While remote work has been trending for quite some time now, COVID-19 has accelerated its demand and people everywhere are having to adapt, if only temporarily, to a new working environment.
Working from home can be a gift. You can save time, money, and communicate virtually with your team. But working from home can also present plenty of challenges.
At home, distractions can frequently pull your attention away from work. It can be difficult to stay motivated, or to create a space that’s comfortable and makes you feel productive. Zen Media has been remote for over 11 years, so we’ve picked up a handful of best practices that have enabled our team members to be productive.
If done correctly, you can get more work done at home than you ever did at the office. For everyone who’s new to working from home, here are 10 tips to help you produce your best work.
Find a Routine that Works for You
When you head off to the office, you most likely have a routine. Maybe you get coffee, talk to coworkers, and divide up your tasks to optimize efficiency. Routines allow us to be more effective because we don’t have to cognitively think about what to do next; we just do it!
It’s also important to have structure when you work from home. This is the time to develop a routine that optimizes your capabilities. Now you have a perfect opportunity to try out new systems, and test out methods or techniques for your particular household and workload. No one size fits all, but here are a few ideas to consider:
Have a set starting time. Now that you’re working from home, it might be tempting to wake up at a different time every morning, and start work when you feel like it.
But to ensure you get the work done that you need to (on time) try to have a specific time that you start your work day. This doesn’t mean you have to wake up early; only that it’s important to have structure. If you’re not a morning person and you have the flexibility to create your own schedule, start working when you feel the sharpest.
Get in a good headspace. How you start your day often sets the tone for the rest of your day. Whether it’s exercising, having coffee with a family member, or simply writing down what you’d most like to accomplish that day – try to develop a morning routine that leaves you feeling positive, sharp, and clear.
Take frequent breaks. At the office you don’t (or shouldn’t) work for hours at a time without a breather. Whether it’s chatting with a coworker, making a phone call, or reading a book, it’s important to refresh. Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a break. Set a timer for five or ten minutes and let your mind relax when your attention span wanes.
Have a set time for winding down. Even if you enjoy your work, you want to be able to look forward to the work day coming to an end. Having a set time to stop working can help you push through those moments of burn out, and mitigate feelings of overwhelm.
Technological advances continue to improve efficiency, empower creativity, and revolutionize industries across the board. After all, it’s only thanks to technology that working from home is possible.
But it’s important to be strategic in your tech use. For example, you may find that you’re more productive working on a laptop, or, that you’re more productive working on a large monitor. Multiple monitors might be your ideal set up if you’re frequently switching between multiple tabs.
For everyone who is working from home right now, test out what your ideal setup looks like. If this is something that you’ve always wanted to do but you’ve never had the time, now is your chance to go through that process.
Create an Official Workspace
For people who are new to working from home, home has always been home, and work has always been work. So how do you harmoniously merge these two worlds? How do you keep your work and your personal life separated so you can thrive in business without sacrificing well-being?
An important component is to create a space that’s designated as your workspace. Ideally you should have a room devoted entirely to work, so that when you leave that room, you don’t take work with you. Keeping that space clean and organized is also essential, as it helps you stay focused. It may be important to designate work-free rooms, such as your kitchen, living room, or bedroom.
Separating your work and personal space will allow you to recharge and connect when you’re ready to take a break.
At home you essentially have to be your own boss – you have to exercise discipline and keep yourself on track.
What keeps one person motivated may not keep another person motivated, so you’ll have to pay attention to what inspires you. When do you start to feel burnt out, and why? Do you need a break? Do you need clarification, or help from a team member?
A great way to stay on track is to set little goals for yourself – little items that you can check off throughout the day. People are happiest when they feel like they’re making progress, so you’ll feel and be more productive when you can see the work you’ve completed for the day. As you cross items off, you’ll create momentum that’ll propel you forward.
Consider a To-Do List
When you’re trying to cognitively track everything you need to get done, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. By keeping track of your assignments, whether on paper or in a software system, you can take the pressure off your memory and free up room for creativity and problem solving.
If it pertains to you, it could also be helpful to categorize your to-do list into daily, weekly, and monthly assignments that need to be completed. That way you can strategically execute the time you spend on each assignment.
Prioritize Your Tasks
Not every item on your to-do list will be equally as important. Prioritize your tasks to optimize effectiveness. If an important task is particularly hard, you’ll want to work on it first, when your brain is sharpest. Save the end of the day for tasks that require less mental concentration.
A great way to stay motivated, and productive, is to set up a reward system for yourself. Perhaps you make a deal with yourself that if you complete a task, you get to take a walk, or watch an episode of your favorite show. When you have something to look forward to, chances are you’ll work harder, faster, and you’ll commit to getting the work done.
If you find yourself checking your phone every time it buzzes, or your email every 10 minutes even if you’re not required to immediately respond to emails, consider putting your phone on do not disturb, or airplane mode for a set period of time. Leverage technology to improve and ad value; don’t allow it to scatter your attention.
If you remember items that need to be completed while you’re working, simply write them down immediately so you can go back to concentrating on your work, rather than getting distracted with mental to-do lists.
If you’re plugged into technology for too long, it can be draining. Your mind needs a break from concentration, and your eyes need a break from the screen. Take a few minutes every now and then to spend time in nature, connect with a family member, or simply relax without your phone in your hand. Throughout the day you want to maintain mental clarity, and time away from technology is rejuvenating.
Find Your Ideal Background Noise
Some people work best in silence, while others prefer background music, or a book or podcast (if they’re doing work that doesn’t require significant mental concentration). If you’re accustomed to background noise in your office, whether it’s music, conversations between coworkers, or TV, it might take some testing to figure out your ideal background noise. But once you figure it out, it can help you feel relaxed, focused, and creative.
Seize This Opportunity
No matter what industry you’re in, working from home presents a huge opportunity to accomplish more, acquire new technological skills, and thrive in business. Virtual communication , remote work, and online transactions are becoming the norm, so learning to adapt will set you up for success.
Keep in mind that working from home can be a huge time saver – take advantage of the time you’ve gained, and test out new ideas you’ve been wanting to explore. Create fresh content, increase your online presence, and invest in playing the long-game. Brands that have a positive outlook and continue to innovate right now can gain a leg up on their competition and will emerge from COVID-19 as leaders.