I’ve been working remotely for five years now, and it’s been a huge blessing and advantage for my family and me. I love being able to create my own calendar, work around my kids’ schedules and still be able to do things around the house or participate in activities outside of work during the day.
That said, working remotely is no cake walk. It’s been a huge learning experience, and it’s something I still have to work at consistently if I want to optimize my productivity.
If you work remotely—or if it’s something you’re considering in the near future—there are definitely some strategies you can use to make it a successful endeavor. Here are some of my best tips for remote workers.
8 Tips for Successfully Working Remotely
- Schedule your time, and stick to the plan. Just because you work from home does not mean you shouldn’t have set work hours. In fact, it might actually be more important to have your work hours clearly defined when you work remotely. If you allow the lines between work and home to blur too much, you can end up working way more than you really need to, and work can begin to seep into areas where it doesn’t belong. You’ll be more productive, and your personal life will be more fulfilling, if you stick to set work hours. That also means only responding to work emails and calls during your workday. It can be tempting to answer them when you’re winding down for your day and you’re looking at your phone in bed, but resist. Responding at crazy times sets an expectation for your clients and/or colleagues that you’re available at all times, and that’s not a sustainable framework for your business.
- Set up your home office. If remote work is going to be your long-term gig, you need a separate space of your home to work. I get a kick out of social media posts from people saying they’re #workingfromhome, accompanied by photos of a laptop on a bed. I would be asleep in approximately seven minutes if I did that. And I would get about 10% of the things on my to-do list done. It takes a lot of concentration to be productive when you’re working remotely, so it’s vital that you have a designated space for working (and no, it shouldn’t be your bed!).
- Invest in your work space. Working from home doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality work materials. On the contrary, this is your opportunity to set up your ideal work space in a way that might not have been possible in a conventional office setting. Hate sitting all day? Get a standing desk. If plants make you happy, set them up around your office. Face the window if you prefer a view. This is your chance to create a space that makes you feel inspired and keeps you productive.
- Be on your guard against distractions. This is definitely the hardest one for me. With nobody keeping me accountable but myself, it can be tempting to play reruns of The Office in the background, or mindlessly scroll social media throughout the day. Working remotely means taking on the responsibility of policing yourself against distractions. You might want to turn off all your notifications during work hours, or block certain apps from your phone. Do what you need to do to stay on track.
- Don’t forget to get up and moving. By now, we all know how bad it is for us to sit in front of our desks all day. Schedule breaks throughout your day. Take a walk around the neighborhood, or go to the gym for an afternoon class. Whatever you do, don’t stay cooped up in your house for days on end!
- Get your creative juices flowing early. Research has shown that most of us are more alert and better able to make decisions mid- to late-morning. By afternoon, we are less alert and less able to make quick connections. We’re also the most creative and prone to ideas right after waking up—which is why writing and brainstorming first thing in the morning can be a great strategy for writers and other creatives. Save more menial, low-creativity tasks for mid-afternoon, as that’s when people usually experience a decline in focus.
- Do one thing at a time. I’m pretty sure multitasking is from the devil anyway—but it’s definitely a terrible idea if you’re working remotely. Figure out what your most important tasks are, and tackle them one at a time. This is so crucial. Don’t try bouncing all over the place and expect to get things done.
- Set realistic deadlines. Working remotely does not necessarily mean you’ll get things done faster. Err on the side of caution when setting and agreeing to deadlines by giving yourself adequate time to complete projects.
Bonus: If you can, find local friends who also work remotely! It can be so nice to break from routine and have a work date with a friend who also has a remote job. It’s also great to just get away from work and grab lunch out with another remote worker.
What are Your Tips for Working Remotely?
As more and more of us move toward remote work (the percentage of remote workers is steadily increasing), it’s crucial that we develop habits that keep us productive and also prioritize our mental and physical well-being. Do you work remotely? What are some recommendations you’d make for others who might be making the switch to remote work in the near future?