Remote work is on the rise.
Whether your employees work from another country, from a co-working space, or from home, there’s a good chance work happens outside of the office.
But despite how sweet working remotely may seem for the uninitiated, remote work carries its own unique challenges.
To do our part in navigating this shift, we put together a list of remote productivity tips to help telecommuters and managers alike become more efficient and successful—possibly in their pajamas.
Remote work productivity: Fact or fiction?
Does working from home make you more productive? According to research from Stanford, the answer is yes. In a study of 500 employees split into two groups, the remote cohort showed increased productivity equivalent to a full day’s work.
As it turns out, telecommuters work a full shift (or more) compared to their in-office peers—and they also take shorter breaks, have fewer sick days, and take less time off.
But being a successful telecommuter requires an ample amount of discipline. This list of work from home productivity tips aims to help remote teams embrace their power to be more successful.
The benefits of working from home
For employers, hiring remote workers has several advantages. It will lower costs since they don’t require space and resources in your physical office. Recruiters are able to choose from a wider pool of applicants since distance isn’t an issue. Virtual employees can also operate from different time zones, making it easier to provide customers with 24/7 support.
As for employees, they can benefit from working remotely in several ways. Overwhelmingly, remote workers report increased productivity and greater professional engagement. They can often enjoy a more flexible work schedule and are immune to office distractions. They also save on commuting time, which is better for them and the environment.
Though the benefits of remote teams are becoming more apparent to many companies, telecommuting still has drawbacks.
Potential downsides of working remotely
Remote work may be well-suited to some organizations, but telecommuting isn’t a perfect system. The first obstacle to a remote team’s success is the difficulty of communication, especially if the members of that team are scattered across time zones. Coordinating remote employees also requires superb management skills.
Though remote workers report higher involvement from their superiors, this may eat into their managers’ ability to get other work done. Managing a remote team is a balancing act since frequent and productive communication is key to the team’s success.
For the remote worker, the pros and cons of telecommuting are the opposite sides of the same coin. Their flexible, distraction-free surroundings can become an isolated and demotivated environment. Without a commitment to discipline and self-care, remote employees run the risk of burning out and becoming discouraged, possibly depressed.
These potential pain points for employees are the reason for this guide. Keep reading for our work from home productivity tips.
1. Create and stick to a schedule
When working from home, you’ll have a more fluid structure to your day than if you were stationed in a traditional office setting. Not only are you able to set your own schedule, you’ll have to.
Figure out a routine
We tend to think of a routine as a constraint at best, and a creativity-killer at worst. Nevertheless, for a telecommuter, sticking to a routine can be extremely positive. Without one, it will be harder to stay productive and motivated.
It’s tempting to think things like, “When I telecommute, I will stay in my PJs all day and no one can stop me.”
But doing this will remind you of relaxation-time, not work-time. A steady morning routine will help you separate the professional part of your day from the personal.
This might sound trite, but instituting a morning “heading-to-work” routine will help you gear up for the day. Even if your desk is only a few feet away from your bed, make the effort of showering, getting dressed, putting on makeup, or whatever else you typically need to feel work-ready.
These seemingly mundane tasks will give you time to mentally prepare for the work day and will make you more alert and keen.
Plan out your schedule
Without the structure of a traditional workplace, you’ll face the double-edged sword of setting your own schedule. You’ll have more freedom, but also more responsibility.
Many studies demonstrate the superiority of a shorter, high-intensity workday when it comes to productivity—which is why telecommuting workdays don’t need to occur during traditional work hours.
It’s up to you to figure out the time of day when you’re most awake, productive, and on your toes. This will allow you to get the most out of the hours in a day, by absolutely killing it when your brain is most efficient and resting when you need to.
This schedule will ideally be flexible enough to allow for unforeseen obligations and emergencies—but sticking to what works best for your needs and strengths will help you be more productive and stay on top of your deadlines.
2. Set priorities
Without the hierarchical framework of a traditional office, it can be difficult to prioritize tasks and organize your workflow.
When it comes to organization skills, there’s no universal solution, so you’ll need to find out what works for you. To-do lists can be helpful. Whatever you decide, stay in touch with your teammates (and supervisor), then structure your day around your objectives.
Knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing how to proceed. You’ll never run out of things to do while working from home. It’s dangerously easy to take work home with you when you work from your living room.
Once your allotted work hours are over, and once you’ve made headway on your to-do list, stop. Of course, we all need to give an extra push to finish a task from time to time, but if you don’t monitor your fuel gauge, you run the risk of blurring the line between home and work, and burning out.
