I wrote this for my professional network, but I think working remotely could be a lifestyle for some people and definitely has a place on our blog. I personally love remote work, but I acknowledge it’s not for everyone. Here is a quick list of things you can do to maintain or improve your productivity while working from anywhere. Use work from home opportunities to demonstrate that even though you’re not physically in the office, you’re still invaluable.
Change into your work clothes
Studies have shown that what you wear affects your psychological processes. Going through the motion of getting ready in the morning and changing out of your pajamas will help you feel like you’re going to work and help you be more productive. Keeping a routine is key to your productivity. Also, should you end up on a video conference call, you won’t be caught in your pajamas.
Create a separate workspace
If you don’t have a spare room to use for an impromptu home office, you probably have a dining table or other flat surface that you can work on. Although it looks glamourous when visualizing it in your head, there isn’t much work you can accomplish sitting the couch or in bed, so I avoid working from there altogether. Couches do offer a nice change of scenery but that depends on the task at hand. It’s best to replicate a work station similar to the one you might have at the office.
Having a dedicated workspace also helps create a distinction between your work and personal time. It’s important to be mindful and create that separation. You have your dedicated work hours in an office– there’s no reason why it should be any different at home.
Schedule everything into your calendar, especially your lunch breaks
Scheduling helps with many things, but it especially helps create a distinction between work and personal time. It will get you up and away from your workspace, and it’ll help you master your schedule too.
Scheduling everything into your calendar helps communicate to your team members where you are or what you’re doing. I’ve always worked at organizations where our calendars are open and visible to anyone at the company. If a colleague wants to book a call with me, they can easily check my calendar.
Natural breaks that happen in the office, like getting up to get a glass of water, going over to chat with a colleague won’t happen, so I find it easiest to schedule these small breaks into the calendar too. It helps to keep a sense of normalcy and routine when working somewhere different.
When you start to schedule everything into your calendar, you begin to master time management. You can start to schedule your priorities, as well as plan for downtime and your personal time. Remember: if you don’t make time, you won’t have time.
Over-communicate and learn to use all your communication channels effectively
When you are using Slack or other instant messaging platforms, don’t leave the recipient hanging with a “hey, you there?” If they respond immediately, great! If they don’t, type out your whole message for them to review and get back to you. Share as much information as you can, and try to think of any follow-up questions they may have for you, and leave that too.
If the text conversation is not getting you the answer you need, hop on a video conference call. It will save you so much time. For difficult conversations, video conference calls are a must. Text will not give you the context you need to proceed accordingly.
Regularly schedule video calls with your colleagues and for your meetings. If your organization has video conferencing tools, use them! Further, practice seeing yourself on camera and checking your camera surroundings. A lot of communication is non-verbal, so it helps to turn on that video camera. If you don’t want to look at yourself, minimize the panel that shows your video. Remember, you are still part of that conversation or meeting, and so this is another reason why it’s important to change into your work clothes.
Pro tip: if you get to use Zoom, there is a “Touch Up My Appearance” feature hidden in the menus. You’re welcome.
The purpose of email doesn’t really change if you’re in the office or you are a remote worker. If I can’t reach someone via instant message, I will also send an email to them outlining that I messaged them on Slack and rehash the message. It helps to over-communicate because it makes it easier for the recipient to respond in their preferred channel and ultimately helps you in getting what you need faster.
Explore collaboration tools
I love new technology and finding ways to be able to do my work better, faster, easier. There is no shortage of tools out there today to help individuals and teams collaborate and get work done. In my recent roles, I’ve been able to collaborate with existing tools like chat, email, and apps within Google Drive/Microsoft OneDrive.
I love using Vidyard’s free screen recording tool for asynchronous communication. You can do easy screen recordings, and also include a talking bubble on the bottom left of the screen for personalization. Trello has a free version of their Kaban-style list-making tool. I firmly believe successful collaboration across remote and dispersed teams can be done with the right tools and mindset. There’s so much technology available for free or with trials, why not explore something new?
Eat lunch away from your desk
If you have to work at your dining table this might be tricky, but close your laptop and put your work away while you eat lunch. Multitasking is not in style. You also need to give yourself a mental break from work. This allows you to ultimately come back to your tasks more productive. Try to go for a walk on your lunch break. I don’t participate in 10,000 step challenges, but I know when I’m working in an office versus working remotely, I don’t get nearly enough steps into the day.
As opposed to working in a shared office space, remote work allows you to eliminate the distractions around you. Turn off the TV and stay away from the fridge. Eliminating distractions or working in an environment of your preference means that you can focus better and get “deep work” done. Deep work is a practice of eliminating distractions, so you can focus better on demanding tasks and produce high-quality work and results. Anything that requires problem-solving or complexity is demanding on your cognitive abilities, and that work is best done without distraction. Try scheduling in some time into your calendar and practice “deep work”.
Practice positive intent
Remember to be kind to one another. Everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have. We are all operating to the best of our abilities. Practice positive intent and believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. We are all in this together.