Before the pandemic, working from home productively was seen as a privilege reserved for certain employees. However, the pandemic has shifted this perception and now, 97.6% of workers want to continue working remotely, with 50% of US employees refusing to return to jobs that do not offer remote work. In response to this, many companies are adopting remote work as a permanent feature.
While remote work has its advantages, it also comes with its own set of challenges. We have compiled a list of our top remote work tips and best practices to help you maximize productivity and excel while working from home. Prior to March 2020, many people were hesitant to work remotely, particularly those starting out in their careers, as it was often seen as a luxury reserved for more tenured employees or just a Friday perk.
It’s impressive how quickly individuals can adapt their job responsibilities in the face of adversity. With the shift to remote work, employees have discovered that working from home can actually enhance productivity and collaboration, eliminate time-consuming meetings in favor of more efficient asynchronous work, and save an average of 54 minutes per day by cutting out the commute. Additionally, remote work offers the added benefit of spending more time with loved ones and achieving a better work-life balance.
As a result, remote work has become more accessible than ever before, with a growing number of world-changing companies embracing permanent remote work. Employers and employees alike are recognizing the benefits of remote work, making it an ideal time to begin a remote job search. There are numerous remote-focused job boards and valuable resources available to assist with finding remote work or requesting to work from home.
In this post, you will find useful tips and best practices for remote work to enhance your productivity while working from home.
How to Work From Home
Although remote work provides an escape from annoying colleagues, distractions from family members and other sources may still arise. Moreover, there are various obstacles such as time management, motivation, overworking, video conferencing, and general productivity that one must face when working from home.
Fortunately, there are several techniques, tools, and technologies that you can utilize to tackle these challenges. These tips require discipline and time to incorporate, but they will assist you in maximizing your productivity while minimizing stress when working remotely.
Begin by establishing a proper workspace
Your work environment has a significant impact on your productivity. Even if you don’t have a spare room to set up a home office, finding a designated space that is private, quiet, and free from distractions is crucial. This space should be separate from your personal life to help you maintain a clear separation between work and home.
It’s recommended to set up a permanent workspace rather than one that needs to be packed up each day. To achieve this, you’ll need to invest in some essential equipment:
A standalone desk
Using a high-quality desk designed specifically for computer work can make a huge difference in your productivity. It should not be shared by family members or left cluttered after meals.
An ergonomic chair
If you spend 30-40 hours per week at your workspace, you need a comfortable and ergonomic chair. Investing in a high-quality ergonomic chair will not only improve your comfort, but it will also boost your productivity by reducing discomfort and distractions. Choose the best chair you can afford.
An external monitor can significantly boost your productivity, especially if you spend a considerable amount of time working on a computer. This additional screen, which is typically larger than laptop or notebook screens at 24″ or more, can increase productivity by up to 50%. If you haven’t tried using an external monitor yet, we suggest giving it a shot for a few days to experience the difference it can make. For the best results, invest in a high-quality monitor with features like low blue light and flicker-free technology to reduce eye strain.
When working remotely, having a reliable and fast internet connection is crucial. While home internet connections are often designed for leisurely usage, such as streaming video content and browsing the web, remote workers need a higher quality connection, especially for tasks like video conferencing and dealing with large cloud-based files. If multiple people are using the same WiFi, this can put additional pressure on your bandwidth. To ensure you have adequate speeds, we recommend running an internet speed test on Google and aiming for a minimum of 50 to 100 Mbps download speeds for working from home, as well as at least 10 Mbps upload speeds for uploading large files to the internet.
Inadequate lighting can diminish your energy, concentration, and mood, and can result in eye strain and headaches, ultimately impeding productive work. Preferably, natural light is the best lighting option. To minimize glare, position your workspace in front of or beside a natural light source.
While not essential, scientific evidence suggests that taking notes enhances memory retention and concentration. An organized work area promotes focus, and all that is required is a simple notebook or notepad to jot down ideas, sketches, or plan your day. Muji notepads are our favorite as they are uncomplicated and aesthetically pleasing.
It’s likely that you don’t consume enough water, but you’re probably aware of that. However, not consuming sufficient water can have a negative influence on your mental performance, mood, and energy. Keeping a water jug or bottle on your work desk serves as a visual reminder to stay hydrated throughout the day, and also discourages you from getting up too frequently and losing focus to fetch a glass of water.
Ensuring that you have a suitable workspace is crucial for optimizing productivity, despite the initial investment it may require. You don’t need to go all out, but investing in essential equipment is essential. If you’re employed, consider asking your manager for a budget to help set up your workspace. The long-term benefits in terms of productivity and cost savings are apparent.
Establish clear boundaries for yourself and others
When transitioning to remote work, it’s essential to establish clear guidelines and boundaries for yourself and those around you. This can be a challenging process that may require some experimentation, particularly when dealing with young children who may not comprehend the situation. Additionally, co-workers who overuse Slack may also present challenges.
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate interruptions and distractions while working from home, it’s still possible to establish some ground rules. This starts with setting boundaries with the people in your home and colleagues.
Begin with verbal communication
It may seem simple, but it’s important to have a clear and open discussion to ensure that everyone is aware of the rules. Take the time to explain how you structure your workday to your family, and emphasize that when you’re working, you’re not available for interruptions. It can also be helpful to set specific times for breaks, to ensure that everyone knows when they can spend time together.
Physically remove your workspace
Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated home office with a door, but it’s crucial to create a physical and mental separation between your workspace and leisure time. Whenever possible, choose a quiet and isolated area with minimal distractions to set up your workspace. The inability to disconnect is a common challenge faced by remote workers, but having your workspace in a separate part of your home can provide a physical divide and serve as a mental cue to switch off at designated times.
