We've written before about the unstoppable trend of remote work. Over the next few years, it seems likely that an increasing number of people will start working remotely. The benefits are obvious: no commute, little office distraction, the ability to set your own schedule, etc...
However, remote work certainly isn't an escape from work. You'll still be expected to come up with results. You'll still have to deal with deadlines. You'll still have to talk to your colleagues. If anything, you'll have to prove yourself a bit more, because your employer won't physically see you working, and will at first be skeptical of your ability to deliver.
You need to take your remote work as seriously as you would any other office job. This isn't as easy as it sounds, because you're no longer part of the implicit and explicit rules that come with office work. No longer do you have to come in at 9. No longer are lunch breaks restricted to 30 minutes. No longer is it socially unacceptable to go for a walk after an hour of work.
You now have all the freedom, and that comes with responsibilities. That's why we've furnished 9 X-Teamer tips to make sure you stay as productive as possible while working remotely.
1. Get Dressed
Let's start with the basics. Yes, you work from home now, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get dressed. Getting dressed properly does two things: firstly, it means you won't scramble for a nice shirt whenever one of your colleagues (or worse, one of your clients) urgently wants to video-conference you. It will happen, so be prepared.
Secondly, it puts your brain in a let's get to work mood. The rituals of having breakfast, taking a shower, and putting work clothes on, indicate to your brain that you're about to get to work.
"I get up and make my bed, then shower and dress up, after that I have breakfast and that sets my working mood ON."
2. Invest in a Proper Working Environment
It's worth spending some money to build a proper working environment, both for your mental and your physical health. We've written before how extended sitting is bad. While the statement "sitting is the new smoking" is quite probably exaggerated, it's certainly true that extended sitting is bad for your health. Setting up an ergonomic office with a standing desk needn't cost that much, and it's certainly worth some money.
Secondly, make sure you have backup hardware to keep working if something goes wrong. What if your wifi goes down? Or your laptop breaks? If it happens, as per Murphy's law, it's likely to happen at the worst possible time. Make sure you have the right hardware to keep on working productively.
3. Keep Your Workspace Clean
At the end of every day, or at least every week, it's worth decluttering your office. Throw away what's unnecessary and "what doesn't spark joy" (as Marie Kondo would say). It will help clear your mind too.
"Generally keeping a clean workspace helps me. I actually just finished my Monday morning clean and declutter. I find it helps set me up for the week."
4. Separate Work from Life
Now that you work from home, the boundaries between work and life will seem thinner. But it's important to keep those boundaries. Avoid working where you sleep or where you eat. Find a space where you work and only work.
"The other general rule that I try to follow is that my office is a place of work… the house is not. So if I want/need to do work in an atypical pattern I need to force myself to go to the office."
5. Don't Let Others Interrupt You
It's not because you work from home that people can now interrupt you. Let your family or any other people in your house know that you're working and don't want to be interrupted.
"When I worked inside the house I used to say “Good Bye” to my family as if I was leaving to go to work. This was to make a clear distinction for me and for my young family that it was daddy’s work time."
This also means that you're not necessarily more available to do the groceries or prepare food or do any other household chores. While a remote lifestyle gives you more flexibility in how you arrange your work schedule, you still have a full-time job that requires your full attention. There will be days when you'll have little time to do anything else but work. Make sure everyone in your household understands that.
6. Move Your Body
The above being said, it's also vitally important to move your body. Don't sit still for the entire day. Ideally, try to work out once a day, or at least go for a daily walk. While not moving might have no seeming downsides in the short term, you're risking serious injury (particularly back injuries) in the long term.
Mentally, too, it's good to occasionally stop working and move around. Here at X-Team, we're a fan of the Pomodoro method, which is a timer that lets you know when a certain amount of time (usually 25 minutes) has passed, after which you take a short break.
When working remotely, it's better to over-communicate than it is to under-communicate. After all, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, your employer won't necessarily know you're working, so you'll need to make sure everyone is aware of what you're doing.
We keep Slack journals to let other X-Teamers know what we've been up to today. It encourages us to get things done every day and lets others know what we've been working on.
8. Change the Scenery
You might not always want to work from home. Sometimes, it's good to change things up. Figure up which places in your city or town are good to work from. Try and find three different spaces, so you can decide which one you want to go to. Maybe the library? Coffee shops? Co-working spaces?
"My ultimate tip is: coworking space."
Changing scenery also means you'll meet new people every once in a while. Particularly in co-working spaces, you might meet like-minded individuals that you can share a drink with after work. It can mitigate some of the loneliness that remote workers can feel.
9. Stop Working
Set a time when you'll stop working. Even if you're not quite satisfied with what you did today, it's important to know when to stop. It's counter-productive to keep on working; your mind needs time to relax too.
"I have some friends that usually come here on Mondays and Fridays at 3 or 4 pm. I've told them I'm working until 5 or 6 pm, so they usually don't interact a lot with me until I say "I stopped working, for today." That clear communication really makes a difference too!"