Many of us have been working remotely (for, what, 7 months now?) and are likely either becoming very accustomed to this new work world or are bordering burnout. As an employee who started working remotely full time in August 2019, I feel like I had a jump start on a larger group of the workforce that started their full-time remote work in March 2020.
While I am still adjusting to many parts of the working from home life, I have already had plenty of lessons learned. As we all continue to adapt, I hope to provide some helpful insight from my own experiences and share recommendations from others that have been working remotely for much longer.
There is a lot of literature online for tips and tricks to make your home working life better. I have reviewed and researched rigorously to find the best ways to really increase your personal productivity.
I list location as number one because it is the most important, in my opinion. Maybe during the first few months working from home you were able to get by for a few days of the week working from your bed or the couch. If you have a partner, kids, or cuddly pet and you have tried this, you know the distractions never end. So, now that we’re hunkering down for another season of “work from home,” the most important objective for being extremely productive is creating a home office that you can dedicate as your space and, if possible, have the option to close a door for that crucial sound barrier from the small ones that don’t understand appropriate office decibel levels.
Make sure that the space is comfortable and well lit. The more natural light the better. If you have some budget to put toward your home workspace, consider options like a stand-up or adjustable desk. My desk is adjustable, and I use an adjustable chair as well, and I love having the option to stand or sit at my desk. Consider adding a second monitor, getting a new chair, or using a wireless mouse and keyboard.
If you don’t have a desk or the option to have an adjustable desk, you can make your own by stacking books under your laptop or putting some pillows behind your back to make sure you’re positioned comfortably for a full day of work.
In order to be extremely productive at home or in the office, we know that goal setting and follow-up is a must. Many of us are more accustomed to reviewing yearly, quarterly, and even monthly goals as a company but the weekly, daily, and even hourly goals are what truly takes a productive worker and makes them an extremely productive worker. Being at home and away from the office can make many employees forget about these shorter-term goals.
One of the best ways to start your workday is to review the goals you have for the day and make a to-do list. I have found that assigning hourly spots to specific projects and tasks is very helpful. Even though I may not complete the hourly spots as planned, it helps me gauge how much time I should be devoting to each project. At the end of the day, you can review your progress, recalibrate the time needed to finish your tasks, and pick up the daily goals on the following morning. Don’t get discouraged if you weren’t able to finish everything you wanted to finish. Try to do better tomorrow than you did today.
It is also important to stay focused on one task at a time. Similar to Dave Ramsey's "Snowball Approach" to paying off debt, one approach to this would be tackling the smallest task first and slowly moving your way onto the larger tasks as the day goes on. Another strategy is taking on the most challenging assignment first thing in the morning. If you’re like me, you know that your brain power is at max power earlier in the morning. When I hit the 3 PM to 5 PM window my brain power starts to take a dive. This could be a good time to complete the more mundane and simple assignments.
3. Your Coworkers
It’s obvious you’ve gained some new “coworkers” during this work-from-home experience. You and your partner, pets, and kids may have been sharing the same space for months now. However, as schools begin to reopen and some folks return to offices, that environment may continue to evolve as you work remotely. The important thing — if you haven’t realized it just yet — is that being flexible, adaptable, and resilient to this ever-changing landscape makes for the best outcomes.
Regardless of your situation, if you have children or a partner, you want to continue to set expectations with them. One way is to communicate your schedule at the start of the day, so that everyone understands when you must fully focus and which parts of the day are a bit more flexible for you.
Your remote coworkers at your company are the ones that you are moving projects forward with, so it’s important for your coworkers to know you are available. Again, communicating any type of schedule will make for a better outcome. For example, if you have to drop off/pick up children from school, make sure your team is aware that you may be away from the computer. Or if something comes up and you need to run out — or you don’t feel well — communicating your schedule with your team will ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Aside from general communication strategies, building relationships when working remotely is an ever-important tactic as we navigate this environment. Video chat continues to be a great way to build that professional relationship and get some face-to-face interaction. My boss started holding 30-minute sessions called “Coffee Breaks.” It’s an optional meeting where people can get together before work and chat about anything non work related. It makes for a great way to reconnect in a casual setting.
We may all be feeling some remote work fatigue, but as we navigate through this stage of 2020, it’s important to explore ways to stay productive so that you can be at your best at home for your organization.
For more information on leading remote teams, hiring remote workers, and remote proctored assessment, check out our collection of resources, Quickly Adapt To A World Of Remote Work.