Do you enjoy working from home? Are you able to be as productive and efficient as when you are working from your company’s office or lab? Today, the number of remote employees is higher than it’s ever been and due to recent circumstances such as COVID-19, more employees are shifting to virtual work. While many professionals like the concept of working from home, it’s common for people to feel disconnected from their colleagues and isolated.
Working remotely, also known as telecommuting, is often seen as an incentive of organizations having flexible options. Whether you regularly telecommute 100% of the time, a few times a week or only during emergencies, significant challenges can arise. What if you need some information right away, but your coworker isn’t responding? Perhaps, you are unsure of how to proceed based on an email or other instructions. Miscommunication and lack of communication can cause substantial problems. Here are eight ways to improve your productivity while working from home!
1. Keep a set schedule
When working from home, it’s easy to become very relaxed. Without the routine and structure of waking up, getting ready and leaving for the office, many people start to do things more randomly. Some professionals might wake up later and start ignoring other aspects of their regular routine. This can lead to having a lack of focus once they actually start their job duties online. Maintaining a set schedule during remote work can help reinforce clear boundaries when you are on and off the clock.
2. Work in an office or designated area
This can be difficult, especially since many of us might not have a room we can dedicate entirely to work. And if you’re living in a studio or smaller space, it can be a daunting task. However, for focus, it’s best to have a spot that’s set aside purely for work.
As tempting as it may be to sit on your couch in front of the TV, multi-tasking has been proven to reduce your productivity level. Doing your work in an office or other designated workspace improves your ability to focus and brainstorm. This also allows you to have more privacy and creates a more professional environment to work in. Many companies utilize video meeting technology to enhance communication among teams. When your co-workers can see you recording from a clean, professional looking area it subconsciously lets them know that you are still getting things done.
3. Limit distractions
Everything including the people, pets and things we love can become distractions when working from home. With many schools in the U.S. closed at the current time, many parents are working, while their children are at home participating in online learning. Limiting distractions can be difficult with so many factors involved. Try implementing some boundaries around your established work area. Can you close the door and use a do not disturb sign? Using headphones to drown out noise can also be beneficial.
4. Pick up the phone
When you are physically apart from your team members, misunderstandings can happen even when everyone is trying their best. We all have different personalities, preferences and skill levels. Your email communication is generally geared towards how you personally think and comprehend information. Others might not understand or view things the way that you do. Long, drawn out email chains can take up a lot of time for everyone involved. If you are unsure of instructions, plans or the tone of written communication, pick up the phone and call your colleague.
5. Dress in a way that works best for you
We’ve all been doing this awhile now, and you know what works for you at this point. The common advice is to dress professionally to signal to your brain you’ve entered work time. But that isn’t a rule, especially if it doesn’t work for you. If getting dressed in your old office attire works, go for it. But if you’re more productive in joggers and a t-shirt, that’s just fine. As long as you don’t have calls where you need to have a corporate look, whatever you’ve found works best for you, do it.
6. Don’t work too many hours
Yes, you heard us. Your productivity drops off the more hours you work. It’s bad for your health and your output. What’s the ideal number of work hours for health and productivity? Research says around 38 hours a week. It might not be possible for you to work a little under eight hours a day, but there are ways to build breaks into your routine. Take an actual lunch break, go for a walk, or spend some time journaling or writing.
7. Separate long-term goals from your short-term goals and day-to-day tasks
It’s the time of year when many of us are having discussions about our goals for the next 12 months, so it’s probably already on your mind, but big plans can be overwhelming in the present. So, break down those goals into the short-term targets that will get you closer to your long-term objectives and combine those with day-to-day tasks that must be accomplished. Think of it this way:
- Essential tasks – these are the tasks you need to get done today
- Short-term goals – these are the tasks you’ll complete over the next weeks and months as you build toward…
- Long-term goals – these are your big objectives for the coming year
While many people have regularly worked remotely for years, current global health regulations have forced the vast majority of people to work from home. Keeping a set schedule and working in a designated room or area can help to improve your productivity. Limiting distractions and picking up the phone to call team members can also cut down on wasted time.
Most of us have been working remote, full- or part-time, for at least two years at this point. We’ve experimented, learned tricks for productivity, and figured out our own unique ways to balance work and home life. If you’re going to be remote for the foreseeable future, keep experimenting to find what works best for your productivity, mental health, and work-life balance.