The Art of Remote Work: How to Stay Productive While Working From Home
By now, remote work is not just a hypothetical ‘future’ of the work, but an inevitable reality for many. The current state of COVID-19 has forced thousands of companies to go remote within a span of just a few days. While some companies and teams have long adopted remote work as their modus operandi, it’s a whole new situation for others. And the one that poses an entirely new set of challenges for staying productive and engaged.
It’s natural that a sudden change of setting from office work to remote might leave you scrambling to stay productive: working within office constraints, with clearly defined attendance hours, meeting schedules that frame your day, and in-person contact is very different from sitting all by yourself in front of your laptop. But what if we told you remote work can actually help you achieve unseen levels of productivity before? That is, if you know how to set yourself up for success.
There is a global shift happening, and Workshopper is here to guide and show you through it all. Introducing our best tips, tricks, and hacks to help you bring your A-game with remote work!
Tip 1: Embrace the learning curve
Chances are, if you’ve never worked fully remote before (occasional home-office days don’t count) you’re not going to ace it from day one. Lean in to the suck, and embrace the learning curve that comes with trying to master any new skill–remote work included.
Don’t beat yourself up for being the only team member who couldn’t figure out how the conference software works. And definitely don’t feel guilty for not being as in love with remote as all the digital nomads out there. Give yourself some time to adapt to the new workflow. And hey, by reading this article you’ve already made the first step on becoming the remote work pro, kudos to you!
Lean in to the suck, and embrace the learning curve that comes with trying to master any new skill–remote work included
So take some time during your work day to fully acquaint yourself with all the remote work software that your team is going to be using in the next few weeks (If you’re going to be using Miro, definitely give this article a look!). Learn the shortcuts, the tips and the tricks, handy functions and how this software can help YOUR work. This will give you the confidence to tackle the remote challenge head on AND will make your day more productive down the line.
Tip 2: Stop the negativity loop
Yes, we mean it!
Sure, you could spend half of your day wishing your meetings weren’t remote, that your team mate would just reply to the damn Slack message already, that the tools you’re using were more intuitive… OR you could spend it doing actually valuable things (aka being more productive!)
Sorry to burst the self-pity bubble, but having the possibility to work from home is a luxury and privilege. And one that many others don’t have, for that matter.
So instead of burying yourself deep in the never-ending loop of negative thoughts, commit to making the best out of this situation.
It’s the blessing in disguise concept. While you might be less than amused by the obstacles your remote working set up poses to you now, the skills you’re learning in the process might come in very handy down the line in your career.
As matter of fact, go ahead and write all of those skills out right now. That’s right, put pen to paper and spell out all the ways in which working remotely enables you and allows you to do your best work. What that will do is allow your mindset to shift from a place of negativity and limitation to the sweet spot we’re all aiming for–the growth zone.
After all, since you found yourself reading through this article, there’s a good chance remote work is already a part of your life now; so instead of being reluctant about adopting it and disengaging from reality, commit to it and gain what you can from the situation.
Tip 3: Create a smart TO DO list
Ever felt lost in your pile of work? Unable to follow through with anything, endlessly switching between tasks and feeling at your lowest in terms of productivity?
All these are all-too-common symptoms of a deeper problem: poor prioritisation.
Working from home can be distracting enough as it is, so don’t make it harder on yourself by failing to prioritise ( aka writing out mile-long to-do lists.)
We get it, loads of things need to get done. And we’re not urging you to skip over your tasks gleefully and pretend they never existed. But if you’re trying to do everything at the same time, you won’t manage to fully complete any task at all. In fact, the only thing you’ll accomplish is scattering your focus and attention.
Get a clear overview of your most important tasks and gain a crystal clear idea of what has to be done now, and what can be postponed till later by running a quick prioritisation workshop. Our favorite one is LDJ, try it out here.
Do it now and start working on the tasks that MATTER.
Tip 4: Timebox your tasks
The trick to being laser-focused for the whole duration of your work day, as opposed to odd 15 minutes here and there is… engaging your focus in shorter stints. Yep, you guessed it, timeboxing.
Timeboxing is ESSENTIAL if you want to be focussed, but even more so if you’re working remotely. Office environment has built-in distractions that will make you leave a task for a while, and come back to it later. Working from home? Not so much.
Timeboxing stems from Parkinson’s Law. This states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. With this in mind, you set the time and see how much work you complete in the time allocated. With this method, you’ll exploit every second of attention by guiding it straight to the task.
Timeboxing is so great because our minds adapt to it the more we use it. Like a muscle, your mind adapts to the rhythm you set for yourself. Like with anything – the more you do it the better you become. With Timeboxing you’re training your brain to work quicker and harder.
Want to get even more out of the method? Set rewards.
For every 45 minutes you spend – go have that cup of coffee, chocolate, go for a walk or read a bit of your favourite book.
Tip 5: Take breaks. Often!
Working in the office might have your more on your feet than you might think. A friendly chat with a colleague in the kitchen, a short stroll to the meeting room, bouncing around the room with post-its during a workshop… All this physical activity not only breaks up your day, it helps your focus and helps your body survive the sedentary lifestyle.
One of the pitfalls of working from home, is that without the familiar cues and distractions, people tend to stare at their computer screen for hours on end; and then wonder where their focus went and why they feel drained.
If you’re trying to do everything at the same time, you won’t manage to fully complete any task at all. The only thing you’ll accomplish is scatter your focus and attention.
