Remote work productivity: a question for our current post-pandemic times. And if there’s one thing the world’s productivity gurus have in common, it’s this: They know how to get things done.
Tim Ferris had published his first New York Times bestseller by age 30. Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are still in circulation after two-and-a-half decades, and David Allen has created an international empire of coaching services, events, and online tools. Most notable of all, these individuals reportedly maintain exciting, fulfilling lives.
Remote teams can learn a lot from these and other legendary productivity pros. Whether you’re part of a leadership team or are simply adjusting to working remotely, these methods increase remote work productivity.
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How to Increase Remote Work Productivity
1. Stick to a consistent schedule
Working from home blurs the line between work and pleasure. You can get so caught up in work that you forget to relax. Or you can get so caught up in relaxing that you forget to work.
Tyler Littwin says, “if you work from home full-time (or regularly), it’s easy to let your work life bleed into your personal life. Maintaining a boundary is important for both halves of the equation.”
To fight against this tendency to blur lines, create weekly work schedules. Schedule specific work times and set aside time for pleasure too. Then, set an alarm for the end of your work sessions to indicate your workday is over.
Another good idea? Set goals with your team at the beginning of the week. Then, you can visualize your productivity every step of the way. And as a bonus, you can view your coworkers’ progress to inspire you to keep up the pace and work hard.
Jell helps organize daily standups so you can check in with your team and find out what everyone is working on each day. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable because your work is being watched by everyone on your team. Jell lets you choose from text, lists, multiple-choice, or number style questions for your teams.
2. Dress for success
Of course, it seems like it would be nice to work from home in your pajamas, but does it contribute to your productivity level?
When I first started working remotely, I’d wake up disheveled, clinging to my morning coffee, but this wasn’t sustainable. I needed a change. Some may be able to get away with sweatpants or pajamas, but I’ve never been that someone.
Now, it isn’t necessary to dress formally as you would for going into the office. But, when you dress up for work, you get an initial boost in the morning. Your brain is tricked into thinking “this is work mode.” This doesn’t work for everyone. Some still prefer to put on their loungewear even after trying the “dressing up experiment.”
3. Set boundaries with your roommates
It’s natural for your roommates (this includes family members and pets!) to see you are free when you’re working from home. You’re working at the kitchen table and your roommate doesn’t realize that even though you’re at the table, you’re working. The office creates the separation between home and work, but at home, there is no separation. This means it’s even more important to set these boundaries for meeting times, shared desk space, and quiet times.
CEO Sam Mallikarjunan talks about how he sets parameters with his family, which aides in his remote work productivity:
“If anyone else is going to be at home when you’re working, they just have to be clear that when you’re in your ‘office’ (in my case, my signal to the family is having headphones on), you’re working — even if it looks like and feels like you’re hanging out at home.”
He continues, “It’s easy to get distracted by the many things that have to be done around the house during the day.”
Sit down with your roommates and/or family members and have this important conversation around boundaries. Discuss:
- When work hours are
- What you expect during these hours
- What you need to set yourself up for success
4. Take breaks often
I’ve been there. You have a project due, and you’ve chained yourself to your desk. It’s easy to distract yourself and forget to take breaks. Simply because you work from home, doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to your breaks.
I use the Pomodoro method for breaks. I work for 25 minutes, then I get up, stretch or walk outside (sometimes I walk to the corner mailbox and back) and I sit back down. There are apps to help with this too. With Forest, you can build a virtual forest as you go about your workday. Each time you work 25-minute segments, you build a tree! Digital sustainability!
5. Set up a traditional home office
Okay, so we’d all like to work from our couches, but is this conducive to remote work productivity? Free yourself from distractions and set up your workspace (this also helps with setting boundaries with your roommates).
- Choose a space with natural lighting to set up your desk.
- Buy an ergonomic chair.
- Add a houseplant, books, pens, paper, anything that will assist your focus.
Also consider a coworking space. Coworking allows workers from different companies to share a common workspace. Coworking can cost around $25/day but some locations offer discounts for monthly or annual memberships. It’s a small price to pay when you save on time and gas every day.
Another option is a coffee shop that allows remote workers. Some coffee shops encourage customers to get in, buy their drink, and leave. Call ahead and find a coffee shop that invites remote workers. Contribute to their business by tipping a dollar or two every hour or by ordering a beverage or food.
6. Interact with your coworkers
Humans are naturally social creatures and when you work from home, casual social interactions are few and far between. You no longer have water cooler small talk and little social graces when you work from home.
Frequently contact your coworkers through Slack or Zoom to combat loneliness and seclusion. Build relationships no matter where you work.
