. Don’t let hours run into the late evening in overtime or always try to get ahead with your work. This obviously is okay sometimes when needed or if you have the extra time, however if it becomes routine (warning) you will burn out.
Without the routines of a traditional office, breaking regularly throughout the day can sometimes be left out in hopes of achieving more work. Be sure to schedule-in regular breaks because no one can work all the time. Plus, it will help keep you motivated in the times you are working if you’re able to see a clear finish line. Take a quick walk outside, check your phone, run an errand, or even just get some air for a few minutes so that you don’t feel tied to the task at hand.
#3. Get Familiar with online Management Tools
The rise in remote work and need for collaborative platforms has led to cloud-based team management tools such as Zoom, Trello, Skype, and more. Spend some time finding out how your team likes to keep track of projects and what the best method of communication is. Group chats are a great way to stay in touch with your team in real time throughout the day. But it can also be hard to navigate, distracting, or unfulfilling if you like consistent feedback. Finding out what communication method works best for both you and your team is crucial in staying productive and not feeling overwhelmed. Having that connected network will help you feel less isolated and make tasks much easier for you and them.
If you work alone, spend some time thinking about how you’d like to work and keep track of your projects. Moving your to-do list into a digital platform will help you stay on top of it and aid in task management. Organization is a key factor in working by yourself, so take some time to find out what method works best for you and do some research on what tools best suit your needs.
#4. Figure out your Working Style
If you’ve just started working remotely, it’s a great idea to figure out the environment that you need to work successfully. Do you like white noise? Silence? Being completely by yourself or being around others? All of these factors will help you decide whether you perform best at home, in a cafe, outside, etc.
Other things to consider are whether you’re more productive in the morning or in the evening, and whether you’re motivated by taking small breaks throughout the day or a longer midday break. Since you have control of your schedule, you need to try out different methods and see what best suits. This is the beauty of remote work; getting to choose and work during your best hours.
#5. Remove Distractions
If you’re anything like me, the chance to scroll through your feed for hours can be tempting (especially if you work in social media *sigh*). This is especially difficult in a remote working space where there are no colleagues or management to look over your shoulder. I use AppBlock to block distracting apps until I have gotten the work I need done first. Then, when you’ve hit your break feel open to scrolling guilt-free.
#6. Embrace the Perks of Working Remotely
Working remotely may have its challenges, but it’s also a great way to travel, do your own thing, and basically go anywhere as long as your computer is with you. Take advantage of this system and go new places if you can. You may not be working remote forever, so try to use the advantages you’re given as a way to challenge yourself in being more organized as well as enjoy rocking your sweats during your 8am conference call. Working remotely will be discouraging at times, but nothing in work comes without challenges. Find the positives and roll with it, because working remotely can be pretty awesome.
Content courtesy of Michelle Finn, Founder of Pop Design Shoppe
Contributing Author, Michelle Finn
Michelle has a strong marketing background in a versatile set of roles including social media, events, and field marketing. She fell in love with design and combined it with her skills to create her business, Pop Design Shoppe. In the future, she hopes to continue her work within design or the arts (including interior design, fashion, the visual arts, and event design). She wants to continue working on projects that create impact. Her perfect day includes a morning workout, sunny day at the beach (preferably with her dog joining) followed by an evening out with friends at an event.