For those new to the remote game, adjusting to being your own boss can be overwhelming. From an ordered office environment, you now have to organize your own work structure and environment – which is especially difficult if your work environment also happens to be your home. Staying focused takes work, even if you are the only person around to distract yourself. To help you hit the ground running, here are five essential productivity hacks to help you stabilize and adjust to your new life as a remote worker.
1. Be wardrobe disciplined
Getting dressed in the morning – it's a small act with a big impact. You’d be surprised how many remote workers never get out of their pyjamas; one UK survey found that 61% of women and 53% of men who work remotely don’t get dressed in the morning. While it’s tempting to stay in your PJs, getting dressed can have a big impact on productivity: psychologically, shedding your pyjamas and stepping into "work wear" helps you get into work mode. Working from home, you have the opportunity to wear clothes you actually feel comfortable in. While you don’t have to get suited and booted, do actually get dressed!
2. Set a schedule – and stick to it
Flexibility is one of the biggest perks of working remotely, but it’s easy to get carried away. Just because you no longer have to stick to someone else’s schedule doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create your own. Having a consistent routine is one of the most beneficial productivity practices going – and the beauty of it is that you can shape your schedule around how you want to spend the day.
Maybe you like to wake up early and get a good few hours of work in before 10:00; maybe you prefer to start leisurely and catch up with emails over coffee before knuckling down. Either is fine, so long as you have structure. Set a time when you’ll wake up, start work, take lunch and finish for the day – remembering to factor in regular breaks. Just like getting dressed in the morning, having a set schedule helps trigger the brain and remind you that it’s time to work.
3. Become part of the remote community
Working remotely can get seriously lonely, which will obviously affect your energy and motivation for work. Thankfully, you have options – joining a remote working community is an excellent way to stay connected to your peers and build sociability into your day. And it isn’t just your wellbeing that will benefit – joining a remote community enables you to network, make connections, share ideas, join remote hangouts and attend meetings all around the world. Here’s how to get started:
Attend remote conferences: A quick Google of "remote conferences" or "digital nomad conferences" reveals just how much of a market there is for this. Sign yourself up for a remote conference that appeals and start building your professional connections.
Check out coworking spaces: Even if you have your own workspace, visiting a coworking space now and then has big benefits for productivity. Not only does it help get your brain into work mode, it’s also a great way to form professional relationships. It isn’t just about making friends: positive work relationships have a knock-on effect on productivity.
Reach out: Whether you’re sending emails or scheduling video calls, it’s key to feel connected. If you don’t use social media for your personal life, see it as an opportunity for your professional one. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ are hubs for remote communities, and many long-lasting work relationship are formed over social media.
4. Set your workspace
When working remotely, it’s super important to separate work and relaxation, and a key part of establishing that is deciding where to work. For the same reason you shouldn’t work in pyjamas, neither should you work from your couch or (heaven forbid!) your bed, which is linked to a bunch of productivity-related problems.
It’s crucial to set a dedicated space for work separate from where you sleep and relax. If you don’t, your brain subconsciously goes into relaxation mode through association. If you can’t set up a workstation at home, try out a coworking space and plan cafes and library working into your week.
5. Know when to switch off
When work takes place in your own house, it’s difficult to switch off. Unlike office workers, you don't always physically leave your work space to end your day. And to counter-balance the feeling of invisibility that comes with being physically absent as a remote worker, you may be tempted to reply to work requests out-of-hours. But it quickly adds up – frantic emails pinging on your phone when you’re trying to relax is stressful and one of the main causes of burnout.
Productive remote workers nail the tricky work-life balance by knowing when to switch off. How you do this is down to you, it just comes down to setting defined boundaries and limits. Have a time when you "clock out’" and try not to reply to emails, return calls or generally do anything work-related once it’s passed. While there will be times when you can’t always do this, those times should be the exception, not the rule.