Working remotely is a modern-day reality for much of the workforce. In a 2015 survey, 23 percent of employees reported doing some of their work remotely; a separate survey revealed 79 percent of knowledge workers already work from home. Whether your workplace allows you to work from home occasionally or you work remotely exclusively, it’s becoming more and more of the norm, and it’s an important skill to develop.
Thankfully, the discussion has moved away from questioning the effectiveness of remote teams. Not only is the option to work remotely a work-life balance benefit, but it can lead to significant productivity and creativity gains. Now, we’re tasked with the challenge of deciphering how to best work remotely. The following tips can help you thrive when working from home.
1. Change your scenery
Technology advances have made remote work a greater possibility worldwide. One of the great things about using a laptop is you don’t have to be tied to your desk. Use this flexibility to your advantage beyond simply getting out of the office. A change in scenery often stimulates creativity and can improve your focus.
Try moving between different environments. Find a place where you can focus on what you need to accomplish. Depending on the task at hand, it may be your favorite coffee shop, the library, a conference room, a park, or a bookstore. You can even change your scenery without ever leaving your current space. With a laptop you have the freedom to move about your space. If you’re at home, you might find sitting at the kitchen table is a nice change from stretching out on a lounge chair on the back porch.
There’s so much evidence now that exercise improves your cognitive function, your executive function, your creativity, your sense of confidence. From boosting performance to improving your mood, exercise is a critical component to the work day and working remotely gives you the opportunity to exercise when others can’t.
While working remotely may give you the opportunity to hit the gym when it’s less busy, exercise doesn’t have to be a big endeavor. Consider a short walk or some other form of exercise as a transition between tasks or projects. Or, make the most of a conference call by taking it on the road (just be sure to pay attention to surrounding noise levels).
Working remotely may be new to you, but take a moment to rewind. Think about the types of environments and the types of strategies that have made you successful before and apply them to your new working situation. Look for patterns that led to success. Let your past inform your future. Do you find that you are most focused when you are in a quiet environment or do you need some sort of noise to keep your energy high? I personally know that I can’t stand total quiet. So, I make sure to turn on the TV or go to a coffee shop where there’s some sort of background noise, but no one talking to me or interrupting my workflow. Everyone is different, so isolate what’s historically worked for you. Do you prefer sitting or standing? Do you like to calendar your day out and set blocks of time for your projects? What worked for you before likely applies in some way to your new situation.
4. Create accountability
A traditional office setting makes accountability fairly natural. The physical presence of your boss and coworkers keeps your more accountable. It’s important to create the same environment for yourself remotely. Create virtual check-ins with peers throughout the day or week, whether that be over a chat program or an email. At Bonfire, we require anyone working remotely to be available via chat, email, and phone throughout the day with little (if any) delay in response. It’s also important to share goals, tasks, and accomplishments. This gives your work purpose and helps you benchmark your success.
5. Build habits
There is power and productivity in habit. If you are used to commuting to the office, getting out the door and commuting is part of how you start every day. This is in and of itself a habit and it sets you in motion for the day. If you are working from home, you thankfully don’t have to deal with a commute as often, if at all. But, you should build in habits that serve as the official beginning of the work day, whether that’s getting up and walking the dog, exercising, or getting to a coffee shop.
Remember: We’re all different people with different brains and different styles. Your habits and needs will likely vary greatly from the person next to you. Not everyone wants to wake up at 5:00 a.m., workout, then dive into work. Figure out what will make you most productive and creative, and reshape things to fit your remote work life. As Charles Duhigg stated in his book, “The Power of Habit,” “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy.
But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”
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6. Break habits
Don’t be afraid to break your habits now and then. It may sound like I’m contradicting my last tip, but too much habit can put you in a comfort zone that’s not productive. Habits can keep you from taking risks. To increase your productivity and especially your capacity for creativity, you need to be willing to divert from routine and get uncomfortable from time to time. Be spontaneous, have fun with it!
Flexible office environments have a long list of benefits, and thanks to rapidly-evolving technology, they’re growing more attainable for businesses of all sizes. While it may be a completely natural style for some, with concerted behavioral shifts, anyone can find ways to be successful in working remotely.
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