One day, you find yourself working remotely. Maybe it’s a lifelong dream come to fruition. Or it could be that you weren’t necessarily expecting it (or were you looking for it), but you still have to make it work.
Whatever your reason for working from home, the first few days can be rocky. Even if you want to work remotely, it’s a transition that can be challenging, and if you’re not into the idea, it can knock you off your game.
In this article, we’ll explore how you can stay productive right from the start as you adapt to remote work. We have five helpful tips for you and a little extra info that might ease your path from office worker to home office worker.
Let’s get started!
Adjusting to a New Work Environment
There are practical things you can do to ease the transition to remote work, but in the beginning, it’s really all about attitude.
Depending on the nature of your job, you may believe that certain aspects of your role simply cannot be accomplished remotely. That way of thinking must be discarded!
Everything you need to do can be done remotely.
The gross axiom, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” comes to mind. You may end up communicating with coworkers in a completely new way, executing your tasks differently, and reporting on your progress using different channels, but the result can be as positive as it would be if everyone were in the office together.
The point is, being effective in a remote work situation is as much about your mental approach as it is about following the “best practice” advice we’ll give you below.
Agile thinking and flexibility are how you overcome obstacles when working remotely—if you maintain a positive attitude and apply creative solutions, you’ll find there are very few real limitations associated with remote working.
5 Tips to Maximize Your Remote Work Productivity
Once you’re comfortable with the idea that you can get your job done without going into the office, it’s time to get to work. This section will provide tips to help you be productive, and they should help ease your transition to working remotely.
1. Practice Self-Discipline
The most important thing you can do when you first start telecommuting is to engage your natural work ethic, invoking all the self-discipline you practice in the office, but at home.
It’s important to establish a routine schedule; continuity and consistency are the goal. With that in mind, when should you start your remote workday?
Your old start-time at the office would be a perfect start-time now—it’s what the team is used to, and the less change, the better. (You may be thinking, “without the commute, I could easily start working X minutes earlier.” Don’t do it! Recovering that commute time is a perk you should enjoy by making your morning routine a little nicer.)
If you keep the work schedule you had before, your body clock can remain unchanged. Sleep times and mealtimes stay the same. The peak productivity hours that have taken years to establish won’t be disrupted.
If you can’t keep the same schedule you had when working in the office, be sure to coordinate with your team. A lot of people in your company, above and below you on the org chart, need to know when you’ll be working. Establish a schedule early and share it with everyone you normally interact with.
Another important aspect of applying self-discipline while telecommuting is knowing when not to work.
You have to take breaks!
Sometimes, people who were skeptical about remote work end their first week feeling like they were even more productive than they are during a normal week in the office. Once you effectively tune out at-home distractions, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, blasting through as much work as you can.
Without the normal work stoppages you’re used to in the office—a knock on your door or one of those stop-and-chat moments in the hallway—you can keep working past the time you should have taken a break. Working from home, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to pause during the day.
When making the transition to remote work, applying self-discipline in your schedule and work habits will help you hit the ground running.
2. Concentrate on Effective Communication
One of the things we give up when working remotely is the benefit of easy team interactions. Working remotely doesn’t remove our ability to communicate with coworkers, it just makes it a little bit harder.
Initially, this can seem like a major problem. Simple conversations in the hallway can lead to big ideas. What happens when those conversations stop happening?
That fact is, switching to remote work doesn’t mean giving up that sort of team interaction. Every interaction you have in the office can happen remotely, but changes in how it happens can take some getting used to.
Email, chat, and phone calls are the answer. For many of us, those channels play a big role in our normal communication even when working in the office. Whether that’s your situation or not, now, you’ll have to use those channels for all your interactions.
When team members telecommute, it can present challenges for everyone, including those who still work at the office, so you should make communication a top priority. Be proactive in your communication with superiors, coworkers, and employees.
Especially if you or the people you’re dealing with are not used to remote work, taking an extreme approach to team communication—one that might otherwise seem like overkill—is often advisable.
If you have regular meetings, keep having them. Add meetings as needed—a team that worked closely in the office may need additional contact in order to maintain the productivity they’ve had in the office. Maybe even start the day with a quick call with your team just to go through the key activities for the day. Don’t forget to also check in on your colleagues; some of them might need some support adjusting to the new scenario.
More frequent progress reports up and down the chain of command can keep everyone informed and on the same page.
