Remote working offers real benefits, both for employer and employee, but bringing work and home life together under one roof can prove distracting and difficult to manage. We had no choice through the lockdowns during the pandemic, but many of us are now looking to secure a more permanent home set-up and need to make it efficient rather than just making do. There are several areas that need to be thought through, such as getting the correct technology in place, finding a dedicated workspace where you can be largely undisturbed, and thinking of ways to keep connected with fellow team members. Whatever your situation, there are no hard and fast rules to ensure success, but the below tips are worth thinking about:
1. Make sure you have the right tools for the job
These days nothing makes a bigger difference to productivity than reliable, high- speed Wi-Fi. Working as close as possible to your router helps, but also limit how many devices are running off it as too many can overburden and slow everything down. Do you have the equipment you need, such as a laptop and printer, as well as network access for remote login? Zoom for video conferencing? Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats? Trello or Asana for project management? Getting everything set up before you need it and troubleshooting any initial problems can be enormously helpful.
2. Design your workspace
Whatever the size of the area you’ll be devoting to work, make sure it’s well- designed to eliminate distractions and maximise efficiency. Having the right desk is a game changer. A standing desk is a great investment in your health, and studies have shown they notably improve engagement and productivity. Storage can just be simple shelving, a plant is always welcome, plus a good desk light, and if possible face a window to take advantage of the natural light and the view, while avoiding glare on your screen. Keeping your workspace clean and tidy is important too, as procrastination is a common byproduct of a messy environment.
3. Get into a routine
It’s all too easy to blur the lines between personal and professional when you’re at home, so developing a solid workday routine is key. Get up at the same time, eat breakfast, go for a walk – whatever feels right for you – but keep your mornings consistent to help get you into a work mindset. Then when you’re finished for the day, pack up and move away from your work area until the following morning.
4. Set clear boundaries
When there’s no one looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to get distracted by social media, do some laundry or take the dog out for a walk. While it’s fine to have an unproductive day every now and then, if you don’t keep things in check it will start to affect your stress levels. Equally, don’t fall into the habit of checking your emails constantly through the evening. Be clear about your working hours and be firm with yourself about sticking to them.
5. Create a schedule that’s right for you
Your schedule should work the way you do, so take into account your natural energy levels through the day. If you need several hours to focus on something, for example, and you’re someone who is able to concentrate better in the morning, block that time and only schedule meetings after lunch. A scheduling tool like Calend.ly allows people to book appointments with you only at times you state you’re available, saving lots of toing and froing on email, and putting you firmly in control of your time. Also try the Pomodoro Technique, setting yourself a short time interval (typically 25 minutes) to focus on a single task. It’s been proven to increase productivity, plus it encourages you to take short breaks in between.
6. Keep communication levels high
Chat platforms like Slack, Skype or Google Hangouts are a great way to keep regular informal discussions going within a team – from actual work topics to what people ate for lunch to sharing funny memes – but alongside that, a team catch-up call every few days can make all the difference.
7. Seize opportunities for social interaction
Working from home can feel quite isolated, so schedule in at least a couple of meetings each day, even if they’re just short chats or to quickly check in with someone. And always have your camera on whenever the opportunity arises. Where face-to-face communication is limited, video calls take engagement and relationship building to a much higher level than just speaking.
8. Take regular breaks and look after yourself
Breaks should be added to your schedule as a reminder, but they only count if you actually take them. Make it a priority to step away from your desk, whether it’s for a quick stretch, a snack, or a short walk. Then at lunchtime when you have longer, eat properly and head outside. This will help you reset and recharge, ready for a productive afternoon.
9. Take time to learn and be inspired
There’s so much valuable content at our fingertips and we need to take full advantage of this – especially as it’s so easily accessible from your home-working space. Sign up for any webinars and online training courses you see that interest you. And if you’re doing repetitive tasks, an audiobook or podcast is a great way to glean valuable information and keep you focused as you work.
10. Keep your long-term goals top of mind
It’s easy to fill your time simply ticking items off your never-ending to-do list when you work from home, but it’s so important to always keep your end goal in mind and factor in the time to plan towards it. You can have great ideas, but without actionable steps, nothing will happen. Once you’ve worked up a long-term plan, break it down into yearly, quarterly, weekly and daily goals. This will help you to see yourself moving in the right direction, lowering overwhelm and increasing motivation.