Most people think remote work is full of flexibility and effortless productivity, but many are finding out that's just not the case. There's always something to distract yourself with, whether it's kids running around, laundry staring at you from across the room, or your neighbor who insists on cutting down a tree during your 2 o'clock meeting.
These things don't have to stop you from working at a high level. Here are some tips from the seasoned remote team at 1406 Consulting on how to work efficiently and effectively from home.
1. Set A Morning Routine
While your bed is a beautiful, cozy, warm safe place, it can also be a trap if you let it. Our Project Manager, Hannah Hubner, puts it like this:
"Setting a morning routine and getting ready like it was a normal day is one of the best things you can do for your work ethic and morale, especially during social distancing. Don't start sleeping in. You'll make that a habit, and before you know it, you'll find you're always behind on work. Set your alarm, and don't snooze it. Get up and do 5 minutes of stretching, get your coffee or juice or whatever you use to fuel up on, do your makeup, and get dressed. You don't want to be caught without your pants on a Zoom call!
2. Set Up A Dedicated Workspace
When you're on the clock, make sure you have a workspace that actually works. Designating a location in your home as your workspace is vital. Not everyone has a dedicated office, so evaluate a place in your home where you'll feel less distracted, that's less noisy, and more conducive to wearing your thinking cap.
"Luckily, I have an office.", Hannah says. "But before then, I tried around 3 spots in my old apartment before I settled on my kitchen table. I was in a well lit, clutter free area that I was able to be very productive in."
3. Make Your Space Something You Look Forward to Working At
Our graphic designer, Derek Couts, is big on customizing your workspace. "One of the top complaints about working at an office is being stuck in a cubicle. With your home work space, you are away from a cubicle and can make it what you want it to be!"
Add some color, keep books around, hang portraits of your puppies, do anything you want! You are likely sitting at your space for around 8-10 hours a day, so try to make it something that motivates you and matches your personality.
A few things you can do to make your space amazing are:
- Collecting a few desk toys
- Getting as much natural light as possible
- Organizing your drawers
- Removing any clutter
- Having an inspirational mug your drink from
4. Tidy Up Your "Office"
Speaking of removing clutter, Hannah recommends keeping that "office" as clean as possible. She says, "With so many distractions, the last thing you want is to wade through a pile of papers, notes, wires, and other junk on your desk or kitchen table to get to your laptop. If you take 10 minutes and file a few papers, put away knick-knacks, and wipe everything down, you'll likely find it easier to focus on your work."
5. Create A "To-do" List & Stick To It
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you tackle a mountain of tasks? One by one. It's natural to feel overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done, but try and remember that you don't have to take on everything all at the same time.
The number one thing that helps me prioritize tasks is a to-do list. It's simple, but tried and true. Whether you use something like Harvest or Basecamp to track tasks or you prefer a good old fashioned notepad, come up with a system of writing down your to-do lists in advance. Prioritize more pressing items, don't procrastinate on things with later dates, and be proactive where you can.
6. Afford Yourself The "Brain Breaks"
This is another big one for me that helps me work more efficiently remote.
At first, I felt very guilty taking a short break or two while working from home, as if it was immoral to work anything less than non-stop. Trust me when I say, working yourself to death will not improve the quality of your work or make your boss happy! Focus on your to-do list, do the best quality work you can, and take a break when your brain just can't hang anymore.
Studies show that as hours of work increase, quality of work decreases. Don't feel guilty that you are working from home and let it push you to the breaking point.
Step away from the screen and get a cup of coffee or go fold some laundry. Take your dog on a quick walk. Do something to help you clear your mind so that when you come back in 15 or so minutes, you can crush the rest of your day.
7. Set Clear Boundaries
We've heard plenty of people that say, "I can with the TV on." or "I'll just go to the park and use my hotspot."
Leslie Jarrard, our Director of Client Services, puts it like this: "Just because you can do these things, doesn't mean you necessarily should. Often times, having the TV on in the background turns into catching up on shows you missed, and your productivity declines or you find yourself "working" for 12 hours a day. I like to set clear working hours. Whether that's a regular 9-5 or more flexible hours based on your work-from-home situation. Doing this can help you keep healthy boundaries working remote."
Don't fall into bad habits. Set boundaries for yourself that allow you flexibility and comfort that don't compromise your work ethic and quality of work. TV and chores and afternoons in the sun will always be there. If you can create quality work while doing them, go for it. But if you're compromising your work for comfort, it might be time to set boundaries that keep you away from those things.
8. Over-communication Is Underrated
This is vital for any team, but especially ones who have transitioned remote in the past few months. You can't just pop over and ask a question you need answered. Our Inbound Specialist, Jess Piraino, puts it like this:
"Distance can ruin good communication. If communication fails, then so does your ability to work well. When you're discussing projects or tasks with colleagues, make sure you communicate exactly what they need to know to do what they need to do well. And vice versa, if you're being asked to do things, make sure you ask for more information than necessary."
Plus, work feels a lot harder when you're not having fun and connecting with the people you work with. Talk to them and connect over social distancing and you'll find work much more enjoyable.
9. "Schedule" Social Interaction
Social interaction is critical to, well...your life. It's important to stay connected even while quarantined. However, doing so can be difficult. Jess talks about the two ways to get that much needed social interaction.
"It's tough being stuck at home. I'm an extrovert, but I know many of my introverted friends feel the same way. It's important to get out. Go for a run. FaceTime relatives or play some games with your coworkers. It'll keep your hair much less gray for much longer."
10. Block Out Your Day
Derek also encourages blocking out your day. As a creative strategists, his tasks can be detailed and require long hours of precise mouse-maneuvering. Blocking time for lunch, for planning, and for when to call it a day has been a life-saver (saved his back too!).
Whether you're just trying to get through Covid-19 or make a more permanent shift to remote work, understand that the most important thing is to make it work for you. Whatever you're able to do to make yourself more productive and happier - go for it.
Keep an eye out for more blogs coming soon!