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15 Essential Tips to Working Remotely

By Jordan Basham

Photo by: Helena Lopes on Unsplash

1. Stick to Consistent Work Hours

While at home, it’s easy to let our work hours blend over the line of what we may work in an office setting. That’s why it’s important to find the work hours that work best for you and fit with your company’s policy, then stick to them. If your workday finishes at 5 pm but you want to spend an extra 30 minutes drafting up a proposal, stop right there. Unless it’s an emergency, you can wait to complete your work until the next morning. Allowing the lines of when you work and when you are off to blend can cause boundaries to be pushed and cause burnout.

2. Create a quiet, clean workspace

Ideally, you’d want to have your office in its own room in your house where it’s quiet and you’re alone, however, this isn’t the most realistic situation for everyone due to circumstances. There are other ways that you can create a productive workspace for yourself, regardless of what room you may be using. This can include:

  • Having headphones to listen to music that helps you focus when it’s loud in the house

  • Working near natural sunlight to keep you energized and awake

  • Keeping your space filled only with what you need and use daily

    • Get rid of clutter!!

  • Investing in a quality chair for back support and to prevent poor posture

3. Take Breaks

Take breaks every hour or two to prevent burnout and maintain your energy level during the day. Our eyes and bodies grow tired from staring at a screen and sitting in the same seat for extended periods of time. Having a reminder set to get up every few hours and walk around, grab some water, and stretch will help your productivity long term even if you miss out on 5 minutes of work in the short term. There are tools such as Take a Break that can be added as a browser extension that will remind you every hour to stop working and take a break. This is great for when you’re sucked into a project and don’t realize the amount of time that has passed.

4. Set boundaries with your family

It’s important that your family knows that even though you are at home, you’re working. Thus, you can’t be bothered or thrown off task unless it’s an absolute emergency. Granted there are exceptions to this rule such as working at home with a baby or having kids at home without help but most of the time, having boundaries set with your family that establish your work time will help keep you on track.

5. Keep a daily to-do list

Sitting down every morning and planning out the things you need to do throughout the day can help keep you focused. It also helps to motivate you as you check things off of the list throughout your day. To-do lists also prevent you from becoming distracted by reminding you of the tasks that you have to get completed in a day. Getting through tasks now will save you time later.

6. Organize your to-do list by priorities

In addition to having a to-do list, organizing it under top, middle, and low priority will help with productivity as well. If you know that you are most productive in the morning, you can plan to get your top priority and/or most difficult task out of the way then, rather than post-lunch when you may begin to feel a little sluggish. This slower time is perfect to do some easier tasks that are lower on your priority list. Having your list set up by priorities also helps you to have a better idea of what your day looks like.

7. Listen to music

Curating a playlist of music can help you focus and ignore sounds outside and around your house. Some people prefer classical music with no lyrics to prevent distraction. Others like quiet music with lyrics or a regular playlist. Whatever your taste is, music is a great outlet to keep you focused on what’s in front of you and to help keep you creative.

8. Avoid social media during work hours

One of the biggest distractions during the workday is getting lost on social media. Endless scrolling on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc. can eat up a lot more time than we realize. We may tell ourselves ‘Oh let me check this one thing’ but that’s how we get sucked in. Next thing you know you’ve been watching cat videos for 10 minutes not realizing where the time has gone. Thankfully, most phones now are starting to come out with updates with focus settings. Only certain people can text/call you and your phone won’t light up to every small notification.

9. If you are a manager, communicate thoroughly with your team

Communicating with staff is also not as simple as it used to be. Your team can’t walk down the hall to ask you a question anymore. This is where Stand Up meetings and having an open channel of communication can come into play. Platforms such as Slack keep teams in close contact throughout the day. They allow you the chance to check in with your employees as needed throughout the day. This will help them be productive by knowing you are there for them.

10. If you have a manager, communicate regularly with them

Now to turn it over to the employee. Although it may seem more difficult to get in touch with your boss compared to being in person, there are resources to help with communication. Again, Slack is a huge tool that more companies are starting to integrate to aid in communication. Say you have a question and your boss isn’t online at the moment but one of your colleagues is. They might know the answer. Boom, you have a question answered while also respecting that your boss is offline. There are other alternatives to Slack such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Google chat. At Virtustaff, we’ve found Slack to be the best fit for everyone’s computers and its accessibility on the go.

11. Plan out your meals ahead of time

Like working in an office, you can plan your breakfast and lunches in advance. This can help you maintain a healthy diet. It also takes away from time standing in front of the fridge at home wondering what to make for lunch. Knowing what you’re going to eat for lunch can also help motivate you if you’re having a particularly sluggish day. You know you’ll have a delicious break in a few hours. I also like to plan what we’re having for dinner ahead of time so then I can look forward to my time in the kitchen after work.

12. Change clothes before starting your day

This point does not mean you have to get dressed as if you were actually going into the office every day but, changing out of the clothes you slept in will help your mind prepare for the change from ‘home you’ to ‘work you’. I like to have designated ‘fancy’ sweatpants that are comfy enough for working from home but that are nice enough that I feel ready to work. This helps me feel a little more put together and ready to start the day.

13. Have a work buddy

Similar to having a buddy to workout with, (see Top Fitness Tips to Keep You Safe and Active This Winter) having a colleague friend can help you stay focused and motivated. Throughout the day you can keep tabs on each other. You can also keep each other on task when you may not be feeling motivated. This buddy system can also be beneficial when bringing in new employees to help them acclimate to their new position and get comfortable with company policies quicker.

14. If you find yourself really struggling to focus, take a deep breath

If you aren’t used to working remotely it can be a difficult process to adjust. If you still find yourself having a hard time focusing, step back, and take a deep breath. It is okay. Some days it’s harder to focus than others and with the distractions at home that surround us, it’s as if we are constantly being tempted to not work. If you have a day where you feel like you aren’t on the ball that’s okay. Being productive at home can be a slow process and doesn’t come easily to everyone. Go easy on yourself, and make a plan on how you can be more productive tomorrow.

15. Reward yourself

Saving the best for last on this one. Whether you reward yourself every hour with a small piece of chocolate or with a big glass of wine once you are off the clock, rewarding yourself is fun. Having something that you look forward to at the end of the day will help push you through the afternoon slump. It can also be helpful to have a midday reward as well to motivate you to keep working until lunch. This can be anything from a tasty meal to getting some fresh air on a walk with a pet or giving yourself some time to get lost in social media. Whatever you choose as your reward is okay. It’s healthy to have little markers that keep us grinding through our day as we sit in front of our computers.

Hopefully, these tips were helpful and can help guide you on your journey working remotely. If you are interested in seeing how you can be more productive working remotely with a virtual assistant, please reach out to us here at Virtustaff. We’d love to help you and your business succeed! We are accessible through our contact form, email, and our phone number.

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