How to remain productive when working remotely
29th April 2019
Many of today’s employees have the option to work away from the office, with approximately 67% of organisations now offering a flexible, or remote, working arrangement. This method of working—also referred to as telecommuting—is popular with workers, with research by OnePoll finding that 59% of staff prefer working remotely. Studies have also suggested that being able to work remotely leads to increased job satisfaction and reduced stress levels.
However, despite the advantages, working from home is not always the most productive way to get things done. Remote workers may be more autonomous, but they have to combat additional distraction, difficulties communicating with coworkers, and a struggle to properly get into “work mode”.
In most cases though, the general consensus is that remote working does bolster productivity, as long as team members pay extra attention to their environment, and how they work within it. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your time away from the office.
Stay in touch with colleagues
Rather than working in isolation all day, regularly checking in with colleagues can have a number of benefits, both to you and the rest of your team. Communication can easily break down between remote workers and the rest of their team, leading to misunderstandings and easily-avoidable errors being made. IBM learned this the hard way in 2017 when the company was forced to pull thousands of employees back into the office, citing a lack of productive collaboration between remote workers.
This lack of communication can also create a sense of emotional separation from colleagues, as proved by a 2018 study by Buffer which found loneliness to be the biggest struggle faced by telecommuters. This can impact negatively on psychological well being, which in turn hampers productivity and performance levels.
But with so many digital communication tools at your disposal, from instant messaging apps to video conferencing tools, there’s no reason not to stay in contact with your colleagues. You should also try to arrange meetings in person so you can discuss business, whether in a formal setting or over a casual lunch. This human contact will prevent remote workers from feeling too left out, and can also encourage productive collaboration.
From time to time, you may even want to swap your home for a coworking space, or set up in a coffee shop for the day. These workspaces still enable you to escape the office, and work in a relaxed environment, but offer the added benefit of having other people around you. Our Club Spaces are ideal for telecommuters, incorporating shared working spaces and quiet zones to give workers the best of both worlds.
Have a designated workspace
While the opportunity to work from bed all day may sound like bliss, it’s not as practical as you might think. Working from your bed all day impedes productivity by creating a mental association between where you sleep and where you work. This can make it difficult to keep your regular sleeping pattern in check, which will inevitably hamper your next day’s productivity to boot. Even working from the sofa can make it difficult to wind down after you’ve clocked off for the day, and you may well struggle to get into work mode in the first place.
Creating a workstation can help give you a designated place to spend your working day. This should ideally be in a room that is away from distractions, such as chores, a TV, or other people. This will condition your brain to associate this part of your house with working productively, and the rest of your home with winding down.
Dress for the office
Even if your time spent working from home is done at a desk, doing so in your pyjamas has just as detrimental an impact on productivity as spending office hours in bed. Clothes have a huge impact on our mentality, with research showing that dressing well bolsters abstract thinking, which is linked to greater creativity and better strategising.
Of course, many of us no longer have to wear formal attire to work, so it’s not necessary to work from home in a three-piece suit. However, getting out of your pyjamas or loungewear and donning an outfit you’d be happy to leave the house in can go some way to help create a productive mindset and enable you to get the most out of working from home.
Plan your day carefully
Whether you’re office-based or working from home, having a schedule is an essential way to ensure you stay focused with minimal distractions. Without one, you may veer off task and start procrastinating. By setting goals and deadlines throughout the day, you’ll always have something to work towards which helps you to stay on track to get things done.
To this end, you should pencil in your working hours at the start of each day you work from home. These hours need not be the standard 9-5, but shouldn’t conflict with colleagues’ schedules too much as this will inhibit your ability to collaborate with one another. Once you’ve set your schedule, make sure to stick to it—don’t plan long lunches or personal appointments that will eat into your workday.
It’s also important to have a clear end to your workday. While checking emails in the evening may clear your inbox for the next day, it can also cause your work life to bleed into your home life. This can lead to burnout, which messes with your ability to concentrate the next day. As Anna Cox, professor of human-computer interaction at University College London, recently noted to the BBC, “If we don’t switch off from work we don’t recover from work.”
Working beyond office hours can affect personal wellbeing and lead to issues like anxiety, which has been shown to further impact negatively on productivity, as well as general quality of life. By finishing at a set time, you can keep your work and personal life separate, benefiting your performance at work and, most importantly, mental health.