Working remotely is something many people aspire to do, but few actually get to experience. At least, that was the case up until recently. Now, global concerns surrounding coronavirus have forced millions of Americans to work from home. And many have been left scrambling to adjust to their new reality.
Working outside of the office takes a lot of discipline. For example, hitting the snooze button is a lot easier when you don’t have to rush out the door to beat the morning traffic. Or how about spending an extra few minutes enjoying your morning cup of coffee? I mean, starting work 30 minutes later won’t be that big of a deal, right?
The reality is that these small concessions can limit productivity, causing extra anxiety and stress that you don’t have to deal with in an office setting.
At SmartBug Media®, we know a thing or two about working remotely. In fact, it’s one of the foundational cornerstones of our company. Over the years, we’ve found the secret recipe that enables us to spend ample time with those we love, while still having fulfilling careers. When working from home is done right, we know that remote workers can be more productive than those in an office.
If you’re struggling to cope with your new normal or just need some inspiration to be more productive at home, here are six of our best tips for staying successful while working remotely.
1. Maintain a Consistent Schedule
I’ve put this one first because it’s key. Just because you’re not physically going into the office doesn’t mean you should completely forgo the schedule you were following before. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Maintaining consistency can help put you in the right mindset to have a productive and successful workday.
The best way to do this is to pretend that you actually have somewhere to go. Avoid hitting snooze. Get yourself showered and dressed in the morning. Have some coffee. Basically, do everything you would do prior to starting a normal workday. Only then should you open your laptop. You’d be surprised how focused you are right out of the gate when you’ve already taken these familiar steps.
Following a schedule doesn’t just apply to the morning either. You need consistency throughout the entire day. Try to replicate the things you previously did while in the office. For example, if you ate lunch at a certain time, try to adhere to that schedule at home. If you went to the gym after work, end your day around the same time and continue this routine.
Some strategies I’ve found helpful for maintaining a consistent schedule include:
2. Limit Distractions
Working from home presents a lot of distractions that you normally wouldn’t find in an office setting. For those who just started working remotely, you’ve likely set up shop in a communal place in your house such as the family room or kitchen. It can be easy to lose your train of thought when your significant other, roommate, or kids are in the same room.
Blocking out the noise, especially while in the comfort of your own home can be challenging. Some tips that I’ve found to be helpful, include:
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3. Don’t Be Afraid to Use the Phone
In an office setting, you have the luxury of walking over to a coworker’s desk to discuss how to execute a task or address any issues that arise. In a remote setting, this obviously can’t happen. In my experience, I’ve found that a lot of the communication that would normally occur as a quick conversation in the office generally takes place via chat or email. And it’s not necessarily the most effective use of time.
If you find yourself in a situation where you urgently need something from a coworker or are exchanging a lot of emails to work through an issue, don’t be afraid to hop on a quick phone call. Better yet, use a video conferencing tool so you can see the person you’re talking to! Many times, a five-minute conversation is all you need to eliminate 45 minutes of emailing.
4. Find Ways to Build Community with Your Team
Working from home can feel lonely if you don’t do your part to connect with other members on your team. Although the social aspect is important here, it’s not the only reason this needs to be a priority.
Feeling disconnected from the overarching goals of your team and organization can also lead to unproductive tendencies and cause you to be more distracted from your day-to-day responsibilities. Think about it: When you’re in an office setting, you’re fully immersed in the culture and can see the direct impact your contributions are having on the organization as a whole. At home, however, this visibility can become cloudy, making it easy to forget what you’re working to achieve and why.
One of my favorite parts of working for SmartBug® is the amazing remote culture we’ve built to ensure our teams stay connected, despite being spread throughout the entire country.
Some of the things that I’ve found to be the most impactful include:
5. Set Boundaries
Up until this point, we’ve mainly discussed strategies to keep you productive. But being productive doesn’t mean you need to overwork yourself. Drawing a clear line between where work ends and your personal life begins can be incredibly difficult when working remotely. After all, your office is right down the hall.
To avoid burnout, make sure you set clear boundaries regarding when you’re in work mode and when you can unplug and spend time with family. Communicate to your team members when you’ll be away from your desk and when you’ll be available to work—and adhere to those timelines.
Of course, there will always be instances where you’ll need to respond to a pressing email or phone call, but this should only happen in extreme emergencies. If you make it a regular habit to work outside of the limits you’ve set for yourself, your team and customers will begin to expect that from you.
Setting boundaries is something I struggle with the most when working remotely. Some tips that I’ve found to be helpful include:
6. Make Memories!
One of my favorite parts of working remotely is that I get to spend much more quality time with my family. In my previous role, I had close to a three-hour round-trip commute that caused me to miss a lot of important moments in my two young daughters’ lives. Since starting at SmartBug, I’ve had the freedom and flexibility to attend PTA events at the school, go to doctor appointments, spend quality time with them while they are sick, and truly be a present figure in their lives. This, coupled with the fact that I still get to have a fulfilling career, has been life-changing—and something I will never take for granted.
This is undoubtedly a trying time in our country. But I encourage you to look at this as an opportunity to embrace the discomfort and enjoy all the extra time you’ve been given to spend more of it with those you love. Take a break to read a book to your kids. Spend an extra five minutes in the morning drinking coffee with your significant other. Enjoy all of the things that make working remotely so great. But do it responsibly and keep some of our tried-and-true best practices in mind.