5 Ways to Stay Productive Working From Home (and to wow your boss)
Working remote has its perks and its gaining popularity, but does it make us less productive? Whether you are a freelancer, consultant, or a full time employee with the ability to work from home, more and more people are finding themselves working outside of the typical office setting. It is found by Flexjobs that as of 2017, “43% of U.S. workers work remote at least occasionally” which is up from 9% in 2007 (a staggering 378% increase in 10 years). There is no doubt in my mind that this trend is going to continue to increase in the coming years as technology allows us to communicate and engage with others more easily. But for some employers it can be daunting to give up control over their employees out of fear they will take advantage of the perk. I am a big advocate for working remotely and believe there are many benefits to it. However, remote workers shouldn’t take the flexibility for granted and we need to continue to push ourselves to stay productive (maybe even more so than office workers).
Are remote workers less productive?
So let’s cut to the chase, are remote employees less productive? The short answer is, no. My reasoning is that people who work in an office are (1) interrupted more frequently, (2) spend time commuting to work, and (3) take just as many breaks (if not more) than remote workers. It is found that in the average 8.8 hour workday, professionals are productive for only two hours and 53 minutes a day. That is a sad statistic to accept when many of us are striving to be our most productive selves. The flip side is, if you are productive for over 3 hours a day, you are more productive than the average worker… so kudos to you!
More research has found that professionals are interrupted on average every 11 minutes and spend nearly a third of their day recovering from these interruptions and distractions. In an office environment (especially open workspaces), there are so many more uncontrolled and unanticipated interruptions like being tapped on the shoulder, leaving a digital ping unanswered for too long, or wondering what’s going on in the company kitchen. These are all things remote workers don’t need to worry about it. I worked in an open office space for about 2 years before working remotely (in the same role) and hands down my productivity skyrocketed as soon as I distanced myself from the distractions. My boss at the time even told me I was more likely to solve issues myself instead of going to him when I worked remote.
Working from home definitely still has its distractions though. I do my laundry throughout the day, take my dog outside and clean the kitchen at times. But aren’t these “productive” breaks better than skimming Facebook because your mind needs a second to breathe? Also, I worked longer hours from home than I did in the office. As soon as I wake up and make my coffee - I’m on my computer. The biggest downside with working from home I would say is the inability to fully sign off for the night (as your work is literally taken home with you). Breaks and finding time to disconnect are a necessity to productivity.
Ways to stay productive when working remote
With all of that being said, we still need to ensure we are keeping ourselves in check (especially as the warmer weather begins to taunt us). Remote workers are scrutinized more and the last thing we want is to have to give up our flexible jobs. So although you may already get more than 3 hours of productive time per day, let’s look at what can help you stay sane and wow your boss when working remote.
1. Have a schedule and stick to it
Working from home or remote allows for a lot of flexibility and at times maybe even too much if I dare say so. Schedules and routines are important for your productivity (and boss). If you have morning meetings with your team like I did, this will make it easier for you. But if you don’t, it’s time to be honest with yourself and hold yourself accountable. First and foremost - set your alarm for the same time each morning and determine what you want to include in your morning routine. I think it’s important to wake up and “get ready” even if it is to change in to yoga pants. Letting yourself wake up and transition to the mindset of work mode will help you to focus throughout the day. It also is an amazing feeling waking up early and hopping online before the rest of the office is awake - you will get so much done! And then of course set a time each day that you will sign-off. Again, it’s easy to keep your computer open past 5 or 6 p.m. and respond as things come in, but you need time to recharge for tomorrow.
When I started working from home for the first time after being in an office, I noticed some anxiety begin to creep in. After a few months, I finally decided to step back and determine what was causing this. I realized that the lack of routine and schedule for me personally, is something that my mind was not adjusting to. Once I set a morning routine, changed my lunch habits to eating at my kitchen table instead of at my desk, and signed off at a certain time each night, my anxiety dissipated. Allowing yourself to be connected to work 24/7 can truly have a toll on you mentally and physically. Not only do you lose sight of what your body is telling you, your willpower will never have time to recharge and you are more likely to look for distractions; so be sure to set boundaries.
2. Find a tool that allows you to connect
The biggest struggle that remote employees experience that isn’t a surprise, is loneliness and communication. Working apart from your team can be difficult and requires work on your end to stay engaged with the company culture. First and foremost, ensure you are video conferencing during internal meetings. When I worked remote, I had daily meetings with my team members face-to-face which not only helped me feel more connected to them, but it made me make myself presentable. Talk to your company about using Skype or Highfive for internal and company meetings. Even if it’s just a 1 on 1 meeting, talking face to face will help you to engage and make your boss or coworker see you are in work mode and focused just like them.
3. Schedule frequent calls with your manager
Check in with your manager frequently. Keeping an open line of communication with her will help your relationship and build trust. One of the biggest concerns employers have with letting their employees work remote is the lack of insight they have in to their work. Taking the initiative to schedule a call (or video conference) twice a month with your manager will show you are taking your job seriously and it will give you the opportunity to discuss anything that may be going on with the team. Finding time to connect on what you have been working on and any issues that you have will also give you a better chance at being top of mind for a promotion (because let’s face it...out of sight, out of mind).
4. Separate work as much as you can
I would highly recommend putting your desk in a separate room in your home. Being able to have a dedicated room to work will keep you from getting sucked in to doing house chores and will also allow you to disconnect more easily at the end of the day. Another route of course is to find a co-working space if separating work at home is not an option. It’s amazing how many are popping up; convenient workspace has never been more affordable. I know it’s hard to get yourself out of the house (as it’s just so comfortable), but even if you make it out in the mornings, working from these spaces can have a huge impact on your mood and productivity and will give you a sense of community with others who are in a similar position to you. If your company isn’t budging on forking over the cash for a co-working space, make it a point to visit some coffee shops throughout the week for a change of scenery. Getting out of the house to work even for a bit will keep you sane and help with your creativity.
5. Get a whiteboard
All right, so maybe you don’t need to get a whiteboard, but don’t they make you feel like you are in an office and in control? Most companies allow their employees to get office supplies, so maybe look into this as whiteboards are a great place to brainstorm and write down ideas to focus on each day. You can even get something small that fits on your desk.
The main reason though I suggest you get a whiteboard is to write down your three key goals each day. You may have read my previous blog post, 10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Productivity, but writing down your top three tasks to complete each day will help you to stay focused. I recommend each morning, before you get sucked in to emails, you determine what three tasks you could get done that day that would make you feel productive. That way, when you are done with one item, you immediately know what to begin working on next - no excuses! Visually seeing these three items will help to keep yourself honest.
Do you work remote? Share ways you stay productive and focused below!