Working from home can sound like a dream set-up, but it’s no picnic either. Because you’re given the liberty to set your own pace, guilt and fear can often set in when your personal and professional schedules collide and you’re somehow forced to prioritize the former. If you’re a conscientious worker, this can make you overcompensate by working in the wee morning hours or even on weekends.
Then there’s the feeling of isolation you can get when you show up at a meeting with your onsite counterparts. Telecommuting can be very collaborative, sure, but it’s also not ideal for a group’s morale if you guys are unable to pick each other out of a line-up. Let’s not even talk about how working from home can present so many distracting temptations and potentially wreak havoc on your productivity.
Fortunately, there are some strategies you can employ in order to minimize the pitfalls of a remote work set-up:
1. Start work as early as possible.
While a flexible schedule is one of the trademarks of remote work, there are great productivity benefits to tackling your to-do list as soon as you wake up.
For starters, you have more energy upon waking. Your willpower is also likely to be stronger in the morning as there are usually less distractions. Plus, the earlier you finish with the day’s deliverables, the more wiggle room you’ll have to deal with personal emergencies that could occur later on (i.e., no more frantic, last-minute rushing to get things done).
2. Manage your energy, not just your time.
You can’t create more time, but you can create more energy. How? By doing some advance prep work and incorporating simple, energy-boosting rituals into your routine.
Do certain chores such as washing the dishes and clearing your desk the night before so that you aren’t tempted to procrastinate and expend energy on doing them as you work in the morning. Preparing your meals for the following day also spares you from having to make agonizing decisions and from the temptation to eat fast food (which is often high in fat and sodium, thus making you feel bloated and sluggish).
You can also battle that dreaded 3 pm slump by keeping yourself hydrated, staying away from too much caffeine, and going for a 15-minute walk in the middle of your work day. That last bit might seem counterintuitive as it momentarily takes you away from urgent tasks, but this simple activity can get your blood flowing, boost your brain’s oxygen levels, and fundamentally increase your energy.
3. Change your work environment every now and then.
Sometimes, all you need to boost your productivity is a change in scenery. Literally.
Working from a home office is fine and dandy, but it can also make you feel slightly claustrophobic if you don’t vary your surroundings occasionally. Try sitting down at a nearby coffee shop, for instance. Not only will the fragrant aroma help your mood, but the soft chatter can also provide a lift for your morale if you’re often working amidst complete silence.
Workspace changes don’t all need to be drastic either. Moving from a sitting desk to a standing desk, for example, can already help you refocus.
4. Be available during working hours (and make sure your boss and colleagues can reach you accordingly).
What’s the best way to avoid overcompensating (and thus overworking)? BEING AVAILABLE WHEN IT COUNTS.
This means showing up to scheduled Skype meetings, regularly providing meaningful status updates on ongoing projects (!), and making it easy for your superiors and colleagues to contact you (i.e., staying online) during regular working hours, be that 9 am to 5 pm or whatever the corresponding time is in your base country.
That way, you won’t feel the urge to overcompensate whenever you disconnect at the end of your shift.
5. Meet up with your team once in a while.
Nothing galvanizes a team better than a great working relationship among the people involved, hence the regular team-building activities held in many successful companies.
As a remote worker, it would be great if you occasionally drop in at the office to see your onsite colleagues to update them on what you’ve been up to and to check in on how they’re doing (e.g., small talk topics like how their weekend went, how their families are, etc.) as well. If you’re part of a remote group, attending scheduled meetings and events is a great way to get to know the people behind the usernames and avatars.
People do work best alongside those they know and respect, after all, and intermittent offscreen meet-ups can significantly help in bringing such an outcome about.
At first, working from home can feel a little unsettling, especially if you’re used to a traditional working environment. With time and with the right adjustments in place, however, you’ll soon find that it can be very rewarding for everyone involved.