Companies rarely explain effective ways to work remotely. Use these suggestions to get you started.
Your boss allows you to work remotely a day or two each week. Now you can move from the constraints of office life to the freedom of working from home. Sounds easy, right?
Not for everyone. The newfound freedom is tough for some employees to adjust to. Since companies rarely explain effective ways to work remotely, I’ve put together a few recommendations that have helped me over the years.
Remote working is becoming more common, so consider the habits below to get the most out of the days you’re not in the office.
Have a designated space to do your work. Turn a spare room into an office. If space is limited, find a desk or table that’s specifically for your work. A designated workspace matters for a few reasons.
First, you’ll have room to spread out your work materials — such as papers, books, and reports — and leave them out the entire day. This beats working at the kitchen table. Then, you have to clean up your materials for lunch; get everything out to work in the afternoon; and clear everything away for dinner. Second, a dedicated workspace can help your motivation. When you go to this designated space, you know that it’s time to work.
Some companies purchase equipment, from monitors to paper and pens, for their employees so they’re set up for success. Others leave it up to the employee to purchase any extras.
I’ve worked for both type of companies and find that having the right materials, whether or not I buy them, is well worth it. Investing in a few supplies is a relatively minimal cost to do great work and maintain the autonomy working remotely offers.
Give your day some structure and make a schedule for the day ahead. I make an hour-by-hour schedule each evening that includes my priorities and when I’ll work on them. So on Tuesday, I make a schedule for Wednesday.
I also schedule breaks. For example, after writing an article for two hours, I’ll take a 15-minute break. Taking breaks is an important part of managing your energy throughout the day. Leaving your home or apartment for a bit and taking a walk is a great way to boost your energy levels for the afternoon ahead.
I work in large chunks of uninterrupted time. However, I’m not a hermit all day. I also prioritize communicating with colleagues, and this is important to do when you’re working remotely.
I find it helpful to check digital communication tools at designated times during my day. When I create my daily schedule, I note when I’ll check email and Slack, for example. Some people set up an automatic response on their email, alerting colleagues when they should expect a response. And still others, like managers, may find it helpful to tell team members in advance when they’re available to talk or respond to emails.
Separate work from play with the clothes you wear, recommends Jason Fried, CEO of Basecamp, in his book Remote: Office Not Required. Maybe you have a handful of “work” t-shirts, which are different from the t-shirts you wear when you’re relaxing on a Saturday afternoon or in the evenings. Having designated “work from home” clothes can get you into the right frame of mind, as Fried suggests.
One of the benefits of working from home is escaping workplace distractions that are imposed on you. So don’t inundate yourself with “home” distractions, like turning on TV and scrolling through newsfeeds on Facebook. Why? It’s because multitasking doesn’t work. Switching between tasks can result in as much as a 40% loss of productivity, according to Dr. David Meyer in an American Psychological Association article.
A common challenge is working too much when you’re working remotely. You see your computer nearby, and you have a nagging urge to check your email constantly throughout the evening.
That’s why it’s important to determine in advance when you’re workday will end. Include this in your daily plan discussed above. Then, close your laptop and place it in your book bag or close your office door so your computer is out of sight.
Some companies allow you to work where you want (remote working) and when you want (flexible work schedule). If your company offers a flexible work schedule, then it’s critical to determine your peak work periods. Do you work best first thing in the morning? Are you more alert around lunchtime?
The answer to such questions can help you determine your peak work periods. I’m a morning person; I prefer working early in the morning and immediately after lunch. I prioritize my important tasks for these periods and the save less-important stuff for later in the day when I’m mentally fatigued. Knowing when you work best can help you get the most out of your day.
More companies should explain how employees can be effective when working remotely. Until then, try out the above suggestions and see what works best for you.
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