For many, this will be our first experience working from home for an extended period. And while the lack of commute and stream of homemade coffee is a luxury, we can begin to feel isolated and develop some unproductive habits.
In light of that, here are my best tips for creating a productive, yet balanced, remote work situation:
1. Maintain normal work hours
One of the biggest fears people have with remote work is that they end up working longer and harder, without additional pay, and it can hurt their personal life. You are empowered, and accountable, to keep the same work hours at home that you had in your corporate office.
If you work 9-to-5, then mimic that at home. Stop working at 5 pm and leave the spillover work for the next day. Based on working remotely for a decade, I've learned that my ability to focus and produce quality work is diminished after 6 pm, so I just stop.
2. Manage your calendar closely
I always tell people, if you "live and die by the calendar", then it's time to update your calendar so that it integrates your personal and professional lives. Be fulfilled across the board.
Alongside business meetings and follow-up reminders, schedule time for phone calls with your family and friends. Book 30 minutes for coffee and meals. If you decide to venture outside for a quick walk, schedule that in too.
3. Plan the next morning the night before
When you're at home, you need to self-manage to survive. You can't rely on other people to do it for you; it's your space and your life.
The best way to have a productive morning is to already have a list of things you need to do written out the night before. If you don't prepare for the next morning, you will wake up and scramble, which will give you anxiety and waste your time.
4. Learn how to cook
Instead of wasting money ordering in all the time, cook meals for yourself. I wake up every morning and make breakfast and lunch at the same time. My go-to breakfast is an egg white omelet and fruit and I make a salad for lunch.
After I buy groceries (or these days, get them delivered), I cut all the vegetables and put them into separate Tupperware containers. Cooking doesn't just save money, but it's a stress reliever and makes me feel like I'm accomplishing more in a given day.
5. Set clear boundaries
When you're at home, it's easy to lose track of the time, when holidays are and even what day it is. You have to be careful that your boss or teammates don't encroach on your personal life.
The line between work and personal life can get blurry, and it's easy to get so caught up in the work that you forget about living life. That's why you need to set clear boundaries with your team about working and non-working hours.
6. Take regular breaks from work
You can't work an entire day without taking much-needed breaks, whether that's a meal break, coffee break, phone call break or even a Netflix break.
It's impossible to focus on work for hours upon hours, so make sure that your calendar has a few 30-minute or 1-hour breaks throughout the day, just like you would normally take at a corporate office.
7. Know and accept that you're going to be interrupted
By your children, your pets or your spouse (especially when you don't have your own space to sit in solitude to get things done). It's inevitable given the unique situation we're in as we maintain social distancing efforts.
Perhaps use these inevitable interruptions as a queue to do tip #6. Take a break and come back to your work when you can.
8. Use videoconferencing when possible
The biggest issue with remote work is the isolation and loneliness you feel from not having the same levels of human connection you would at a typical office.
I recommend video chatting so that you can see and hear your teammates throughout the day. It will make you feel a sense of belonging and connection with other people, even though it's from afar.
9. Get dressed up like you would be going to the office
It's tempting to work in your pajamas instead of a more professional outfit. You don't necessarily have to put a suit on every day, but dressing up at least a bit will make you more productive, increase your creativity and give you a boost of confidence that will shine in every call you have. Plus, if you're video conferencing, you want your teammates and/or customers to see that you're being professional and taking your job seriously, despite your work situation.
10. Create a mantra to motivate yourself
When you're in isolation, you need something or someone to motivate you. For me, this motivation comes in the form of a "mantra" or a phrase that provokes strategy and action.
For instance, one of my mantras is "set yourself up for success", which means that I need to finish my projects in advance of deadlines so that I'm not cramming at the last minute. As someone who suffers from anxiety, this mantra helps alleviate unnecessary pressure while ensuring I follow through on my goals.
11. Master technology
Technology has powered the remote workforce. To be more efficient and collaborate with our teammates, we all need to learn how to use technology effectively.
You can use Glip or Slack for quick discussions or brainstorming session with your team. I use RingCentral or Zoom to conduct podcast interviews and meetings so I have a recording that people can access from anywhere. A lot of my friends use Evernote to organize information, share ideas and manage projects. Other tools I recommend include Microsoft Teams, Trello, Google Docs, Workplace from Facebook, monday.com, and Asana.
When you aren't physically with someone else, they may feel like you aren't working as hard (even if you are). When we communicate more while we are working remotely, it signals that our teammates can trust us and that we are available even if it appears we aren't. Set regular meetings with your manager to fill them in on what you're working on and the progress you've made.
Find what works for you
I've been in this work situation for so long that I've tested just about everything and have found a solution that makes me feel productive and engaged throughout the entire day, every day.
Just like every other work environment, remote work is both a gift and a curse. It gives us freedom over, but also interferes with, our work lives. It can make us think we're constantly connected through technology, yet isolated at the same time.
The most important advice I can offer you is to do what makes the most sense for you.