As much as we hate to admit it (because we fought hard to maintain this privilege), working remotely can be difficult sometimes. We love all the quality time with our pets and being able to complete a load of laundry in between meetings feels so efficient, but being prepared for those meetings is a little more challenging and we can never seem to find the time to finish those expense reports. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us got a quick and dirty crash course in remote work and while the bosses say it’s time to return to business as usual, the employees have a bigger shift in mind. Working remotely is definitely here to stay for a growing number of workers and we’ve learned a lot in the almost 3 years of this wild experiment. We all love the perks of working from home but if you are struggling to remain productive, you’re not alone and we have all the tips and best apps to help you bring your best efforts to work.
Humans are repetitive creatures and a change in our routine can really throw things off for us. Mimicking some of our former routine can help us adjust to the new schedule, but also creating transition activities will help your brain embrace the change. Create a routine that works for you. It can be helpful to act like you are getting ready to make your commute, getting dressed and ready for the day is a sign to your brain that it needs to transition to work-mode. This can also include listening to a work related podcast, packing your lunch and snacks to save time later and aid the transition. When you are putting your routine on your calendar, make sure to include your breaks and how you will be using them. Try to schedule your lunch for the same time every day, it will help your body to stay on task. And finally, include an end–of-work-day activity to transition back into home-mode.
An important part of our routine is the breaks we take throughout the day. Often we don’t schedule breaks because they just happen – usually due to distraction, but being more deliberate about how we spend the time between work tasks can improve our entire day. Make an effort to get outside and/or move your body on your breaks because it reduces stress, helps with creative block, helps maintain perspective, and keeps burnout from occurring. A walk through your neighborhood in lieu of your morning rush-hour commute will will certainly lower your stress levels but viewing sunlight first thing can also promote metabolic well-being and positive function of your hormone system, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman. Since we are being deliberate with our breaks – do not count mindless scrolling, it doesn’t give your brain the break it requires and deserves. The more active we can be on our breaks, the better our body and mind will function, and our efforts with work will show it.
If you have always done the 9 to 5, you may be surprised to find that your most productive hours aren’t during business hours. Try some new scheduling techniques. If you have flexibility in the timing of your work tasks, you might want to try starting work really early in the morning or taking an afternoon break but getting another hour or 2 of work in after dinner. It’s your schedule so make it work best for you. Of course, you need to be sure you are present for meetings and other required engagements and if your company is tracking keystrokes, this is probably not the best hack for you.
In order to maintain this new routine and make the best of remote work, we need to stay organized. Some of us have no problem keeping our mind and space tidy, but for those of us who struggle there are many apps and devices that can help. For starters, make a list of work goals for each day of the week, prioritize tasks, and plan to do your most difficult, time-consuming, and least desirable tasks at the beginning of the day. You can use the Pomodoro Technique or Timeboxing to organize your time and tasks. Timeboxing is very similar to the Pomodoro Technique when used for personal time management but can be expanded as an alternative to a fixed scope and/or to manage risk of missed deadlines in project management. If you need a visual cue to assist your time management, there are devices such as the TIMEFLIP2, Timeqube, or Timular to help. We really like that the TIMEFLIP2 also has a connected app for personalizing to your needs. If you don’t need a device, there are plenty of time tracking apps and Toggl is a favorite that includes a pomodoro timer.
Create a Workspace
In pursuance of organization, it is best to have a designated workspace. We have discussed this a few times before because it really is that important. If you are going to be working from home, create a workspace that includes a desk and chair because working on the couch or bed is absolutely not ideal. It would be best if your workspace was only used for work and not dining, other tasks, or hobbies. Be sure to have some noise-canceling headphones with a mic in your workspace so you can hear and be heard in all those zoom meetings. You might even want a ring light so you can look your best because you definitely want your camera ON.
If you are working for a company or on a team, parts of your workflow may already be automated for you. But if you are new to automation, email is a great place to start. You can create templates and filters in Gmail so your customers, clients, or coworkers aren’t waiting on you to respond to their frequently sent messages. Hubspot, Mailchip and other software can also help you automate your messages. If you need help setting this up, here is a great tutorial.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is obviously more straightforward when we are together in-person but when we are working remotely, it is going to require a bit more effort. As we discussed in Issue 09, reach out to your manager and coworkers to touch base on projects, get feedback, and also just to check in and cultivate the relationship. You can also discuss with your team or manager if software such as Slack, Asana, or Trello can assist in managing both projects and communication. Building those relationships can help to stave off loneliness which is is the number one complaint of remote workers.
If loneliness is your biggest hurdle, join a shared workspace or use a virtual coworking app like Caveday or Focusmate. We may be biased, but joining a shared workspace can do wonders for a remote worker. All the distractions of home can stay at home and you can come focus on what you need to accomplish. If you aren’t near a shared workspace, the virtual coworking apps offer accountability when you need it most and can provide community while working solo from home.
Have you discovered any other hacks to optimize working from home? What is your favorite?