Here's a surprise--in March 2020, almost 20% of the US workforce was already working in their jammy bottoms five days a week. And while the possibility of returning to the office seemed realistic a few months ago, now it looks like remote work is here to stay.
According to a Stanford University study, the work from home (WFH) crowd contributes 60% of the total US GDP. If you're in the WFH cohort, the future of the American economy is on you--and millions more of your new remote buddies. No pressure there.
The challenges of working from home
In all seriousness, it's critical to your career that you develop the right techniques for working remotely. Most couch collaborators find that time management is their biggest challenge—everything from creating your own schedule to figuring out ways to avoid burnout. Yes, there are apps to help you maintain your daily calendar, but you really need a comprehensive system that tracks your workday in its entirety.
The first step to working from home with success is to set a consistent schedule for your workday. It doesn't have to be in one eight-hour chunk, but you do need to let your colleagues know your dedicated availability times, so they'll know the best times to contact you and get a timely response.
Manage your time
The upside of working from home is that you have so much more flexibility. The downside is that you have huge blocks of unstructured time. Figuring out how to manage that time is the biggest challenge you'll face while you're getting the hang of working in your dining room. These are the most common things you'll have to consider.
- Pressure to be available via email, text, and video chat all the time
- Lack of direct feedback on performance and time management
- Completed work is not immediately apparent to your peers and managers
- You will spend more hours working, but with greater focus, fewer interruptions, and fewer breaks
- It's hard to draw physical boundaries between "work" and "leisure"
Recognize your mental limitations
When you consider a regular day in the office, you probably think you are hard at it for eight or nine hours straight. Break it down, and you'll find there's plenty of mental downtime—microbreaks—when you can rest your brain for a few minutes. Check your Fantasy Football scores, go get coffee, take a couple of personal calls, catch up on texts. Without these microbreaks, your cognitive abilities diminish and you're working harder but not smarter. The result? All those "distractions" at the office are really much-needed mental breaks that you lose when you're home alone.
Define your workspace
Open floor plans are great until you and your partner or roommate are both working from home. If it's just you, finding a place that you can dedicate solely for work is easy—set up your laptop anywhere and voilà, you've got an office. If you share your home with other people, you've got to agree on where that space is. Any place you can go and close the door will do— guest room, dining room, kitchen—any place there's some privacy. You might need to get creative and turn the attic, basement, or garage into an office, or even a corner of the living room.
A corner might not be as dreadful as you think; it will force you to stop work when that multi-purpose space is needed for something else.
Experienced remote workers change up their worksites every now and again. Now that Starbucks is open again you can make that or another café your occasional office, particularly on days when you're not on the phone or in video meetings.
Strategies for working from home
Now that you've figured out your challenges, it's time to determine the most optimal working from home strategies.
When are you most effective?
Some people are on fire in the morning, others can't get revved up until the sun is over the yardarm. Granted, some do fine with the 9 to 5 routine, but if you're most productive outside these times, remote working can really work to your advantage. Regardless of when you're fresh and focused, frontload the most important tasks for that time frame. If you are hyperfocused at five am, get up at 4:30 so you can work on complex projects then. When your energy and focus dip, take a break and do some laundry or take the dog for a walk.
Just because you set your own schedule doesn't mean you wing it through the day. Time blocking gives you a framework and lets you set limits for a given task. It also lets you prioritize your tasks so that you set aside proportional and appropriate times for the routine admin stuff like responding to emails.
Lots of remote workers swear by the Pomodoro Method, when you set a timer for each task. When the timer goes off, that's a hard stop to move on to the next thing. Egg timers are a relic, but a good task management app is a great investment.
Keep track of meetings
When you're hanging out at home in your loungewear, it's easy to lose track of the days and forget you have an important call or video chat meeting. It's critical that you keep an accurate calendar so that you don't wander off into some sort of highly productive hermit state. Before you log off for the day, be sure to check tomorrow's calendar. On Fridays. review next week's calendar and plan your workweek so that you're prepared for Monday—you've lost any commute time to think about your week, but you can make up for that before Monday morning.
Use the right communication tools
"Asynchronous communication" is the high-tech way of saying it's okay to let the call roll to voice mail. Effective time management demands communication downtime that lets you really focus, so it's critical that you put the "do not disturb" sign out. Your communication software needs to block any interference when you need quiet time, and you should not be afraid to use those settings.
We have the right tools
Ensuring your remote team functions at its highest capacity is key to your success. Desktop.com has the software your business needs to help you manage a flexible and remote work environment. From password management to managing all your apps, links and conversations in one place, we have the digital solutions for your remote workforce.