Make it a rule to take a short break every half an hour. Get up and stretch; look out the window, or take a short stroll around the block at lunch (circumstances permitting). Do anything that would imply a change of activity. So use your breaks wisely and rather than look at a different screen, use the time to disconnect, go get some fresh air – go move around a little. This will help you balance out your energy levels and keep your mind in the zone.
Tip 6: Set up your space for success
Sometimes the problem isn’t going remote. It’s that our space is completely unfitting for any working activities. So before you play the blame game with remote work, check your surroundings and see if you’ve set your space the right way. Here are some things on our checklist to a perfect home office setup:
- Create a dedicated work space that you’ll use for work and work only. While having a separate office room might not be an available option for you right now, don’t let that stall your efforts. Get a foldable standing desk that you’ll use for work. Trust us, it’s better (and healthier!) than slouching on a couch all day long.
- Recreate your office set up as closely as possible. If you’re used to working with an additional desktop/keyboard/mouse – try to recreate that at home as well. If you’ve used noise cancelling headphones at work to get in the mood – use them in your remote work as well!
- Pay extra attention to ergonomics. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how it will affect your body.
Tip 7: Block out distractions
It’s logical enough–the less distractions are on your line of sight, the more focused you are, right?
The thing is, distractions are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to avoid when you’re working from home. The laundry is waiting in the washing machine, the dishes need to be washed up, that painting you’ve been meaning to finish for ages stares at you from the corner… Truth is, our houses are usually not so well-suited for deep concentrated work.
Good news is, you can avoid it! If you followed our earlier advice of creating a designated workplace, it will be easier to eliminate distractions. Remove anything from your line of sight that might side-track you and you should be good to go. If you have no designated room, and have no way of avoiding stumbling upon household items that scream for your attention, then be stricter with your online-distractions.
That goes equally for mindlessly getting on your phone to check social media, as well as browsing Slack channels at chatting away with colleagues. Mute your Slack notifications. Leave your phone in another room. Block out time in your Google Calendar so no meetings can get scheduled into your day. Eliminate unnecessary Zoom calls and attend only to what’s essential.
Be ruthless about eliminating distractions all around you and you’ll see how much more productive you’ll become!
Tip 8: Choose the RIGHT tech setup
Remote tech setup does NOT have to be complicated. In fact, now is probably the best time to start working remotely–there’s an abundance of amazing remote working tools on the market, and their functionality just keeps on growing.
While you probably won’t have troubles finding remote work tools, it’s crucial you establish clear guidelines on how each of the tools is used.
Where does knowledge sharing happen? Do you run all your meetings in Zoom or Google Hangouts? Do you use GoogleDrive or Dropbox? The details might sound trivial, but trust us, nothing can get more in the way of productive remote work quite like trying to find bits and pieces of information you need scattered all around different platforms.
Nothing gets in the way of productive work quite like trying to find bits and pieces of information you need scattered all around different platforms.
So consolidate your work files in one place and make sure you communicate to your team where everything can be found.
Tip 9: Learn from your peers
While you might not be as comfortable with remote set up, we bet there must be people in your network who are. Instead of trying to figure out everything on your own, reach out to them and ask for advice!
Trying to re-invent the remote working wheel will inevitably leave you frustrated, disappointed and drained. Hearing how others deal with the same problems you face can be very therapeutic, and useful! Look for people who have a proven track record of acing it with remote work, and connect with them.
Can’t find anyone in your organisation who fits the description? Well, now’s the time to give good use to the power of LinkedIn. The person you’re learning from doesn’t have to work in the same organization as you, they do not have to be your boss, and in some cases, they do not even have to have more experience than you. All they need to have is knowledge and skills that you want to acquire.
If you really do have no role models in your direct proximity – reach for the next best things: books and thought leaders on LinkedIn, YouTube, or any other Social Media platform.
Tip 10: Honour the routines
Daily routines are important, because without us knowing or realising it they act as neuro-anchors that prime our minds for certain tasks.
By following your usual morning routines for getting ready for work (shower, breakfast, getting dressed), you’ll give your mind a signal to get ready for a productive working day. By staying in your PJs all day long, what you’re signaling to your brain is that it’s chill day and thus all work tasks will just feel like more of a drag.
So honour the routines and go through the usual steps you might’ve taken when going to the office: get dressed, listen to your ‘work’ playlist, have your usual morning coffee…you get the gist.
But that’s just half of the deal! As important as it is to get yourself in the mood for work in the morning, it’s exactly as important to wind down and finish the day in the evening.
Daily routines are important, because without us knowing or realising it they act as neuro-anchors that prime our minds for certain tasks.
While working longer hours to hit a target or goal might sometimes be necessary, knowing when to draw the line is crucial, especially when there’s no usual cues for stopping the working day (like colleagues leaving the office, and janitor showing up to clean out the desks).
It might be tempting to continue working past usual hours, just transferring to the couch with the laptop and working into deep hours of the night. But the only thing it will do is cause your boundaries to blur, and most likely push you one step closer to a burn-out. So create a little ritual that would signify the end of the working day for you, after which no emails and no slack messages are allowed anymore.
Change into your home clothes; stack away your laptop instead of letting it stay in sight; do a retrospective of the day, or a EoD call with your team – any ritual is good as long as you stick to your ‘no work after this’ rule.
And there you have it – the top 10 ways to stop procrastinating and make your home office time as productive as ever! Try these tips and let us know how you get on and if there’s any tips that you would recommend let us know in the comments!