Working remotely definitely has its perks. Between flexibility to work from anywhere (I'm currently writing this from my hotel room in Paris), less time spent commuting, and the ability to set your own hours, it can be rewarding. However, there are definitely drawbacks that many people, including myself, have found to be a challenge: staying productive.
It's easy to get distracted or to work odd hours that leave you feeling stressed and worn out. While studies have shown that working from home does contribute to more productive employees, over a period of time that productivity may start to dwindle. Fortunately, I've got a few tricks to help you keep focused.
1. Set up your space.
Yes, working from home means you can work from your bedroom, the living room couch, the kitchen counter, etc. But having inconsistent places to work can lead to inconsistent work patterns, leaving you stressed and dreading work. Additionally, working from a couch or bed can leave your body feeling achy.
A desk and comfortable chair will help you be more efficient. I personally found that a standing desk worked wonders for my work (and my neck and back). I also noticed that keeping my workspace limited to my desk area helped me go from work mode to home mode much easier.
2. Make a schedule and stick to it.
As important as it is to have your workspace, it is equally important to have set working hours. Start and end your workday on as much of a schedule as possible. This includes waking up and getting ready as you would if you were stepping into an office.
Schedule necessary work breaks and lunch times. When I first started working from home, I would either take a long break to cook lunch or be so busy that I'd forget lunch altogether. Neither of these habits were sustainable. I've learned to prepare food beforehand and schedule a lunch break. Knowing that I have to stop at a certain time helps me focus on finishing a task.
3. Be organized and keep things tidy.
Your workspace is your office. With that said, having the right tools will help with productivity. Notepads and calendars can keep memos and lists in order. I personally like to have a planner with me while working because I can use it when I don't have access to my computer.
Because I'm often on the go, I have invested in a planner that I can mark important dates in as well as take notes, my favorite black pen, a sturdy laptop bag, and a stress ball that my wife gave me. It may be subconscious, but having those particular things tells my mind that I'm in business mode.
4. Make time to see other people.
I have found that this is one of the most important yet overlooked tips. Working from home can become lonesome after a while, especially if you don't interact with others. Setting up times to get away from work can make a massive difference in your work-life balance and help you come up with fresh ideas.
It can be a challenge to stop working and do something leisurely, especially when first starting out. I remember telling friends and family that I'd have to skip events because I wanted to work on my website. I ended up isolating myself and nearly burning out. Make it a point to go out and don't feel guilty about it.
5. Communicate often with colleagues and managers.
Remote workers aren't often granted the same abilities to brainstorm and collaborate the way they would if they were in an office. Communication is always a good idea when uncertain but even more so when working from home.
It not only provides clarity, it also serves as a reminder that you are taking initiative. Most of my team works remotely, making communication necessary. I enjoy hearing from them and also trust them to be creative. However, these relationships were built through communication.
6. Establish that you are at work to friends, family, solicitors, etc.
Because remote work is a somewhat new concept, many people don't understand that work hours need to be respected. I've had a few people tell me that what I'm doing can be put aside so I could run errands with them, especially when I was first developing my site. If you can establish boundaries and stick to them, people will come to respect that you can't be bothered during your work hours.
7. Plan for the day/week/month and track your time.
Only you know your schedule and your abilities to implement some of the above tips to your life. If you take care of a child or have a schedule that fluctuates often, you know that keeping a routine can be near impossible. Because I am constantly on the move, I have found that setting out both short and long-term goals makes it easier to balance change (and multiple time zones).
Setting out a plan and using a time tracker can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. I started using a time tracker that would take random screenshots as I worked to help me analyze where I was spending most of my time. I realized I was spending way too much time coming up with ideas for articles so I delegated that task to someone who was better at that.
There is no doubt that you will acquire new skills when working from home. While it isn't for everyone, if you can stay focused and develop positive habits, you can successfully adapt. It's all about balance.