Working remotely can be hugely rewarding, but only if you keep your productivity up, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and nurture your business relationships.
Here are a few top tips to help you maintain a positive and productive working environment working from home:
1. Maintain Regular Hours
Set a schedule, and stick to it...most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain work-life balance. Working a swing shift is bad for you, and that applies to remote workers, too. That said, working remotely sometimes means extending your day or starting early to accommodate someone else's time zone. When you do, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning. Installing an automatic time-tracking app, such as RescueTime, lets you check in on whether you're sticking to your schedule.
2. Create a Morning Routine
Deciding you'll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine delineates the start of work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed (wearing pajama pants to work is a perk for some, but a bad strategy for others). Create a morning routine that ends with you starting work.
3. Set Ground Rules With the People in Your Space
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. Maybe share your scheduled work day plans with them and involve your family members where possible. E.g. if you have children at home, they will feel they're included in your work if you set them a couple of simple work related tasks. We know it's not always an easy task but make sure you have your own private space for when you need to focus on important work.
4. Schedule Breaks
Know your company's policy on break times and take them. If you're self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seems to be the standard for full-time UK employees.
Don't short-change yourself during breaks, especially your lunch hour. You can use an app, such as TimeOut for Mac and Smart Break for Windows, to lock yourself out of your computer for 60 minutes. Or you can just launch a simple clock or timer on the screen when you take a break. If you return to your desk after only 40 minutes, walk away for another 20.
5. Don't Hesitate to Ask for What You Need
If you're employed by a company or organisation that supports your work-from-home setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a day or two when you realise you need something new. It's extremely important to set precedents early that you will ask for what you need to get your job done comfortably, including the right monitor,keyboard,mouse, chair,printer,software, and so forth. Organisations that are accustomed to remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment. Ask what it is and how often it's renewed. It also doesn't hurt to ask whether there's a loan agreement or who will pay for return shipping or disposal of outdated equipment.
6. Keep a Dedicated Office Space
In an ideal world, remote employees would have not only a dedicated office, but also two computers, one for work and one for personal use. It's more secure for the employer, and it lets you do all your activities in private. But not everyone has a separate office in their home, and keeping two machines isn't always realistic. Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. For example, when your laptop is connected to the monitor and external keyboard, it's work time. When it's on your lap, that's personal time. You may want to go as far as partitioning your hard drive and creating a separate user account for work, too.
7. Maintain a Separate Work Phone Number
Set up a phone number that you only use for calls with colleagues and clients. It doesn't have to be a landline, second mobile phone, or even a SIM card. It can be a free VoIP service, such as a Google Voice. Similar to some of the other tips, having a separate phone number helps you manage your work-life balance.
Working remotely requires you to overcommunicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Overcommunicating doesn't necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself. Joke about how you must have mentioned your upcoming vacation six times already, then mention it again.
9. Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
The most successful remote employees have a reputation for being extremely disciplined. After all, it takes serious focus to get a full-time office job done from an unconventional space. That said, everyone lets their attention drift sometimes. If you find yourself working one minute and booking flights for your upcoming vacation the next, don't reprimand yourself harshly. Instead, ask yourself whether people in an office setting do the same thing. If the answer is yes, cut yourself some slack, then get back to work.
10. End Your Day With a Routine
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business messaging apps, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. yoga class. You might have a simple routine such as shutting down your computer and turning on a favourite podcast. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
11. Be Positive
I like succinct and clear messages, but I know that the less face time I have with people, the less they know how to interpret my tone. When you work remotely full-time, you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you're being overly positive. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favourite emoji :D. You're going to need them.
12. Make It Personal
Above all else, figure out what works best for you. Sometimes the answer is apparent, but other times you might need some inspiration from other people who are in the same boat. A supportive community of remote employees does exist, whether you find them in your organisation or online through blogs or Twitter.