Employees who work remotely perform their professional duties without being present in a physical office. This means working from home, from multiple offices, or from a coworking space. Some telecommuters work remotely every day, some do so infrequently. We put together a list of remote productivity tips to help telecommuters seeking to be more efficient and successful.
Why are remote productivity tips useful?
Remote workers are increasingly common: according to a Gallup study, 37% of US workers have telecommuted before. This is a stark increase from the 9% who said the same in 1995. As more and more employers of all sizes and activities start to hire remote workers, the numbers will only rise.
This emerging demographic has different needs, failings, and strengths than their onsite coworkers. Being a successful telecommuter requires a great deal of discipline, and this list of remote productivity tips will try to offer actionable advice in that regard.
The benefits of telecommuting
For the employer, hiring virtual staff members has several advantages. It will lower costs, since they don’t require space and resources in your physical office. Recruiters are able to choose from a wider pool of applicants, since distance isn’t an issue. Virtual employees can also operate from disparate time zones, giving your customers access to a human agent round the clock.
As for employees, they can benefit from working remotely in several ways. Overwhelmingly, remote workers report and distinguish themselves through increased productivity and heightened professional engagement. They can often enjoy a more flexible time schedule, and are immune to office distractions. They also save on commuting time, which is better for the environment.
The benefits of remote teams are becoming more and more apparent to many employers. Nevertheless, this option isn’t without pitfalls.
Potential downsides of working remotely
Though is can be well-suited to certain people and specific situations, telecommuting isn’t a perfect system. The first obstacle to a remote team’s success is the difficulty of communication, especially if the members of that team are scattered across time zones. Coordinating remote employees also requires relevant managerial skills.
Though remote workers report a higher involvement on the part of their superiors, their management remains an investment of time for higher-ups. The management of a remote team is a delicate operation, since frequent and productive communication is key to the team’s success.
For the remote worker, the pros and cons of telecommuting are the opposite sides of the same coin. Their flexible, distraction-free surroundings can become an isolated and demotivated environment. Without a commitment to discipline and self-care, remote employees run the risk of burning out and becoming discouraged.
These potential pain points for employees are the reason for this guide. Read on to find out our top five remote productivity tips to help you become more successful when working from home.
Remote Productivity Tips #1: Stick to a schedule
When working from home, you’ll have a more fluid structure to your day than if you were stationed in a traditional office setting. You’ll be able to set your own schedule; in fact, you’ll simply have to.
Figure out a routine
We tend to think of a routine as a constraint at best, and a creativity-killer at worst. Nevertheless, for a telecommuter, sticking to a routine can be extremely positive. Without one, it will be more arduous to stay motivated and productive.
It’s tempting to promise yourself, “when I telecommute, I will stay in my PJs all day and no one can stop me.” But this will remind you of relaxing-time, not work-time. A steady morning routine will help you separate the professional part of your day from the personal.
This might sound trite, but instituting a morning “heading-to-work” routine will help you gear up for the day. Even if your desk is only a few feet away from your bed, make the effort of showering, getting dressed, putting on makeup, etc. These seemingly mundane tasks will give you time to mentally prepare for the work day and will make you more alert and keen.
Plan out your schedule
Without the structure of a traditional work place, you’ll encounter the two-edged sword of setting your own schedule. You’ll have more freedom, but also more responsibility.
Many studies demonstrate the superiority of a shorter, high-intensity work day when it comes to productivity. Therefore, your telecommuting day doesn’t have to be a traditional 9-to-5. It’s up to you to figure out the time of day when you’re most awake, productive, and on your toes. This will allow you to get the most out of the hours in a day, by absolutely killing it when your brain is most efficient and resting when you need to.
This schedule will be flexible, naturally, should an unforeseen obligation come up. But sticking to a schedule suited to your idiosyncratic needs and strengths will help you be more productive and stay on top of your deadlines.
Remote Productivity Tips #2: Set priorities
Again, without the hierarchical framework of a traditional office, it can be difficult to prioritize tasks and organize your workflow.
When it comes to organization skills, no one hack will suit everyone, so find out what works for you. Some handy tricks include making to-do lists, to-don’t lists, checklists, and so on. Stay in touch with your team or your superior, then structure your day around your objectives.
Bear in mind the Eisenhower box:
Just as important as knowing how to proceed, is knowing when to stop. Working from home, you’ll never run out of things to do. It’s dangerously easy to take work home with you when you work from inside your very living room.
