Working from home has gone from a luxury to a common workplace practice. Today's workers are looking for more flexibility, because it usually helps eliminate distractions and create better work-life balance. More companies are warming up to the idea because they're noticing that it boosts productivity, or at least saves them some money on office space.
But somehow, there's still very little structure around remote work. In fact, the majority of companies that allow remote work don't have policies for it. That also means that there's not a ton of insight on how make sure you're effective when you work from home, which can make it pretty challenging. At its best, working from home is a way to avoid time-consuming commutes, prevent distractions, and get more done. But if you haven't done it before, it can be difficult to stay productive and connected to your team.
The little things are easy to overlook. When you work in an office, a lot of your work structure is decided for you - when your meetings are, where you sit, and what hours you need to sit there. If you're used to that, working from home can feel like a complete 180, which is why it's helpful to have some guidelines when you first start doing it.
That's why I put together a few tips for working remotely. Everyone faces their own challenges with it, but these address some of the more common problems that workers face.
We waste a lot of time at work. Between the long meetings and frequent interruptions that come with being in an office, it can feel like there isn't much time to actually do focused work. One of the most appealing things about working remotely is that you can control your environment and limit the things that hurt your productivity.
Here's the thing - you have to be diligent about this. The distractions don't stop just because you're not in the office. In fact, being at home raises a whole new set of them. Maybe your kids are home or you have personal chores to handle. When you're not feeling your most motivated, Netflix might start to seem a lot more appealing.
To beat this, you have to be really thorough when you're setting your calendar for the day/week. That means planning out the times of day when you're going to do focused work, and knowing when you'll take a break to check emails or correspond with your team. If you set up your calendar well, you'll probably notice that you get more done without really thinking about it.
To be clear, I'm not saying that you should try to avoid your coworkers. Communication is obviously important, but if it's not structured and focused, it can lead to lost time. Having designated times to check in with your team helps prevent that because those interactions are usually more valuable and productive. Think about it - are you more likely to have a productive interaction when you've set aside time for it, or when it interrupts something else you were trying to focus on?
This is a really important tip for working remotely. Having a set schedule also means having set work hours. When you're used to working from home, it's easy to let work sneak into your personal life. You'll probably catch yourself wanting to open up your laptop after hours to work on loose ends, check your email, or set up a plan for the next day.
Don't do it.
One of the biggest benefits to working from home is the ability to create a better work-life balance. When you don't have to deal with a long commute, it's easier to handle personal to-do's and spend time with your family. You can quickly lose sight of that when you're used to working remotely, which can quickly negate this benefit and ultimately lead to burnout.
Give yourself set hours during the day to get work done. They don't have to be 9-5 - the beauty of having a more flexible work arrangement is that you can pick the times that work for you. As long as they overlap with your coworkers' schedules enough to allow you to stay in touch with them, you can figure out the hours that you're most productive and make the most of them.
When you work from home, staying connected to your team becomes even more important. If you don't communicate consistently enough with your team, you risk being out of the loop on projects, which could ultimately lead to wasted time and effort. Staying in touch with your team can also help prevent feelings of isolation, which is one of the most common downsides to working from home. That's why this is such an important tip for working remotely.
We have more ways to reach our coworkers than ever. Today's technology makes it easy to communicate, whether you need to provide a quick update or have a more detailed conversation.
The ability to change communication channels based on context has helped facilitate more effective collaboration at work. Think about how much harder it would be to get group work done if you could only rely on phone calls and email. The ability to send an IM when you have a quick question, or jump on a video call when you need to have a more detailed meeting has done wonders for our productivity.
Make sure to work these interactions into your day. The fact that we have technology that enables us to collaborate in real-time from anywhere is great, but it's only helpful if you use it the right way. Setting aside some time to sync up with your team allows you to make sure you're in the loop on key projects, and also helps to prevent you from feeling isolated.
Working from home can help you avoid distractions, spend more time focusing on your to-do's, and improve your overall productivity. If there's one thing I want you to take away from these tips for working remotely, it's that while everybody works their own way, we can all benefit from establishing some structure. If you can do that, you'll be surprised at just how much you can get done when you're out of the office.