As many of the UK workforce will be working remotely for the next week, the change in routine can massively impact our productivity.
Plenty of people love the thought of working from home, foregoing their commute in favor of more sleep, family or exercise. But working remotely is a double-edge sword — sure, you get to stay home, but it can be harder to focus on actually working.
Whether it’s a pile of laundry that suddenly looks more appealing than your bosses’ to-do list, or a quick three-hour binge of that one Netflix show you’ve been dying to watch, staying productive at home can take a little extra effort.
So, how else can you stay focused on the job while working remotely? Here are four tips from work-from-home veterans and workplace experts.
Location, Location, Location
Don’t work from your bedroom, instead try to find yourself a dedicated and comfortable spot to work that you can associate with your job and leave when you’re off the clock.
“It definitely helps if you have a dedicated space for working from home,” says remote worker and Slack content creator, Matt Haughey, “I started doing this kind of work sitting at a desk in the middle of my living room of a small San Francisco apartment 20 years ago, and it was a pain to stay on task and not get interrupted.”
Since then, Haughey has set up a dedicated home office where he can close the door and shut out distractions. He has also gone to local libraries to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi — but given that today’s work from home recommendations are meant to prevent spreading COVID-19, heading out into a public place isn’t advised.
Find someone to talk to
You might find it easier to be productive without your most chatty coworkers constantly buzzing in your ear. But without these social interactions, you can develop feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Durham University’s Dr. Thuy-vy Nguyen, who studies the effects of solitude, thinks the psychological effects of working remotely for extended periods is often overlooked or ignored, despite it being an essential factor in our mental well-being and team bonding.
Have a Plan
Nguyen also recommends that, when working alone, you should keep a more structured daily schedule than usual.
“Usually our time and the structure of our day are influenced by other people,” she says. “You’re going to experience your day as lacking the normal structures that you usually have. People might have a hard time dealing with it. So one of the things that we found in our trying to understand solitude, is that time spent alone is better if it’s structured.”
For many remote workers this involves taking multiple breaks throughout the day, either to play with his dog or taking a long walk during the afteroon.
Think About How You’re Communicating
Haughey says it’s important to go beyond email and use other digital tools that can better replicate the in-person office experience and provide for clear communication.
He communicates with his team using chat apps like Slack and videoconferencing services like Zoom. “Screen-sharing is another killer aspect of getting people on the same page,” he adds. “If I’m in a meeting to give feedback, chances are the host is sharing their screen as well so we’re all looking at the same thing as we toss ideas around.”
Harvard Business School’s Prithwiraj “Raj” Choudhury, who studies remote work and the relationships between geography and productivity, found an interesting solution to boosting camaraderie among remote workers: pizza parties. While researching remote work habits at the U.S. Patent Office — which implemented a more robust “work from anywhere” policy in 2011 — Choudhury discovered a manager who hosted weekly lunches via videoconferencing.
“She would order the exact same pizza to be delivered at the same time so the team would have that bonding experience and still feel like a team,” says Choudhury. “This is the future of work, so we cannot just keep doing stuff in the old familiar ways, we have to create new processes.”