The transition to working remotely has taken a diverse toll on US workers. For some, the emotional adjustment to working from home has heightened feelings of loneliness and invisibility. For others, competing family demands have created extra roadblocks to normal productivity. Now that your office, gym, daycare, school, and practically everything else are staged in your living room, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to achieve the same levels of productivity amid all the chaos of home life.
With this in mind, we’ve turned to a number of seasoned at-home employees for handy universal remote working tips to help you cope and even thrive in these new, uncharted circumstances.
#1: Keep the Same Schedule Every Day
It’s exciting to have new flexibility in your workday, but try not to stray too far from what you’d normally do in a typical week. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to keep your body in “routine” mode. Continue to exercise, shower, and get dressed in the morning, as you would normally, to get the endorphins flowing and put yourself in the working mindset.
It’s also important to designate a firm start and quit time in order to maintain boundaries for your work life and personal life, even though your boss isn’t there to enforce it.
Rob Bowles, Director of Integration Sales at LyntonWeb, has found success with this technique. “My biggest tip is keeping your routine as if you were going to work,” he says. “Wake up, shower, put on clothes, have a virtual coffee meet up with your team, and try to get the day going as normal.”
#2: Exercise Each Day
Julie Bort, a reporter who has worked remotely for the last 20 years, emphasizes the importance of a vigorous daily workout in a work-from-home routine. In her experience, exercise can help you overcome the depression associated with isolation and increase your mental acuity when you feel sluggish. It can even equip you to handle stress more effectively. If you experience afternoon productivity slumps, remote work gives you the opportunity to exercise in the middle of the day and overcome the crash.
#3: Designate a Workspace and a Work-Free Zone
When your place of work takes up residence in your place of rest, you need physical boundaries between the two spaces for the sake of your psychological wellness. For example, if you have a spare bedroom in your home, set up your workspace in that room and leave the rest of your home free for spending time with your children, doing crafts, cooking, and enjoying downtime. If you don’t have a dedicated “spare” room, find a section of the house that is quiet, has good lighting, solid cell reception, and strong wifi. Communicate with your family the ground rules for work time interactions and set boundaries.
#4: Maintain Virtual Contact with Coworkers
Social distancing has proven to be emotionally taxing even on the most introverted of employees, but technology provides easy solutions to this problem. Just because you aren’t together physically doesn’t mean you can’t get together with coworkers virtually for lunch or happy hour over video chat. Don’t be afraid to lighten the mood by striking up a conversation or dropping a lighthearted meme into a group chat.
If your company offers morning Zoom workouts, afternoon stretch/meditation time, book club, or something similar, get involved — and don’t feel guilty about doing so! Chatting with your officemates is a normal and healthy part of office life, and remote work doesn’t mandate the abandonment of those friendships. These small, regular interactions make a long-term impact on your mental health, especially if you live alone.
#5: Take Regular Breaks Throughout the Day
Just because you can power all the way through a workday without stopping doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so. Overwork leads to faster burnout and decreases your long-term productivity. The most successful remote workers manage a healthy work-life balance by scheduling short breaks throughout the day, so you shouldn’t feel like a slacker for doing the same. In fact, you should feel good knowing that you’re prioritizing your wellness, and breaks help you produce higher quality work.
These breaks don’t have to take a long time. Use 15 minutes every couple of hours to eat a snack, stretch your legs, and chat with a coworker. You’ll then be rejuvenated and ready to work through the next few hours. Tip: Drinking lots of water is both good for you and will build in many natural breaks through the day, win-win.
Marie Prokopets, Co-founder of FYI, recommends using the flexibility of remote work to avoid burnout. “Get up for a sunrise hike,” she says. “Take your dog for an afternoon walk. Get out of the house for lunch. Schedule time for networking. Don’t use all of your time — from waking up to going to bed — to work. Avoid not leaving the house for days. All are signs pointing to burnout. Use the power of remote work for good, not evil.”
#6: Have a Plan for Dealing with Distractions
Your spouse, pets, kids, roommates, or whoever else is at home with you are bound to be a distraction at one point. Don’t allow yourself to be surprised by these. Instead, set expectations for yourself and others beforehand to minimize distractions that arise throughout your day.
For example, plan to take your dog on a walk on your lunch break so your furry friend can burn off some energy and subsequently not demand as much of your attention. Ask your family members to respect your physical workspace and only enter it in the event of an emergency. If you have loud housemates, wear headphones to drown out the noise or use noise-cancelling headphones if music distracts you. The truth of the matter is there will be distractions during work from home mandates that wouldn’t normally be there because everyone is home all day, every day. Try your best to avoid the interruptions but when they happen, try to embrace them.
#7: Volunteer to Take on More
It’s easy to feel overlooked when you are no longer interacting regularly with your supervisors and coworkers. At the same time, the coronavirus may also be impacting your workload and putting you on-edge about job security.
If this is a point of concern, consider volunteering for work outside of your job description and offer to bring more to the table. This makes you more of an asset to your company and you may be recognized for going above and beyond. You’ll also be making a meaningful contribution to your company and proving yourself to be a team player — characteristics sure to be appreciated during these difficult times of uncertainty and possibly rewarded later.
#8: Take Advantage of a Learning Management System
If your company offers e-learning courses, take advantage of any clocked-in downtime (if your employer approves) you may have to make yourself a more valuable and well-rounded worker. Online training is a great use of time and may prepare you for new job responsibilities and future openings.
#9: Take Time to Decompress After Work Each Day
It’s never been more important than it is now to take care of yourself — whatever that means for you. Whether it’s taking a warm bath, cooking a healthy meal, watching your favorite movie, or taking a walk through nature, you need to invest in your mental health so you can give 100% to your job.
Implement These Proven Techniques Starting Today
These tried-and-true work at home tips from experienced remote workers apply to employees in every line of work. As society shifts to a “new normal,” following these suggestions will help you adapt faster and ensure your office productivity and wellness now and into the future.