How to Improve Self-Discipline When Working Remotely
For most people, working from home depicts lots of free time, binge-watching favorite TV shows, eating ice cream on the couch or patio, and playing video games. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth. While working remotely has its benefits – like greater flexibility, more independence, and less stress – what you may not know is that it requires a lot of discipline and motivation to stay productive when away from the office.
As a remote worker, you have to put more effort into staying focused. From frequent interruptions from family and friends to noisy neighbors to the strong urge to jump back to bed, there are myriads of distractions around you, and it can be tough to maintain the level of productivity you show in the 9-5 office setting.
That’s why it's important to learn how to discipline yourself when working from home.
When you telecommute and are away from the hawk eyes of your manager or supervisor, you can start work whenever you want (in your PJs), walk your dog anytime you feel like, and sip wine while working. Come to think of it, all that doesn’t matter. What's important is that you get your job done and on time.
That’s achievable if you have self-discipline.
The thing is, for some, self-discipline comes naturally, but for most people, it takes effort and practice. The good news is that anyone, whether you’ve been working remotely for years or are just starting out, can establish boundaries and maintain a good work-life balance. With that in mind, what are the effortless ways to maintain self-discipline when working remotely? Ride along as we explore the possibilities.
Designate a Dedicated Workspace
Designating a specific room or area that you will consistently use as your workspace is extremely important. Compared to working from your couch or bed, which is associated with leisure and relaxation, having a table and chair just like in the office setting helps you to establish the right frame of mind.
Moreover, sitting on the couch or bed for long hours is not only unhealthy for your back but also makes you prone to unplanned naps during working hours.
Set up your workspace with as minimum distractions as possible, with only the necessary tools needed for your work.
Establish and Maintain a Routine
If you're used to the 9-5 style of work, then you know that the daily commute allows you time to adjust by the time you get to the office.
However, working from home can pose a challenge, especially knowing that you can postpone waking up by a few minutes. After all, there’s no more commuting, right?
Believe it or not, the key to performing at your peak is to jump right into your projects soon after waking up (and maybe doing your morning jog?) Of course, this may vary from one person to another. What matters is that you determine how you want your routine to look like, keeping in mind what works best for you, and then try to maintain that routine.
The advantage of creating a routine is that it wires your mind differently and will help you get started with work with better focus. Setting fixed working hours will help you determine how much time you dedicate to work each day and therefore make you more productive.
Creating a routine is one thing; sticking to it is another. The key is not to take things lightly. Create habits that signal the start of a workday. Some wake up to a cup of coffee, while others start their day with a morning run or hot shower. Find that ‘thing’ that gets you started and make it a habit.
One more thing, don’t forget to take breaks. When you're heavily immersed in work, you can easily overwork yourself and even forget to take a lunch break, which may lead to burnout. Taking regular breaks improves blood flow and gives your mind the relaxation it needs so that you can get back to work rejuvenated.
Additionally, know when your working hours end. Unlike in an office where your colleagues packing up their things signals the day coming to a close, you have to establish your own routine at home.
Don’t Stay in Your Pajamas
So it has been true all along that freelancers and remote employees work in pajamas? Well, not really. While it's undeniable that working in jammies is comfortable, it's not advisable. Your brain will still be in the chill zone, thinking it's time for bed. And that’s not where you want it to be.
To avoid finding yourself in such a situation, take a shower and get dressed as you would if reporting to the office. This will signal your brain that it's time to get to work.
Track Your Progress
Keeping track of what you're doing is a great way of establishing discipline. Your manager or supervisor may require regular updates from you as a way of tracking your work, or they may use a more modern and elaborate tracking system. It helps to account for your work hours and will come in handy when analyzing your performance and rates. It's also a great way to determine what you’ve accomplished so that you can establish areas that need improvement.
In this case, you should use a tool that can help you track your progress with ease. For example, you can use a time tracker like Traqq. This tool will automatically log your work hours, making it easier to create timesheets. What’s more, it helps you guarantee accountability by taking random screenshots of your desktop. It even monitors the websites you visit and the apps you use during work hours. So, you can promise your supervisor or client that every minute they pay goes to productive work.
