We know that remote employees tend to be quite productive.
But once you’re in a remote work routine, how do you maintain that wonderful sense of productivity without losing momentum?
After all, you could work all the hours in the world—you could be a full-blown workaholic—but if those hours aren’t spent productively, then what’s the point?
And with remote work on the rise, more and more of us are discovering that our in-office routines can sometimes be completely different from our at-home routines (pajama jokes aside).
Here at FormAssembly, our team is able to work anywhere—whether it be from home, our office, or a café. But working remotely isn’t always easy. Here are some productivity tricks we’ve learned along the way:
1. Check your email only when you’re ready to answer
Picture this: An email comes in. It’s immediately opened (causing an interruption) and is then left to deal with later. It ends up being forgotten and sits in an inbox for days.
Sound familiar? That’s because it happens to the best of us—all the time.
But it can be avoided, and you can start as soon as today.
Here’s how to avoid falling into this downward spiral: Silence your email alerts, and make a vow that you’ll only check your email on breaks (AKA: When you’re actually able to respond).
The result? You’ll be able to concentrate like never before, and you’ll also make people happier because you’ll actually respond to their emails in a timely manner, without putting them off for days.
2. Communication is (truly) key
Do you find yourself constantly apologizing to friends and family for not responding to their texts or emails?
If so, then you might be more productive in a physical office environment. Either that, or you’ll have to improve your communication skills in order to adapt to a remote workplace.
In a virtual atmosphere, it’s so important to keep your co-workers in the loop. It’s an absolute must.
— Edgar (@MeetEdgar) April 2, 2015
Bottom line? Awesome communication is an absolute necessity when it comes to working remotely.
3. Determine a work routine that works for you
Some people swear by the Pomodoro Technique—working 25 minutes, then taking 5 minute breaks. Others prefer working uninterrupted for hours at a time with just one break.
Either way, find a way to take a break during some point in the day.
Try a few different techniques and see what process works best for you. Some people just like change and avoid routines like the plague—if that sounds like you, then be sure to switch it up.
4. Find a comfortable atmosphere
One of the great benefits of virtual work is that you can choose your own environment. You can work from home, from a coffee shop, a co-working space, or even outside (if you can handle the sunlight on your screen, that is).
And let’s face it: You know yourself best. Everybody is different, so what might work for your colleagues may not work for you. For this reason, it’s important to experiment and find the perfect formula for you.
5. Create daily goals
“But I already have goals. They’re in my head!” Don’t worry: We’re all guilty of creating mental checklists without writing them down.
But it’s important to fight that urge to horde your thoughts. Instead, record them and establish daily goals for yourself. It only takes a second, and it’ll give you a clear idea of your daily activities and accomplishments.
If you’re working on a big project, consider breaking that project into small milestones. It feels bad to look back on a wasted day. Really bad. You can avoid that feeling by creating lists of goals for yourself.
Luckily, there are many tools out there that can help with this, both online and offline. Here’s an example of a list that was created using Evernote:
One way to go about this is to create two lists—one for tasks that you want to complete right away, and the other for bonus tasks.
The “Must-Do-No-Matter-What” List: On your first list, it’s a good idea to include priority tasks. These are all the things you would need to do in order to feel good about your day at work.
The “Bonus Awesomeness” List: The second list can include bonus tasks for extra points. (Yes, imaginary points. It’s fun, trust me.) These are the tasks that can be tackled once all other tasks have been completed. Finishing all of these tasks will give you an incredible sense of accomplishment.
6. Don’t be a recluse: Get out of the house
Even when you think you don’t need it, or just plain don’t feel like it (fellow introverts, I’m looking at you), you have GOT to force yourself to get out of the house every now and then.
Yes, it’s comfy being at home—but without interaction, things can get weird very quickly. We all need human interaction. Get out of the house for a bit and explore the world around you (it’s good for your sanity).
7. Set boundaries
When you’re at work, you’re working–and people in your life should know that.
According to Fast Company, during a study by the University of California, it took participants 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get (fully) back on track after an interruption.
That’s a lot of wasted time. Are you really OK with that? Naw, didn’t think so. If you need to, silence your phone and turn off notifications. You can even work different hours if it’s tough to ignore distractions. Amanda Orson, Director of Communications at EngineerJobs.com, explains why this step is vital:
If you aren’t getting work done when you’re supposed to be at work, you will continue working long after you’re supposed to. I physically close the door to my office and play light music when I’m in work mode.”
8. Virtual water cooler chat to lighten the mood
While you may at first think this is a distraction, it’s actually the opposite. Well, at least in moderation. I would even go so far as to say that team camaraderie fuels growth, and that it’s important to keep have a sense of connection—even within a remote team.
9. Know how to measure success
When you’re working on your own so much of the time, it’s vital that you are able to measure the impact of your work. Sujan Patel, VP of Marketing at When I Work, wrote an article called “Everything You Need to Know About Managing a Remote Team.” In this article, he says that good results are more important than number of tasks completed:
You have to create a system in which results matter–not individual activities. If you think about it, results should be your ultimate goal anyways, whether your employees are in the office or working remote.”
In other words, it’s the end result and the quality of a task that matters most. Do you prefer tackling one large project, or working on a bunch of small projects at once? Determine how you work best and make a point of sticking with it.
10. Embrace short emails & messages
Learn to communicate in a straightforward, concise way.
Practice excellent communication without getting carried away.
It’s not just a great thing to do—it’s the right thing to do. When chatting or emailing coworkers, try to keep your messages short and sweet. Communicating clearly and effectively is key.
I don’t need to tell you why exercise is important. It’s far from a shocking fact. We all know we’re not made to sit around all day, but sometimes the thought of exercise sounds, well, daunting.
And besides, nobody is there to call you out on being glued to the computer screen all day. (Aside from your guilty conscience, that is.) Investing in your health is worthwhile in the long-term as a remote employee.
Alex Turnbull, CEO of Groove, dished out some great advice in an article about how to stay sane while working from home. In the article, Alex says it’s important to choose a form of exercise that you actually enjoy—that way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it in the long term.
12. Know your limits
Working from home isn’t for everyone. Some prefer the interaction within an office.
But things aren’t always so black and white.
Many people are hybrids, thriving in the flexibility and freedom to choose whether to stay home or go into an office. Many people at FormAssembly choose to work from home part of the week and go into the office on other days.
According to Inc. writer Jessica Stillman, there are different types of personalities in the remote work world. If you’re a social butterfly, you may feel disconnected and isolated while living a mostly virtual life. If you prefer close supervision, it may not be an ideal solution for you, either.
People who thrive in remote workplaces tend to be natural self-starters. They are often individuals who create work for themselves and find answers to their own questions independently.
So, be realistic with yourself. If you think you’re coming down with a case of cabin fever, it may mean that you should work from an office for a few days. If your company doesn’t have an office nearby, another alternative is a co-working space.
What’s your story?
Do you work from home? Are you a digital nomad, always on the road? We’d love to hear from you—feel free to share your stories and insights in the comments! You can also tweet with us @FormAssembly.