Be clear when unavailable
To prevent burnout, it’s essential to establish clear boundaries with yourself and your colleagues when working remotely. During the COVID pandemic, remote employees worked an average of 26 extra hours each month, making it crucial to avoid overcompensating by working longer hours. Set specific working hours and be firm about your availability to your coworkers. When your workday is over, log off your computer, set your Slack status to offline, mute notifications, and add your working hours to your Google Calendar. Remember, nothing at work is as crucial as we often believe it to be.
Remove, Reduce or Block out Distractions
To optimize productivity and accomplish meaningful deep work, it’s essential to eliminate, minimize, or suppress distractions. According to research by RescueTime, the average worker checks Slack every six minutes, and it takes over 20 minutes to regain focus after a disruption.
When working from home, various distractions, such as family, coworkers, and external stimuli, can significantly affect productivity. While some disruptions are unavoidable, reducing their impact can help. If that’s not feasible, the best option is to block them out entirely. Distractions undermine productivity, cause stress, and extend work hours unnecessarily.
Invest in noise cancellation headphones
Consider investing in noise-canceling headphones while working from home, especially if you have children or reside in a noisy environment. Apart from drowning out background noise, studies show that music can enhance productivity, cognitive function, and motivation. If you haven’t tried noise-canceling headphones before
Consider investing in noise-canceling headphones, especially if you have children or live in a noisy environment. In addition to blocking out distractions, listening to music has been proven to enhance productivity, cognitive performance, and motivation. You may not realize the full potential of noise-canceling headphones until you try them, so we suggest trying the Bose QuietComfort 45. Combine this with Brain.fm or focus playlists on Spotify, and you will have the ability to work remotely with exceptional efficiency.
Prioritize deep work when working from home
Deep work is a job skill that will always be valuable. Coined by Cal Newport in a 2012 blog post, deep work refers to the capacity to focus without interruption on tasks that are mentally challenging. This is not the type of work that naturally fills your day, so it requires intentional cultivation. To achieve deep work, try leaving your phone in another room, scheduling focused work time with colleagues, asking family members to avoid interrupting you, and wearing headphones.
You might be surprised by how achievable it is to complete a “full workday” before lunchtime. By doing so, not only will your colleagues perceive you as having superhuman abilities (which you do), but completing tasks productively will also provide you with more leisure time and a healthier work-life balance.
Consider childcare options
If you are a parent and find that having young children at home disrupts your work, investing in childcare for even a few days per week could significantly increase your productivity and help you better balance your personal and professional life. This decision is both personal and financial and requires careful consideration.
Establish clear expectations with your children
One effective strategy for parents is to teach their children to occupy themselves. While this may require time and patience, if you find that your children consistently interrupt your workday, gradually reducing your responses to their interruptions can signal that distractions during work hours are not acceptable. This approach can help children understand boundaries and differentiate between work time and leisure time.
Establish a schedule and adhere to it while working from home
By establishing a consistent schedule and work hours, you can establish habits and routines that minimize distractions and set clear work-life boundaries. Similar to how your body learns to wake up and sleep at regular times each day, your family and colleagues will know when they can and cannot reach you, and you’ll find it easier to disengage from work and focus on your personal life.
Consider working from a co-working space or library
If you struggle to work effectively from home, working from a co-working space or library a few days each week to focus on deep work may be a viable alternative. This is also an excellent approach to breaking up your day, as walking or commuting to a separate location signals to your brain that it is now “work time.”
If all else fails, seek work-life balance elsewhere
While it’s not ideal, sometimes you may find that your colleagues are inexperienced with asynchronous work or fail to prioritize focus and work-life balance. We’ve all worked with people who constantly email or message around the clock and expect an immediate response, or who schedule pointless meetings with no clear agenda. These distractions hinder productivity and have a negative impact on work-life balance. The best remote companies place a premium on asynchronous work and cultivate a culture that establishes reasonable expectations regarding response times and concentrated work. Try discussing with your colleagues about setting boundaries and minimizing distractions to help the team work more effectively. However, if the situation persists, it may be time to consider finding a new opportunity.
Tips on How to avoid remote work scams
It’s crucial to carefully screen each potential remote company and job to verify its legitimacy. Remote work scams are becoming increasingly common, so it’s important to conduct research on the company and carefully read the job description before applying. Above all, never agree to pay any fees for an interview or job offer from a remote company. If a recruiter or someone who claims to represent the company requests payment to proceed with your interview (usually for a “start-up” kit or a background check), it’s likely a scam.
Here are some important factors to consider when vetting remote jobs:
1. First, make sure that the company has a valid website and social media presence. Additionally, check if the company has a Glassdoor profile with positive reviews and a genuine LinkedIn presence with real employees who have prior work experience.
2. The job listing should be featured on the company’s official careers page. If it’s not, that’s a red flag indicating that the person you’re communicating with may not be a real representative of the company.
3. Ultimately, the best course of action is to conduct thorough research on the company and the job and to rely on your intuition. This is particularly important if a recruiter has contacted you directly. If you’re uncertain about the legitimacy of a job, reach out to the company directly to request more information or to verify that the position is genuine.
If something feels off, it’s best to walk away and not waste your time. There are numerous excellent remote jobs available, so don’t settle for something that seems suspicious.
To work productively from home, you need to set up your workspace in a quiet and private area, invest in a high-quality desk, ergonomic chair, external monitor, and high-quality internet. This will help you focus and prevent distractions. In addition, you need to establish boundaries and a clear delineation between work and home life, set a routine and schedule, use tools and technologies to manage your time, take regular breaks and practice self-care. With these tips, you can learn to work productively from home.