The widespread switch to remote work caused by COVID-19 has totally and permanently shifted workplace dynamics. According to a recent Gallup study, 59% of employees currently working remotely would prefer to continue working remotely after health restrictions are lifted. Remote work is the future — and I’m here for it.
I have been working from home for over three years now, so the past few months haven’t been too much of an adjustment for me in that regard (minus the lack of my office away from office, AKA coffee shops all over the Bay Area).
I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to work from home and I am so grateful for it. But even though it’s a huge blessing to be able to work remotely, it does pose many challenges. And a lot of those challenges have been exacerbated by the stress of everything happening in our world. Many newly remote workers are struggling with how to be productive, navigate interpersonal dynamics, and draw healthy boundaries with their employers.
Since I’ve been working remotely for a while now, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to maximize your remote work experience in this unique season.
1. Learn from the homeschoolers
Working from home has always come naturally to me, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of my years of home education. Many people like to poke fun at homeschoolers, but let me tell you — in the year 2020, homeschoolers are living their best lives. Homeschooling teaches you a lot about being self-disciplined, balancing productivity with fun, and oh yes – doing work in your PJs. Technically, a lot of people are homeschooling now, but the homeschoolers who were doing it before it was cool are uniquely set up for success in the COVID-19 era. Find a homeschooled friend and ask them to share some of their best productivity and motivation techniques — I can guarantee you they have some wisdom to share.
2. Cultivate your workspace
Having a good workspace setup is critical to productivity. Many people feel the need to separate their workspace from their personal space, but this varies from person to person. My recommendation? Instead of attempting to create an environment that will “make you productive,” cultivate a workspace atmosphere that you truly enjoy. Light a candle! Seriously, lighting a candle instantly makes the world brighter in so many ways. A few months ago, I also started putting fresh flowers in my workspace. Doing little things to create a setup you love will help make you more productive and improve your remote work experience.
3. Develop a regular schedule
I am a total night person, but a couple of months ago, I decided to become an early bird. This was partly inspired by a great book I’m currently reading called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (highly recommend), but also came from a desire to have a better work/life balance. I did some research and shifted my alarm clock by 15 minutes every morning — now, I’m waking up before the chaos of the world ensues. But news flash: waking up earlier doesn’t work unless you go to bed earlier, and the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults need anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you’re struggling with facing work as soon as you wake up in the morning, consider shifting your schedule earlier. Also, don’t forget to build breaks into your day. It seems counterintuitive, but research shows that frequent breaks actually make people more productive. As you create your schedule, remember there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, but try to figure out what unique rhythms work for you.
4. Maintain healthy boundaries
One of the most commonly talked about aspects of working from home is maintaining healthy boundaries. Now that so many people are working remotely, it’s easy to be online all the time. To maintain a healthy work/life balance, you have to settle on boundaries that work for you and your employer and maintain good communication about those boundaries. An added challenge in the midst of this is that thanks to technology, we’re all now constantly accessible. If you feel that you’re struggling to draw a line between your work and personal life, try using screen time limits. Apple and Android both offer different features that allow you to limit your use of your devices and schedule when you’re online or offline for different apps. Whatever you do, do NOT look at emails in bed. Just don’t do it. It’s really unhealthy to have work be the last thing on your mind when you go to bed and the first when you wake up. As you navigate developing boundaries that work for you, it may take some time to figure out a good work/life balance — but it’s well worth the effort.
5. Don’t multitask your way through conference calls
I am a chronic multitasker, but it’s actually poisonous to productivity. Research shows that multitasking causes a 10-point drop in IQ. While working through your inbox on a conference call can make you feel like you’re accomplishing more, dividing your focus results in neither task getting your full attention. Remaining engaged in hours of back-to-back calls is challenging, but try to find ways to remain focused and give your full concentration to the calls at hand. Take notes, or find something to do with your hands. Ask questions if you have the opportunity. Virtual meetings are hard, but working to be an active listener and participant will help you show up and be fully present.
6. Get a cat
I’m pretty sure this is a piece of advice I share a little too often, but when it comes to working from home, cats are seriously game-changers. According to a 2020 Buffer report, 20% of remote workers wrestle with loneliness. Especially if you live alone, there is something really special about having a WFH buddy. Cats provide minimum maintenance and maximum cuteness. Plus, is there anything more entertaining than watching your cat’s antics in the background of your video conference call? If you’re more of a dog person, then I’m sorry but we can’t be friends (just kidding). But the bottom line is to be sure to seek out companionship, because humans aren’t meant to be alone.
Well, I hope these tips help you in your quest to be productive while working remotely in the COVID-19 era! Now, I’d love to hear from you! Remote friends, what are your secrets for working from home?