Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know what remote work is. It has become a norm for many companies today. Even major businesses plan to support long-term work-from-home setups for their employees after the pandemic wears down. However, before that, remote work or telecommuting seemed to be a new concept for many.
Those who were uprooted from their offices and thrown into their homes had to learn how to work remotely in an instant. It didn’t take much time for them to understand the benefits of working from home, but they also quickly discovered a lot of challenges. Unfortunately, even after months into remote work, many still have not adjusted adequately to the setup. According to a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of meetings per person has increased by 12.9%. For some, the hours seem longer with remote work.
For most people, discovering the best practices for working from home is a trial-and-error process. However, in reality, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. According to a Gartner study, 30% of US employees have been working remotely at some capacity. So, it means that over the years, some people have found ways to overcome the challenges of working from home. All you need to do is make these practices part of your daily routine. With the right effort, you can be the prolific remote employee you’ve always wanted to be.
What Are the Best Practices for Remote Workers?
Despite the challenges of remote work, there are many ways to ensure you succeed in it. Here are some of the work-from-home best practices that seasoned telecommuters recommend.
Prioritize Communication and Use the Right Collaboration Tools
You don’t have to go solo when you’re working in a remote location or from your home. If some or everyone in a distributed team plays by their own rules, it’s unlikely for the group to achieve success. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make your virtual collaboration efficient. You can take advantage of the best team chat apps, project management programs, and video conferencing tools. Indeed, the situation is quite different when you’re communicating with your remote colleagues.
Keep in mind that a remote team’s success depends on how well they communicate and work together. When you connect with your coworkers, you have more hands to help. If you get stuck on a task, you can always ping your teammates and they’ll be able to lend you a hand.
Discover Healthy Habits That Make You Productive
At the beginning of a workday, most of us hope that we power through our tasks and get as much done as possible. Unfortunately, things can easily go awry when you don’t have the natural discipline and breaks that you get in a traditional office. In this case, you have to step up and develop the best way to work remotely.
According to a recent survey by online employment platform Monster, 69% of employees experience burnout symptoms while working remotely. Unfortunately, at home, the line between work hours and personal time gets blurred. In the office, there’s a set schedule for lunch and breaks. We can even step away from work and talk with our colleagues when eating.
At home, people seem to be taking fewer breaks and working more hours. After all, activities like taking those quick snacks and having friendly chats with co-workers make us feel guilty when we’re doing them at home. It’s as if we’re slacking off or cheating when we do the things that seem harmless in the office. Sometimes, you may even find yourself asking, “Should I work overtime?”
To avoid feeling burnt out and to ensure productivity, try discovering the best way you work at home. Wear different types of clothes or work from different places. If there are no quarantine regulations in your area, try working from a café or a co-working space. Also, find out your most productive times and schedule cognitive-intensive tasks around them. In this case, your best bet is to use a time tracker like Traqq.
With Traqq, you can figure out your peak productive times. After installing this time tracker, you can click Start and it will start monitoring how you work. On the dashboard, you will see your activity levels for the day. Continue using it for a week or two and you will notice patterns that indicate your peak hours, low energy levels, and slump times. The best part about Traqq is that you can download it and access all its features for free. So, you can use this tool to develop productive habits without paying anything.
Have Occasional Face-to-Face Meetings
From the communication point of view, in-person meetings can be very effective. Aside from that, seeing colleagues face to face can be a great way to build trust. Even if you have a distributed team, you should try to develop a personal connection with your co-workers. If you’re a project manager or team leader, it is your responsibility to organize these meetings. Now, even if you’re a team member, you can still take charge and schedule a working lunch with one or more of your colleagues.
For bigger teams that are working remotely across greater distances, the best option is to have one or two face-to-face meetings annually. If that’s not possible, the next best solution is to have regular video conferences. Even when there’s no official agenda, make such meetings part of your weekly or monthly routine. There is a good reason why these meetings are part of Google’s remote work policy.
Separate Work From Your Personal Life
As we’ve mentioned, once you start working from home, the boundaries between work and life become almost non-existent. It will start to seem like your office and home environments are a single, never-ending entity. When you wake up, the first thing you do is check your email. While working, you’re having your breakfast. With all the things going around the office and your home, you fail to notice that it’s already nighttime and you’re still working.
According to a recent University of Illinois study, managing boundaries between work and life can buffer your stress spikes. So, for your health, it is essential to learn how to unplug. Create physical boundaries that separate your work from your personal life. One of the best ways to do this is by establishing a work-from-home routine. Have a schedule for your workday and stop once it is done.
Ideally, you should have a dedicated workspace that you can physically walk away from. If you have enough rooms in your house, have a separate office with a door. This way, you’ll have a visual boundary between your work and life. If you step out of your home office at the end of the day, you know that you’ve stepped away from work.
Now, if you live in the city, limited apartment space may not allow this setup. One workaround for this is to distance yourself from your work electronics. On weekends and evenings, switch off your computer and any notifications that have to do with work. It would also help if you kept your work devices out of reach at the end of a workday. You can also try using physical objects to help your brain think that it’s time to rest. For instance, wear casual office attire during work hours, then slip into your loungewear and fuzzy slippers by the end of the day.
Another option would be to walk out of your house at the start and end of the workday. It will seem as if you’re leaving for work in the morning and going home in the evening. Also, remember to set boundaries with your loved ones and friends. When you’re always at home, they may think that you’re constantly available. Explain the situation to them and tell them about your work schedule.
We can never deny the many challenges of remote work. However, when you use the best practices for working from home, you will slowly discover its advantages. Moreover, with the right communication tools and a time tracker like Traqq, you’ll have better chances of achieving a healthy work-life balance.