Once your allotted work hours are over, and once you’ve made headway on your to-do list, stop. Of course, we all need to give an extra push to finish a task, but if you don’t monitor your fuel gauge, you run the risk of blurring the line between home and work, and burning out.
When you are in the midst of your work hours, squeeze all the productivity you can out of them. Without scheduled meetings, coffee breaks, and impromptu discussions with coworkers, telecommuting presents fewer distractions than working from an office.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be distracted when you’re alone in front of your computer all day. Learn to recognize the moment when you find yourself getting sidetracked, and come up with ways to defuse that mechanism. Write down intrusive tasks such as grocery shopping, reading an article, or picking up the mail so that you can get to them once work is done. Shop around for programs to help with staying focused: white noise or ambient noise players to tune out your surroundings, or productivity timers to set the pace.
Remote Productivity Tips #3: Select the proper tools
Working from home doesn’t need to mean balancing your laptop on the edge of your coffee table. You can maximize your telecommuting productivity by having the right tools on your side.
Invest in comfortable equipment
Since your work station is where you’ll need to both spend a lot of time and make that time count, it’s worth it to invest in the right equipment. A comfortable ergonomic chair will let you concentrate on your work instead of on your aching lumbar region. Your screen should be eye-level, your back straight and supported, and your feet flat on the ground. If you don’t enjoy sitting down for extended periods of time, a standing desk might be more your speed. Switching between standing and sitting will be good for your back and keep you alert.
Your work station needs to be comfortable, streamlined, and efficient. Don’t store more than what’s strictly necessary. First, this will keep the area uncluttered; second, it will encourage you to take breaks and clear your head.
The right software will help, not hinder
Your laptop is your primary tool if you telecommute: not only do you use it to actually perform your designated tasks, but it is your main means of communicating with both your team and your supervisor.
There is a plethora of programs designed specifically to help remote workers with communication, productivity, task management, and the sharing of information. This subject is rich enough to warrant a separate article, and it has: here are the best tools to assist and empower remote workers.
Remote Productivity Tips #4: Define boundaries
As stated above, it’s easy to get lost in your work when you telecommute, and run the risk of burning yourself out. To sidestep this possibility, it’s crucial to separate work from play.
Rope off your space
If you work from your couch or your bed, it’ll be much harder to get in work-mode, since these are areas dedicated to relaxation. Not everyone can enjoy a home office, but it’s key to set aside a corner of your home to be your workspace. This will help set clear boundaries between work mode and home mode.
Being able to walk away from your work station when you need a break or when the day ends will let you symbolically and mentally leave work behind, and pick up where you left off the next morning.
Allot your time
When you take a break or complete your day, you need to truly leave work behind. Set up processes to appear as “do not disturb” on your communication devices. Don’t forget to also set up a clocking-out routine, to neatly wrap up your day. Much like your morning routine, this will gently but firmly compartmentalize the two areas of your schedule.
Don’t let distractions creep up on you, but don’t let work take up your life. If the line between them blurs, you’ll find it harder to relax and harder to get work done as well.
Remote Productivity Tips #5: Practice self-care
Last but certainly not least, it is of prime importance to take care of yourself when you work from home, and to stay in tune with your energy levels. Indeed, according to a study by Softchoice, telecommuters tend to take fewer sick days, or work clean through an illness.
While this is positive for employers, and a testament to the dedication of certain telecommuters, working in relative autarchy can make you disregard the signals from your own body. That’s a slippery slope to burning out. Self-care is, perhaps in a more indirect way, just as important as any other remote productivity tips.
Fit in some exercise
Regular physical activity is beneficial to everyone, not just telecommuters. But telecommuters can squeeze in exercise more easily than office workers. When you need a break, don’t hesitate to do some stretches, roll out a yoga mat, or climb on your stationary bike for fifteen minutes. This is much harder to pull off in an office without getting looks.
Don’t be afraid to nap
A mid-day nap can be hugely beneficial to your productivity and energy levels. If you find that a nap makes you feel refreshed rather than groggy, pencil one into your schedule. Any trick is a good trick, if it makes your work day more efficient and keeps your spirits high.
If you work from home, you may find yourself not leaving the house for days at a time, which is no good. Not only are sunlight and fresh air crucial to your health, but they’ll also clear your head and motivate you. Staying stuck in front of a screen all day, especially if you’re tackling a difficult task, if actually detrimental to your productivity.
If you cannot get away with going outside too often, keep some plants in your house. It may sound silly, but a little greenery can improve both your mood and your productivity.
Which remote productivity tips do you recommend? Let us know!
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