If you don’t usually rely on email, text, and phone calls to accomplish your work, you’ll need to make the adjustment fast. Additionally, for anyone who can’t fulfill their role without face-to-face interaction, there are numerous video conferencing solutions available.
By taking advantage of tools that enable online communication and increase the interaction you have with team members, you and your coworkers won’t miss a beat. You can keep your projects on track and proceed with your work as you would do it if everyone was together in the office, but with a little extra sharing involved.
3. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Setting up a dedicated workspace is good for the mental aspect of remote working. Even if it’s a tiny space, it’s oddly equipped, or it’s a designated part of a larger room, a permanent workspace will help you get in the right mindset for remote work.
Using the kitchen table or your living room couch is not advisable. Those environments don’t have a work feel, plus, you might have to break down your home office every night to reclaim that space.
Choose a suitable space in your home, then transform it into your home office. If you can, create a facsimile of your normal workspace; that will add continuity as you adjust to working from home. Include everything you need to do your job, plus anything that makes the space feel like yours, a plant or a picture of loved ones, for example.
If your living situation makes it impossible to isolate yourself physically during work hours, you’ll need to figure that out with those you share the space with. An area of your home, no matter how well-trafficked, can be designated a work zone for certain hours of each day. You may even have a physical sign that indicates when you’re working. Your family or roommates will understand and may even retire to their own work zones.
4. Keep Distractions in the Background
Even with a dedicated workspace, you may encounter distractions that you wouldn’t have at the office. Kids, pets, delivery people, TV, or the prospect of taking a nap can all be distractions that might pull you away from your work.
Let’s look at some ways you can handle this problem.
One key to avoiding distractions is tied to our suggestion that you exercise self-discipline and good time management. Set boundaries with your family or roommates so they know not to interrupt you while you’re working.
Take a break when it’s time to do so, but work when it’s not. A structured daily schedule helps with that. When a distraction rears its head, a simple glance at the clock can tell you whether it should take you off task.
Such a mechanical approach might make you feel like a robot at first, but it will be extremely effective if you stick to it. Regular short breaks help keep you energized. One way to make sure you get things done is to set a countdown timer while you do an hour of work. At the time of the alarm reward yourself with a 5-10 minute break: make yourself a coffee, or get some fresh air.
If a lot of your distractions come from the computer you’re working on, that’s an easy problem to solve, and it doesn’t require as much willpower as the recommendation above. Checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can become a compulsion; it’s best to think of that as an off-duty activity. Whether it’s social media or online shopping, if you have a tab open that’s not related to work, close it.
For the truly addicted, you can employ a social media blocker. Another approach is to use incognito tabs; you won’t be automatically logged in to the sites that might distract you, giving you a fighting chance to ignore all those posts and tweets until you’re off the clock.
5. Take Advantage of Tools for Remote Workers
There are numerous tools available to facilitate different aspects of remote work.
Tools for personal productivity include G Suite, a popular collection of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools developed by Google. HostPapa offers access to G Suite’s web-based office tools with an attractive bundle that includes professional email, storage, support, and reliable anti-spam security.
There are tools for managing remote teams that enable better communication and collaboration, like the market-leading Slack platform.
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in calls, you may be interested in Krisp, a tool that allows you to mute background noise.
We’ve only mentioned a few of the remote work tools that are available—please check out our article dedicated to this subject. It provides a full breakdown of tool categories and describes all sorts of apps that solve remote work problems.
Bonus Tip: Cut Yourself Some Slack
Self-care makes a happy remote worker. Keep up with your exercise and sleep. Eat right and try not to create a huge change in your routine.
We dished out some relatively harsh advice earlier: Get on a schedule! Work hard! Don’t get distracted!
Maybe we all need to lighten up a little.
Working from home doesn’t have to be a grind. There are some things you can do that you could never do at the office, and you should take full advantage.
Wear pajamas if you want to, start your day with a home workout, or, occasionally, create a temporary, sun-drenched workspace on your back porch or balcony.
Especially while you’re first getting used to remote work, give yourself some leeway. For that matter, take it easy on your coworkers too—they may be having a harder time adjusting to remote work than you are!
Focus & Communication: The Keys to Remote Work Productivity
If your approach to working remotely is centered on self-discipline and effective team communication, you’ll stay focused on the task at hand and be able to maintain your normal level of productivity. Having a dedicated workspace is crucial, as is avoiding distractions.
We hope you find the tips we covered in this article helpful and that you’re able to make a smooth transition to working from home.