Working from home has its benefits, but also plenty of challenges. Although regular telecommuting has increased by 115% since 2005, many employees are still unsure how to work from home productively.
Video conferencing, corporate virtual private networks (VPNs), collaboration software, and other emerging technologies are making remote work easier than ever before. However, working from home productively requires a conscious effort to remain engaged and effective – whether you’re new to telecommuting or a seasoned professional.
To help you stay productive and maintain business continuity when operating outside of the office, follow these seven proven tips for working remotely, also depicted in the below infographic.
1. Create a dedicated workspace. When learning how to work from home productively, creating a dedicated workspace is the best place to start. This workspace doesn’t need to be an office or den with a door that closes; however, having a dedicated workspace prepares you mentally for “work mode” and can help you have a physical separation between work and home. It’s also important in maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
Ideally, this is not a place where you typically go to relax, like your sofa or bedroom, and it should be a place that other members of your household know is meant for work. For those who don’t have a home office space, a spot at the kitchen or dining room table works well. It may take some trial and error to find what that works best for you.
2. Get ready for work every day. When working from home, it can be tempting to stay in your PJs all day. Resist this urge! Getting up and ready like you are going to leave the house helps you get into and stay in a work mindset. But if you do decide to stick with a casual wardrobe, be mindful of your appearance when using video conferencing.
3. Establish a routine. A challenge with remote work is that our devices enable connectivity that can make you feel like you’re working 24/7. Establish the same work hours as if you were going into the office, and don’t forget to schedule meals and breaks. And, if you can spend a little time outdoors each day, it will keep you refreshed.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you’re in an office, communication is effortless. But if you’re not used to working remotely, it can lead to a breakdown in communication. Be deliberate in creating regular interaction with your coworkers. Chatting with instant messaging software (even if you’re just saying, “Hello!” when you sign on in the morning) and using video in meetings can help everyone stay in the loop.
It’s essential that you don’t let email be the only way you interact with your coworkers. The most effective remote employees reach out to their coworkers and managers regularly through a variety of tools.
5. Be intentional and realistic about what you will achieve. When you have a wide-open day (plus no commute), it can feel full of possibilities. Identify the goals you wish to accomplish and the activities that will help you achieve them. Choose three to five things to accomplish before lunch and plan what you will do afterwards. We all slow down in the afternoon, so your list will help you get to the finish line.
6. Take breaks. This is one of the most important tips for working remotely and will also help you stay healthy on the job. When we’re in the office, the day is broken up by meetings, trips to the coffee machine, and the proverbial water cooler chats. Without these interactions, it can be easy to work for long periods of time that feel unstructured. Work in chunks of 45 to 50 minutes, followed by a short break. This will help you to feel refreshed and productive for the rest of the day.
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7. Be social. Communicating with team members doesn’t have to be all business when you’re working from home. If you miss your colleagues, build in socializing opportunities during the day. For example, consider using “body doubling” – connecting with a colleague on a video call where you both work “live.”