I've worked remotely for the past 15 years. In that time, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me stay motivated and avoid distractions that can pull me away from being productive.
1. Keep a Sleep Schedule
Sleep health teaches that we will sleep better and feel more rested by getting to bed and waking up at the same time every day. With your newfound freedom to work from home, it may be tempting to stay up later and sleep in later. Feel free to do just that but do your best to still get to bed and wake up at roughly the same time. You will feel better throughout the day.
2. Don’t Work in the Same Place You Relax
Separate your workspace from your relaxing space. When I first started working from home, I sat on the couch and worked the day away. When I no longer wanted to work, I would close my laptop and stay on the couch. Without transition, I struggled to put work away and felt pressure to always be connected. Now, I work from a makeshift workstation at my kitchen table and at the end of the day, I step away from it. By bookending my day like this, I’m less likely to feel like I’m always working and make sure that I maintain my homelife.
3. Keep a New Routine
Similar to having a designated space, keeping some of your normal work routines can make it easier to transition in and out of the workday. Even though I won’t be in person for any of my meetings, I get ready for the day like I will be. I shower, I put on clothes appropriate for work, and I start my day by catching up on email over my first coffee just like I would if I were in the office. One thing I am experimenting with is the Pomodoro technique to keep me focused in an apartment filled with distraction while still giving myself an outlet to take breaks. Although keeping a structured routine might seem irrelevant when you have flexibility, it helps create the mindset that you need to keep focused and productive while working.
4. Enjoy Being Remote
Everything so far has been about making working remotely feel more like working in the office. Do that… but also enjoy being remote. Where you normally would take a break by walking to the office kitchen for your fifth coffee, take a walk outside. If you are sheltering in place, open a window and enjoy a cup of tea while watching a five-minute clip of some slow tv or a nature video. Cook your favorite lunch instead of bagging leftovers or getting takeout. Eat a snack over half an episode of The Office (but be careful to not overdo it). Coordinate a break with your family. Part of the benefit of working remotely is that you get to control your space and your time more than if you were sitting at your desk at work.
5. Understand Your Productivity Will Change
Let’s face it, as with any transition, productivity will change for the worse initially but may surprise you in the long run. You’re going to figure out how work best given your new environment and that will take time. By being deliberate about experimenting with what works best, you will find a new normal and may end up enjoying the change of pace.
As we prepare for weeks (and possibly months) of remote work due to the COVID-19 crisis, the change in status quo will be jarring for companies, leaders, and employees who are not ready to work from home.
A shift in how employees work can be jarring for any organization. With a little preparation, your organization can be set up for continued success, and it may reveal that remote work is more valuable than you expected.