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7. Exercise and eat healthy
You’re probably rolling your eyes at this overused suggestion but eating healthy and exercising really is key to boosting productivity. One study showed that workday exercise not only improves mood, but participants noted a 72 percent improvement in time management and workload completed on days when they exercised.
The best exercises for remote work productivity?
- Low-intensity aerobic exercise
- Strength training exercises
And that brings us to our next healthy habit…
8. Set morning and evening routines
If you’re a spontaneous type like me, this can prove to be a difficult feat. But a routine helps you stay on schedule and not overwhelm yourself with last minute work. Consider meditation or “mindfulness.”
Ideally, combine both aerobic and resistance exercises as studies show this increases brain function.
I like to end my days with a 10-minute mindfulness session, especially on the hard days. If 10 minutes seems like a lot, try 5 minutes. Smaller goals lead to better outcomes.
9. Work when you’re most productive
Motivation ebbs and flows naturally throughout the day. Mine dips around 3-4pm when my body immediately goes into “I need a nap” mode. So, I work with it instead of against it.
To capitalize on these most productive hours, save your challenging tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace. Then, use slower points of your day for easier tasks on your list.
Verily Magazine calls these tiny tasks “small acts of success.” They help build your momentum for the larger projects.
And, of course, for every time of the day, there’s coffee.
10. Set parameters on distractions
Your home is full of distractions. From the TV to the computer, these distractions keep you from doing your job. Make it inconvenient. Put the plug for the TV in a drawer away from the TV. Put time limits on your phone and computer for social media or even log out. The idea is to make things harder for you to use. The less convenient it is, the less you’re inclined to use it.
Tips to be Productive When Working Remotely
Maybe the COVID-19 pandemic has forced you into working from home or maybe you’ve always been working from home but need to develop new habits. Either way, these tips can help you to be more productive when working remotely.
Remote Work Quotes That Will Inspire You to Be Productive at Home
What would a productivity list be without inspiring quotes? These quotes are intended to inspire you and get you thinking.
1. “If you don’t pay attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”
Allen’s work-life management system allegedly “transforms overwhelm into stress-free productivity.” It might border on hyperbole if Getting Things Done hadn’t sold more than a million copies and attracted a huge following of adopters and advocates. At the core of Allen’s process is a simple method for capturing everything on your mind—from professional goals to personal projects to distracting to-dos—and then systemizing a stress-free process for completing it all. It’s the ultimate way to revamp your to-do list.
Taking this a step further, remote employees can reap big benefits by making professional lists visible to the rest of the team on a day-to-day basis. It’s sometimes surprising to discover how much can be accomplished by publicly answering simple questions like “What are you planning to accomplish today?” or “What challenges stand in your way?” Issues are more quickly identified, solutions are shared, and collaboration is strengthened.
2. “Email is familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today.”
Since HootSuite’s CEO wrote this in a 2012 contribution to Fast Company, tools like Jell have become wildly popular for eliminating the productivity-sapping clutter of email chains and attachments. If you haven’t already, give it a try.
3. “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
You may already be familiar with Stephen Covey’s “big rocks” analogy. (If you’re not, you should be.) This powerful time management strategy has inspired generations of successful executives and entrepreneurs.
Covey’s now-famous quote has served as motivation to thousands of people attempting to prioritize tasks and eliminate distractions—easier said than done when there’s a lot vying for your time and attention. That’s when OKRs can be helpful. This measurable strategy can be used to not only align teams but also inspire productivity and remove the mystery from effectively prioritizing day-to-day projects and plans.
4. “What you don’t do determines what you can do.”
They still take up space in most people’s workdays: the never-ending email chains, the distracting alerts, the extraneous time-sapping meetings.
Ferriss’ approach to these constant distractions is simple and brilliant: Create a not-to-do list. Don’t let people ramble. Don’t agree to meetings with no clear agenda. Don’t carry a cell phone 24/7. And don’t email late at night.
5. “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”
This one sums up one of the most common mantras of productivity pros. No matter how hard you work to eliminate distractions, there will always be some uninviting or challenging tasks. You’re just going to have to hunker down and get them accomplished so you can move on to bigger goals. Start each day by spending a few minutes prioritizing (What am I planning to do today? What challenges stand in my way?), and you may just be surprised at how quickly you, too, will start to get things done.
While the office has its benefits, there’s no reason you can’t create a similar environment in your home.
The time you save commuting can be spent organizing your day or exercising. The money saved on gas can be spent on a coworking space or a daily coffee.
Our work from home tips are meant to inspire and help you to make the most of your routine. Try out a few and you might just find that your days are more productive (or at the very least, better organized).