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Almost a year and a half since Covid-19 forced millions of people to abandon their offices in favor of their living rooms, it seems that remote working is here to stay. According to a study performed by six MIT economists in June 2020 about half of the U.S. workforce is now remote. That, plus our own research, indicate that remote work isn’t going anywhere.
That fact is both good and bad news. On the one hand, remote work has given employees better mental health, a better work-life balance, and greater autonomy. But on the other, as you’re probably well-aware if you’re reading this article, remote work has some not-so-fun drawbacks. It can be challenging for employees to enter “work mode” when surrounded by distractions, and it is even tougher to stay there.
But never fear—it is possible to balance the comforts of home with a productive work schedule. Keep reading for our top 10 tips to help overcome inertia, get focused, and conquer your to-do list on the daily.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
If you’ve been working from home for a while, you’ve probably already done your best to carve out a designated “work-only” space. However, it’s never a bad time to step back and take stock of what’s working and what isn’t. For starters, ask yourself if you’re physically comfortable on the job. If your back, neck, wrists tend to ache after a hard day at the keyboard, now’s the time to resolve those issues with an ergonomic chair, adjustable laptop stand, or back pillow. Additionally, if you work in front of a screen all day, consider investing in some blue-light canceling glasses that can keep your eyes safe and comfortable.
You should also make sure that your physical space is clean, clear, and optimized for productivity. There’s no need to go full-on Feng Shui (although if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it!) Simple adjustments like organizing your cables, placing your desk near natural light, and clearing away clutter can help make your workspace more functional and appealing. The natural light also has the added bonus of helping you look good in video calls, which brings us to our next subject: video calling.
If you are working for another company, you probably don’t have much say in which online collaboration tools your team uses. But if you’re working for yourself or are able to have some say in those decisions, be sure to investigate all the apps, platforms, and remote work software solutions that are out there. Popular tools like Slack, Asana, Notion, Basecamp, and Trello can help you stay organized and manage remote employees more easily. You can even use remote work tools like Payfit and Mooncard to manage payroll, HR tasks, and business expenses.
The number one tool you’ll need to work remotely is a video engagement platform. When choosing the best tool, try to look beyond the call quality and examine the full package of what you’ll be receiving. A good video engagement tool should have:
In summary, your remote video tool should be a complete, end-to-end business solution that helps you all the way down the conversion funnel — not just another communication platform.
Discover 50 ice breakers questions and games that will make your meetings engaging.
Many video engagement tools have features that are designed to help teams collaborate. Chat boxes, emoji reactions, questions submissions, and more can make it easy to participate in virtual events and meetings and break the ice. Engaging in work topics like this has two benefits; firstly, it shows your supervisors that you’re fully present and involved, even from a distance; and secondly, it helps lighten the mood and ease any tension the team might be feeling.
If you have a leadership position within your organization, you can also use video engagement tools to host fun virtual team building activities, like:
With a little creativity the opportunities are truly endless, and you’re bound to find a fun way to keep your team connected and engaged.
Of course, work needs to be more than fun and engaging; it also needs to be productive, which is why it’s a good idea to learn (or reiterate) some of the [remote work ground rules and etiquette] (https://livestorm.co/blog/virtual-meeting-etiquette) designed to keep everything running smoothly. For instance, make sure that you always show up on time for remote meetings. This will give you a few minutes to make sure your connection is strong, and all your technology is functioning correctly.
It’s also important to practice some virtual best practices that can help you stay off your coworkers’ toes, like:
You will also want to dress professionally, a topic so important we have devoted an entirely separate section to it.
Traditional office workers that are new to remote work often revel in the simple joy of being able to work in their PJs. And the ability to be dressed for business up top and relaxation on the bottom during virtual meetings is perhaps one of remote work’s greatest perks.
With that said, now that the novelty has worn off, and many of us are settling into remote life for good, it’s time to accept that dressing professionally for remote work can have seriously positive effects on our performance and mental health. Take one particularly neat study that pitted a group of participants wearing white lab coats against a group of participants wearing plain street clothes. The study found that the individuals wearing lab coats achieved better scores on attention tests than those who didn’t, even though they were alike in terms of age, education level, and intellect.
The verdict? If you dress the part, you really can bring more energy, concentration, and focus to your work.
“Set a schedule and stick to it” is standard advice in remote work advice articles like this one. You might even be tired of hearing it because you know all too well that creating a solid work routine is much easier said than done.
The key to setting a work routine you truly stick with is to work with yourself, not against. By this we mean, crafting a routine that revolves around a custom or habit you already have. Think about it: What in your current routine indicates you're about to start working? It might be sitting down with a cup of coffee or returning home after a morning jog. Even something as simple as brushing your teeth or getting dressed can help signal your brain that it’s time to kick off your workday. And there’s no need to start in the morning; if your productivity is best activated in the afternoon or evening, work with it. If you coordinate your work schedule with the rhythms and patterns you’re already following, it will be that much easier to stick with it.
As we mentioned in the introduction, when you’re working from home, distractions are abundant and inevitable. After all, you’re literally inhabiting a space filled with all your favorite things! Then there are the living distractions to contend with: family members, four-legged friends, children, and neighbors popping by.
The only solution? Access your strict inner teacher and put your foot down. Let your partners, roommates, pets and children know that your door, either literally or metaphorically speaking, is closed until working hours are over. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need; if you relied on nannies, babysitters, dog walkers, and pet sitters before remote working, there’s no need to forgo those resources now. You’re still working, even if your commute is a lot shorter.
You can check out more remote work tips for beginners here.
Just because you can leave messages, emails, and texts unread doesn’t mean that you should. Try your best to respond to coworkers as quickly as possible so that projects continue to run smoothly.
In addition to helping your team avoid bottlenecks, being responsive will also help keep your boss(es) comfortable with the remote work status quo. Remember, if you want to enjoy the perks of working from home, you have to prove that you can be trusted to perform well and meet expectations. Prove to your supervisors that you’re on board, checked in, and on task, and you’ll be able to enjoy remote work for years to come.
With all that said, it’s no fun to keep your nose to the grindstone until the skin rubs off. And on top of being unpleasant, it’s also bad for business; there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that working too hard, for too long, often results in inferior performance and deliverables. So, yes, you want that PowerPoint presentation to be done on time, but you also need it to be articulate, informative, and engaging—and to do that, your brain needs to be at its best.
Therefore, be sure to take some time each day to pause, get some fresh air, and get away from the desk, both mentally and physically. If pausing work is tough for you, you might consider using an app that “locks you out” of your computer during certain times, like TimeOut or Smart Break. You can also use apps like RescueTime or BlockSite, which are typically used to block distractions like Facebook and Reddit, to block websites which you need to use to do your work (like your company email server). And if you have too many apps in your life, you can always just set a regular old alarm on your phone.
For many of us, our office life was our social life. Sure, there’s not a lot of space for talking in between, you know, actually working, but opportunities for quick chats_ did_ tend to pop up every so often. Now that you don’t have a communal coffee machine to gather ‘round, you’ll have to put in extra effort to get the social interactions you need to be a healthy, happy human. If you want to socialize with your actual coworkers, you might be able to do so through a company app or Slack channel. Conducting casual chit-chat via an official company channel might help you and your coworkers retain some of the professionalism that would be expected if you were in, say, an office breakroom.
Successful remote employees have a reputation for being extremely disciplined. But if you haven’t quite mastered that discipline quite yet, it’s okay. Becoming a focused, reliable, productive remote worker is a process that takes time and practice. So if you find yourself working hard one minute and researching vacation house rentals the next, give yourself some grace, shake it off, and get back on track.