Work When You're Most Productive
It’s a fact that people are wired differently. Are you a ‘morning’ person, or are you capable of working at any time of the day? If your mind is at its peak in the morning, utilize that time well. After all, no one is capable of working 100 percent throughout the day.
You have to accept the ebb and flow of motivation as the day progresses. And when your energy and concentration start to ebb away, your productivity starts to decrease. That’s a cue for you to stop working and take a break.
That’s why it's important to determine the time of day when you're most productive. This way, you’ll handle tougher and more pressing tasks when your mind is in the right place.
Use those hours when your mind strays elsewhere or when you're feeling tired to perform household chores and run errands. However, it's important to point out that you need to create time to handle house chores so that you don’t mix up work and non-work-related tasks.
Set Ground Rules with Family and Friends
As mentioned earlier, people have this misconception that working from home means you have lots of free time. Without setting boundaries letting them know that you're busy during certain hours, your work schedule may be interrupted throughout the day because anyone can just barge in while you’re working.
Self-discipline involves resisting all those little temptations that may distract you, including playing with your kids or pets, so that you can concentrate on work-related stuff.
Set Daily Goals
Identify your goals and let them define how you want to move forward with your remote work. This will give you something to focus on daily and help develop the habit of hitting your targets. Knowing your goals is not enough, though: you need to write them down to better visualize them and think of ways to achieve them.
The goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely – so that you don’t have a hard time accomplishing them.
Starting your day without figuring what needs to be done and when will easily take away the focus. Making decisions beforehand allows you to have an agenda that you can stick to. If you want to be more attentive at work and accomplish your daily targets, then outlining tasks in advance and how you plan to achieve them will make things easier.
From laundry to cleaning to grabbing a snack from the kitchen, distractions and interruptions will always be there – that’s guaranteed! That is why it takes a lot of self-discipline to stay focused as a remote worker. However, with good preparation, you will know how much time you need to spend on specific tasks, and by the end of the day, you’ll get all – or at least 90 percent – of your work done.
Avoid Social Media During Work Hours
The urge to grab your phone and check out what your pals on Instagram or your favorite TikTokers are up to is so strong when working from home without supervision. As your own personal manager, it's your responsibility to shut down any temptations to stop working and go on social media.
Before you begin work, close all non-work-related websites and applications and mute your phone. Leave social media for when you're on a break or when your work hours have ended. If you’ve ever been on TikTok, you know how hard it can be to stop yourself from playing that next clip. The trick is to keep your phone as far away from you as possible and prioritize your work.
How to Motivate Remote Employees to Work Better
The number of remote workers has grown tremendously, especially with the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis. Statista, a market research company, studied the change in remote work trends due to the pandemic in 2020. 47% of the U.S. workforce said that they had never worked from home before the quarantine restrictions, while 18% said that they had done so at least one day per week. However, at the height of the pandemic in 2020, 44% of U.S. employees reported that they worked remotely for at least five days a week.
Changes in Remote Work Trends Before and After COVID-19
Indeed, working from home has become a common practice for many. However, due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, remote workers are under economic and emotional pressure. Meanwhile, a common concern among employers is how to motivate remote workers to be more productive. These four tips will come in handy in the current situation and even post-coronavirus.
A Walden University case study revealed that workplace engagement is strengthened when employees have a personal connection to the organization. As a team leader, make sure you are communicating effectively with your remote team since that is what can foster a greater sense of trust and successful collaboration. Having regular check-in calls to converse with employees may help you determine if your employees are unhappy or stressed out.
Don’t let your communication be all about work. Make time for small talk and get to know your remote workers better. Ask about their families or what they are into. This shows that you care about them not just as employees but also as human beings.
Video calls can be a great option for one-on-one communication with each remote employee. This way, you will be able not only to learn your employee's body language but also to judge their overall mood at the moment.
Most importantly, think of how to reassure employees working from home that they are an integral part of the company or business and that your door is always open. Motivated employees work harder.
Give Them Positive Feedback
Acknowledging a team’s or employee's efforts is vital in keeping them motivated. It makes them feel appreciated, valued, and part of the team. Praise them whenever they go that extra mile and let them know that you recognize their hard work.
Positive feedback doesn’t have to be communicated verbally alone. Giving out small bonuses has been shown to motivate workers a lot.
