It’s been a long time coming, and the current global crisis has tipped the scales in favor of working from home. As many industries become more technically-focused, there has been a growing move toward the work from home life, and many remote workers prefer this routine for several reasons.
First of all, it allows people the convenience of avoiding a long commute, especially for those who live in large cities and rely on public transportation. Also, it gives people much more flexible schedules when it comes to being able to travel. In the past, you would only be able to visit new places during those two precious weeks of vacation time, and more often than not, several of those days would end up being spent handling unexpected life situations.
With all that being said, we now have to take a realistic look at this idyllic lifestyle. The unfortunate truth about working at home is that it is much more difficult than you might think. Among distractions, a sudden disruption to your daily routine, not having a dedicated workspace to concentrate, there are a number of reasons why online jobs can be surprisingly tricky for the average person.
If you are among the millions of people who have been either forced or strongly encouraged to make the switch to a work-from-home job, then you already know what we are talking about. We hope that this article will give you some guidelines on how remote employees can avoid losing focus, master their time management, stay productive at home.
Setting Up a Proper Workspace
Keeping as many aspects of your normal routine as you can play an important part in your work-from-home success. That means getting up early to start your day, exercising, getting dressed, making your morning cup of coffee, reading the news, etc. All of this will help you wake up and feel ready to spend time being productive.
Once you’re dressed and your coffee mug is full, it’s now time to head to your “office.” The beauty of working from home is the ability to personalize your office environment. However you decide to decorate it, keep it clean and organized so that it is free from distracting clutter.
For young professionals who live in small apartments, you may not have the ability to set apart a work area separate from your home life. Unless you live at home, the kitchen table may not be the most ideal of office settings. Work-at-home parents know that the kitchen is the most high-traffic area in the house. Find a space that is not facing anything like your bed, kitchen, or TV. You may find it difficult to focus when you are staring at something that reminds you of relaxation or entertainment.
This area needs to be quiet, well-lit, and free of distractions. If you find yourself looking at your phone too often to scroll through social media, try silencing all the notifications that don’t pertain to your work. And if you do all your work through your computer or laptop, it may be a good idea to turn off your phone altogether. You need to minimize distractions wherever possible, at least until you have established a good routine.
Your workspace also needs to be ergonomic and comfortable. Invest in a chair and desk that are comfortable, offer support, and promote healthy posture. This is important no matter where you work, not only for the short term goal of being productive. While it’s important to be comfortable to stay productive, it is well known that people who work in offices often develop health problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain. A healthy posture should include relaxed and shrugged shoulders, a straight back with the chest out, a 90-degree angle in the elbows, and the head facing straight forward.
You may not realize how important this is for overall productivity, but we recommend that you try it for at least a few days to see how it can improve your focus and energy levels.
If you live with family or roommates, it is important to communicate that they need to respect the boundaries of your work-from-home job. For work-at-home parents, this means explaining your remote job and why they should limit visiting you in your home office.
Be upfront and let them know what times you will be unavailable to talk, and ask them to wait until then to chat or ask any questions. A paper calendar that is visible to everyone you live with is helpful in situations like these. It should show what times you will be in your designated office.
If you have a separate room for your home office, consider putting a sign on the door to let others know when you need to be left alone and when it is OK for them to approach you. If you don’t set ground rules and let others know what your needs are, you can’t expect them to understand how they can help you stay on task.
On the other hand, you must also realize that you need to set boundaries with yourself. This can be some of the most difficult to respect. Sometimes your internal dialogue may start to drift away from the task at hand and head toward what’s in the fridge. To avoid these kinds of distractions, try setting small goals for yourself and giving yourself a small reward for achieving them.
It might even help to have a separate phone that you only use during work hours. Keep your personal phone away from you during work. Avoid installing any distracting apps on your “work phone,” such as social media and games.
Making a Schedule
Whether you use a printed calendar or online calendars, keep in mind that efficiently planning your day leads to productivity. You may even want to use sticky notes to remind you how to do your job from home effectively.
Time management is one of the most challenging aspects of remote work. Set defined start and stop times for your workday. Without these, you may find yourself starting and finishing later each day, and eventually, you will start to notice that you’re falling behind and losing time that you would normally use to handle things not related to your work. Take advantage of the time that you are saving now that you no longer need to commute by starting and finishing earlier. This could give you a couple more hours in the day to enjoy time with your family and relax.
Give yourself set break times as well. Having and keeping a schedule will be one of the most important things you can to make sure your day is productive at home. Sometimes, we might overcharge on coffee and forget to eat lunch. This is not only unhealthy, but it can cause unnecessary stress on your mind.
Taking a lunch break, along with a couple of short breaks away from your office space throughout the day, will not only give you some time to clear your mind and come back to your home office feeling more energized, but it will provide you with something to look forward to.
Remote work comes with its pros and cons. But for many, it is becoming the new normal and the only option if you want to keep your job. Fortunately, there are ways to make the most of the situation and still achieve that ever-elusive work-life balance.
Staying organized and getting in the work-from-home flow will take some getting used to. Develop a time and project management plan and keep a routine. Set ground rules, minimize distractions like social media, and create an office environment in your dedicated workspace.
Set aside your preconceived notions about working from home. Giving yourself the proper structure to continue to produce and achieve your goals is a discipline that will carry into every other part of your life. Work-life balance is difficult to achieve, especially with all the distractions of home life, and now that those lines may have been blurred even more. Spend time to learn more about your habits and capitalize on learning opportunities to grow in your personal and professional life.