Aim to squeeze all the productivity you can out of working hours. Without scheduled meetings, coffee breaks, and impromptu discussions with coworkers, telecommuting presents fewer distractions than working in an office.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be distracted when you’re alone in front of your computer all day. Learn to recognize the moment when you find yourself getting sidetracked, and come up with ways to effectively manage distraction. Write down intrusive tasks such as grocery shopping, reading an article, or picking up the mail so that you can get to them once work is done. Shop around for programs to help with staying focused. White noise or ambient noise players can help tune out your surroundings and improve focus, while productivity timers that support the pomodoro technique can help spark the momentum needed to get things done.
3. Select the proper tools
Working from home doesn’t need to mean balancing your laptop on the edge of your coffee table. You can maximize your telecommuting productivity by having the right tools on your side.
Invest in comfortable equipment
Since your workstation is where you’ll need to both spend a lot of time and make that time count, it’s worth it to invest in the right equipment. Whether you’re working from your dining room or kitchen table, a comfortable ergonomic chair will let you concentrate on your work instead of on your aching lumbar region.
Your screen should be eye-level, your back straight and supported, and your feet flat on the ground. If you don’t enjoy sitting down for extended periods of time, a standing desk might be more your speed. Switching between standing and sitting will be good for your back and keep you alert.
Your work station needs to be comfortable, streamlined, and efficient. Don’t store more than what’s necessary. This means keeping your work area uncluttered and taking regular breaks (ideally before your productivity starts to wane).
Choose the right tools
Your laptop is your primary tool if you telecommute. Not only do you use it to actually perform designated tasks, but it is your main means of communicating with both your team and your supervisor.
This subject is rich enough to warrant a separate article (and we’ve written one about the best tools to assist and empower remote workers).
4. Define boundaries
It’s easy to get lost in your work when you telecommute, which puts you at risk of burning out. To sidestep this possibility, it’s crucial to establish a sustainable work-life balance.
Rope off your space
If you work remotely from your couch or your bed, it’ll be much harder to get in work-mode since these are areas dedicated to relaxation. Not everyone can enjoy a home office, but it’s key to set aside a corner of your home to be your workspace. This will help set clear boundaries between work mode and home mode.
Being able to walk away from your work station when you need a break or when the day ends will let you symbolically and mentally leave work behind, and pick up where you left off the next morning.
Allot your time
When you take a break or complete your daily tasks, you need to truly leave work behind. Set up processes to appear as “do not disturb” on your communication devices. Don’t forget to also set up a clocking-out routine to neatly wrap up your day. Much like your morning routine, this will gently but firmly compartmentalize the two areas of your schedule.
Don’t let distractions creep up on you, but don’t let work take up your life. If the line between them blurs, you’ll find it harder to relax and harder to get work done as well.
5. Practice self-care
Last but certainly not least, it’s really important to take care of yourself when you work from home, which often means staying in tune with your energy levels. Telecommuters tend to take fewer sick days, often choosing to work through not feeling well.
While this is positive for employers, and a testament to the dedication of certain telecommuters, working in relative solitude can lead you to disregard the signals from your own body. That’s a slippery slope to burning out. Self-care is, perhaps in a more indirect way, just as important as any other remote productivity tips.
Get some exercise
Regular physical activity is beneficial to everyone, not just telecommuters. But telecommuters can squeeze in exercise more easily than office workers. When you need a break, don’t hesitate to do some stretches, roll out a yoga mat, or climb on your stationary bike for fifteen minutes. This is much harder to pull off in an office without getting looks.
Don’t be afraid to nap
A midday nap can be hugely beneficial to your productivity and energy levels. If you find that a nap makes you feel refreshed rather than groggy, pencil one into your schedule. Any trick is a good trick if it makes your work day more efficient and keeps your spirits high.
If you work from home, you may find yourself not leaving the house for days at a time, which is no good. Not only are sunlight and fresh air crucial to your health, but they’ll also clear your head and motivate you. Staying stuck in front of a screen all day, especially if you’re tackling a difficult task, is actually detrimental to your productivity.
If you cannot get away with going outside too often, keep some plants in your house. It may sound silly, but a little greenery can improve both your mood and your productivity.
Keep the “commute”
If you’re new to working remotely and you’re struggling to find the extra time needed to create a healthy work-life balance, consider redefining what it means to commute.
In addition to keeping your normal habits in terms of waking up, eating meals, and ending the workday, use the time you would usually spend commuting to practice the recommendations mentioned above. Even 20 minutes of light stretching, reading, or some other intentional activity can help you mentally clock-in-and-out.
What are your battle-tested remote productivity tips?
Published on March 1, 2023.