Maximize on Technology
All types of remote work fully depend on technology. Anything that gets in the way of that can be a motivation killer. Just imagine your employees using software that crashes constantly or poor communication tools. This will kill their morale and decrease their productivity.
Apart from ensuring that your team can chat, video call, and share and download files with ease, take the initiative to encourage them to invest in a good laptop and high-speed internet connection. Not only will this ensure seamless video conferencing, but it will also provide the ability to work on projects smoothly.
Trust Your Team to Deliver
The reason why most employees choose to telecommute is because of the flexibility of working from home. Only provide support and all the necessary tools and let the team do the rest. However, you must first set clear guidelines defining the expectations for and responsibilities of each employee.
Let your remote team know the company’s mission so that they can align themselves with a culture that reinforces that mission. In other words, if your remote employees believe in what they are working for, motivation follows.
How to Encourage Self-Discipline in Remote Workers
The reality is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to self-discipline and motivation. There will be a lot of trial and error along the way before your remote workers finally get things right. The thing is, self-discipline takes practice, and the best approach is to allow your remote team to try different strategies and find what works well for each one of them.
Reviewing Employee Discipline in the Workplace
While some people can create productive habits on their own, others need a little nudge from their employers. To maintain respect and order among your distributed team, you’ll also need to establish clear workplace discipline policies for your employees. Here are some tips we recommend:
Study Laws on Employee Discipline
You can discipline your employees using different methods. In some cases, simple coaching sessions will do, and if graver offenses are committed, a verbal or written warning may be necessary. No matter what type of disciplinary action you take, it’s important that you never breach any federal labor laws. Unfortunately, there are no specific regulations regarding employee discipline, but there are laws that broadly cover termination issues. We recommend that you look into the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and the National Relations Law.
In any case, deciding matters on discipline and termination is up to the employer. Even so, there are still some legal considerations when imposing punishments. So, it’s important that you avoid legal risk by taking precautions when it comes to your disciplinary reviews. For example, make sure that your company policy states that there are several steps to take before imposing termination. Moreover, you should have an employee handbook that details all unacceptable behaviors in the workplace. Have a lawyer review your policies before rolling them out.
Set Clear Employee Rules
Managing remote employees can be difficult. So, it’s imperative to be clear about your work-from-home policies. Here are some of the common details that you’d want to cover in your employee handbook:
- Dress codes – Since your employees are working from home, they have more freedom over what they wear during office hours. However, if you’re holding Zoom meetings with video, you should be clear about what your staff members should wear. All the while, you should be careful not to violate any discrimination laws.
- Work ethic and productivity – You still need to ensure that your workers are productive at home. So, discuss employee monitoring policies with them. If you’re planning to use a time tracker, make sure that they understand what types of data the tool will collect.
- Illegal behavior – Even if your employees are working remotely, they should still conduct themselves professionally. Acts like violence, theft, and illegal drug use are grounds for immediate termination.
Choose the Right Disciplinary Method
Disciplinary methods can be either rehabilitative or punitive. It all boils down to choosing a way that meets your company’s needs, mission, and goals. Here are some methods for disciplining remote workers:
- Progressive discipline – Whenever an employee fails to correct the same issue, the severity of discipline increases.
- Performance improvement and training – This is a rehabilitative approach that uses measurable goals and employee improvement plans.
- Suspensions or reassignment – Instead of being immediately terminated, the employee can be retrained for improvement or suspended.
Without a doubt, it takes strong willpower and grit to be more self-disciplined. But with the correct mindset and the right habits, you’ll find that disciplining yourself becomes easier.
And don’t get this wrong – self-discipline is not just about avoiding things that waste your time. It's also about ensuring that you eat healthily and stay active. Accomplishing your tasks and then engaging in your hobbies will enrich your wellbeing, and you’ll be ready to start another day feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Perhaps one aspect that will help you stay focused is using a time management system that will allow you to keep on track without losing focus. Take a task monitoring app like Traqq for example. It uses a simplified stopwatch that works whether you're online or offline. This way, you'll be able to take a break when you really need it, thereby avoiding overworking yourself.
What’s more, the program shows you how much time you spend on specific websites and apps. In turn, you can easily identify your distractions and eliminate them. After all, as a telecommuter, you want to enjoy the freedom of working at your own pace and exceed your supervisor’s/manager’s expectations.