As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it seems that more and more companies are asking their employees to telecommute as a precaution.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, the prospect of working from the comfort of your home and avoiding the frustrating morning commute might be a relief at first, especially with the rise in digital workplace solutions.
However, remote work can have a detrimental effect on your productivity unless certain preparations are made beforehand.
From accessibility hurdles to an overwhelming number of distractions, working from home brings its own set of challenges that have to be addressed in order for home-workers to get the job done.
Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of 7 essential tips to help you make your home the ideal workplace away from the office.
1. Set up the right work environment
It might be tempting to work from the comfort of your bed, But to be more productive, you should create a distinct “work zone”.
This will put you in the right state of mind to work and create boundaries between your personal life and your job. Your workspace may be a repurposed spare room or even a desk set up in your living space.
Depending on your work style, investing in good quality office furniture can help you increase the comfort of long work sessions.
What is important here is to establish an enjoyable and effective space where you can focus on the tasks ahead, with as little distraction as possible.
2. Eliminate distractions
Being distracted is the kryptonite of remote work productivity. When you are working from home with no one monitoring your progress, it’s easy to procrastinate work tasks to instead do home chores, like the laundry and running errands.
But even when you are working, distractions like TV noise or pets or family members in the vicinity can be overwhelming.
The best way to tackle these distractions is by creating an environment where they won’t pop up during work.
That might mean working in a nearby coffee shop if you can’t resist leaving your desk every 5 minutes, or simply locking yourself in your dedicated workplace away from interruptions.
The latter is a must if kids are around, especially if you want to avoid ending up like Professor Robert Kelly, who achieved some notoriety when he was interrupted by his daughter during a live interview on BBC News.
3. Schedule and plan each day
Without your co-workers around to hold you accountable for the daily work you do, it can be harder to keep your work organized and consistent as a remote worker.
More often than not, ambitious telecommuters end up putting in more hours daily than their co-workers at the office to prove their worth and to fast-track their projects.
However, not only does overworking increase the odds of burnout, it can literally kill you. As a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet explains, employees who work long hours have a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Regardless of how you approach your daily workload, it is essential that you pick up strong time-management skills.
Techniques such as the Eisenhower Matrix or the 1-3-5 rule can help you focus on your most impactful tasks to maximize your efficiency.
If that is not enough, applications with features like smart agendas, to do lists and task management tools can be of great help, as long as you only use what you need.
4. Take the time to understand your work tools
There is no getting around the need to use technology for remote work. Yet, the dependency on it comes with its own fears.
What happens if your computer crashes? Or your email goes down? Or your Wi-Fi suddenly stops working?
A successful teleworker knows that IT support may not always be available to resolve the problem.
In the majority of cases, the most recurring technical troubles can be tackled with a minimal understanding of IT and network troubleshooting. So taking the time to learn the basic functionalities of your hardware and applications may save you the time and frustration of long technical support calls. You know … for when turning it off and on again doesn’t do the trick.
5. Establish instant communication channels with your team
According to Buffer’s State of Remote Work Report, 21% of remote employees stated that communicating or collaborating with their co-workers was their biggest challenge.
Another 21% admitted to struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation. This is a bigger problem than you might think as not only does isolation affect morale and engagement, it can easily lead to miscommunication and poor coordination between different departments.
Relying on traditional communication channels is simply not enough to build rapport with your teammates.
In fact, it’s much more likely to develop misunderstanding when relying on emails, as it does not allow you to express the intricate parts of office humor and sarcasm.
The best way to tackle these issues is to adopt an inclusive mindset where open communication and questions are welcomed.
Using instant messaging and web conference tools, as well as planning virtual activities and discussions, can help bridge the gap. It is also important that managers understand how to create a virtuous dynamic among remote teams as collaborating on mutual goals can help build lasting relationships.
6. Be wary of bad health habits
It is extremely easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle when working from home. Frequent fridge raids, skipping exercise and an irregular sleeping pattern are not too uncommon among remote workers.
If left unchecked, these habits can affect both your physical and your mental health, putting a real strain on your wellbeing and on your productivity.
Consider making the time to exercise or to do an outdoor activity, as working out will naturally increase your energy levels, while simultaneously boosting your immune system.
At the same time, exposure to sunlight and fresh air can clear your mind, expand your creativity and reduce stress.
At the end of the day, your most important asset is your health, and investing in it will pay you back for years to come.
7. Make the most out of your new flexibility
The great thing about remote work is that it grants you more freedom than you can ever attain in the office.
As not everyone performs their best work from 9 to 5, you could easily make the most out of your day by customizing your routine to fit your natural productivity peaks.
Depending on the nature of your job, you may be able to divide your time into separate work sessions, where you can make the most out of “burst fire” productivity. You can take the time in between to schedule your appointments and other activities. The scheduling and automating tasks have become so popular that some industries now have turned to auto-scheduling apps for help.
This would allow you to recharge your social batteries by leaving the house and interacting with people close to you.
However, once you have found out your productivity pattern, be sure to set and stick to specific work hours and clearly communicate your schedule with your supervisor and co-workers so that they know when they will be able to reach you.
Working remotely can create a dramatic shift in the way you handle your job and work/life balance. Yet, with enough preparation and understanding, you can turn it into an incredible productivity device and gain a competitive advantage that sets you apart from the rest of the team.
So the next time you’re stuck in a rut while working at home, try out a few of these strategies until you find the ones that can help you turn it into a strength.