The year is 2079.
Two years earlier, a global pandemic forced humans out of the physical world and further into the metaverse where they now spend the majority of their time.
Connected to the Internet, they work, meet new people, shop for goods and groceries, hang out with friends, and watch videos for education and entertainment. Their homes are no longer reserved for rest and recreation, but serve as work spaces, production studios, and classrooms.
All of this is true… except the year isn’t 2079: it’s 2021.
The novelty of working from home has worn off for many. But many people are still grappling with the challenges of working where they live. Not everyone has the luxury of moving or carving off a dedicated work space.
As a result, staying motivated and productive may be challenging, but they are not impossible.
To help, we’ve created some productivity hacks for remote employees.
Common Downsides to Working From Home
A decrease in productivity can be one of the main downsides for those working from home, which can lead to employee turnover and possibly impact affect a business’ bottom line.
Common downsides to working from home include:
1. Lack of group work and community
Working from home changes the dynamic of a workplace, even if you regularly work with a team virtually. Online interactions cannot compare with teamwork accomplished in person.
Working from home means easy and tempting access to TV, pets, partners, and children — even your bed can be a distraction. All have the potential to fuel procrastination or unintentionally interrupt your progress.
Employees thrive on positive motivation, and that can be missing when one works from home. A great deal of motivation can come from working directly with a team and the urgent atmosphere of a workplace. When you’re physically at work, it also opens up more potential for meetings with co-workers and your boss to get instant feedback.
4. Home office expenses
Making investments when working from home, including a desk, chair, and other furniture can add up – especially if your employer isn’t footing the bill. You may even have to pay for a better computer or high-speed internet. All of these items were previously taken care of by employers in the office setting. But the responsibility and expense may have now shifted to employees themselves.
How to Set Boundaries and Why
It’s important to set work boundaries for yourself at home to avoid burnout or lack of productivity. Many find disconnecting from work as you would at the end of the workday works wonders.
Others try to take the same amount and length of breaks they’d normally take in person. Using a break to walk the dog or meditate also helps employees refocus on their work.
It’s also important to set communication guidelines with co-workers, including the preferred form of communication (via email, over video, or by using a digital collaboration tool) and regular days for meetings.
9 Productivity Hacks for Staying Productive While Working from Home
Following a few basic guidelines can chip away at a lack of productivity if you are a remote employee. Here are a few:
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Whether you work from home full time or just for an hour or two, having a dedicated workspace can make a big difference.
Dedicate a specific space. If possible, choose a room that has a door you can close at the end of your workday. If that’s not feasible, try to identify an area where distractions can be kept to a minimum. This might mean reserving one corner of the living room or dining room table or putting a desk in your bedroom and closing the door when you’re working.
Make it comfortable. Having adequate light, proper ventilation and comfortable temperature levels are important wherever you decide to set up your workspace. If possible, choose an area with natural light and fresh air; if that’s not feasible, consider adding extra lighting and investing in an air purifier. You may also want to get a plant or two to help boost oxygen levels and improve air quality.
Make it accessible. Your workspace should be easily accessible for the hours of the day when you’re most likely to use it, but it shouldn’t interfere with your household’s routines. Think about what it will take for you to create your ideal workspace: should the table be moved so there is more space
2. Keep a Sleep Schedule
Make sure that your body is getting the amount of rest it needs to perform at its best. The amount of sleep needed varies based on age, but generally speaking, an adult should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can cause issues like cognitive dysfunction, which can lead to decreased productivity and memory loss.
Wake up around the same time every morning — regardless of whether or not you have a daily commute — and go to bed at a consistent time each night. While it’s tempting to sleep in or take a nap during the day, keeping the regular sleep schedule you had while working in person can elevate your productivity to the levels you accomplished while in a workplace atmosphere.
3. Use To-Do Lists
Whether you’re naturally a “to-do list” person or not, crafting such a list at the beginning of your remote workday will keep you on task and provide a snapshot of what you have to do instead of what you feel like doing while at home.
Be realistic. Don’t overwhelm yourself with an impossible list. Remember that it’s just as important to celebrate small wins as it is to accomplish everything on your list.
Break down large projects. If you need to complete a big assignment, break it down into its component parts and add them each to your list for the day. That way, when you complete one part of the project, you can cross it off and feel like you’ve made progress. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated to finish the whole thing.
Lastly, put your most important projects at the beginning of the day while your mind is fresh. Like a car battery, our brain power and focus depletes as the day goes on. Rather than plowing through simple to-dos early in the morning, focus on projects that require deep work so that back half of your day can be spent meeting with co-workers or filing that mindless TPS report.
4. Discuss Boundaries With Your Family
It’s not just you who is impacting by a new remote work schedule. Your spouse, children, and other family members must also cope with the change. Talk with them about your schedule and how you can work together to foster a more productive work atmosphere.
Location. Talk with your family members about an appropriate working location in your home. If you have a dedicated office, you won’t have any issues here. But if you’re setting up shop at the kitchen table or in a corner of the living room, let your family members know that this space is now off-limits unless agreed upon otherwise.
Schedule. What will your work schedule look like? When will you take breaks? And when can they expect to find you working? Even though it can be easy to lose track of time while working remotely, try to keep set “office hours” as much as possible so everyone knows what to expect from you.
Communication. You and your family members need to have a clear understanding of how you will communicate throughout the day and when it makes sense for them to interrupt you for certain things. For example, if your spouse needs access to something that’s locked up in your office but is unable to reach you via email or phone, should he or she knock on the door? Discuss these “emergency situations” ahead of time so work meetings can be held uninterrupted. The faster you can move through your to-dos, the more quickly you can get back to your family time.
5. Keep Your Hours
If you typically worked at an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., those are also your work hours from home. Those hours should not include non-work tasks such as household chores, binge-watching TV, or catching up on gardening you’ve neglected.
To help set boundaries, schedule breaks like lunch, coffee, or workout times, and make sure your colleagues know when they can expect to hear from you. For example, I usually go offline after 12:30 p.m. for a late lunch and workout (or other non-work activities) and come back online at 2 p.m., which is something my co-workers are aware of so that they don’t worry if I’m not responding immediately during that time.
6. Maintain Your Usual Meetings
In a typical corporate or in-office setting, you have in-person meetings and calls with coworkers. When you work remotely, you can miss that sense of team cohesion. But there are a few things you can do to stay connected.
Try to mirror remotely the regular meetings you have in-person or set new times that work better with your at-home environment. It will help you focus on work and upcoming major projects.
If your team has a weekly meeting, don’t skip it just because you’re remote. It’s important to maintain that connection. And if the time doesn’t work for you, suggest an alternative time that works better for everyone involved. That said, be sure to bring a clear agenda to the meeting (and, ideally, distribute it ahead of time) so all participants know what to prep for and can discuss their items.
Lastly, you also might want to schedule more frequent one-on-one check-ins with your manager or direct reports than you normally would work in person.
Yes, introverts – you, too.
Part of what many love about working in person is the socialization you get from work colleagues and friends. Don’t lose that while working from home. When you work from home, it’s a lot easier to think, “I’ve already got my pajama pants on. I think I’ll just stay in (again) tonight.” But even if you aren’t going out after work to grab drinks, use video conferencing for non-work related activities just as you would for important meetings. Use it to touch base with the people you normally see and work with in person. And most importantly – don’t talk about work.