From ringing phone lines to surrounding workplace chatter or colleagues coming by to socialize, you get used to the various distractions that come with working in an office. However, staying focused when working from home can be a whole other challenge.
Prior to physical distancing and isolation measures, many of us were used to structured environments with a clear separation between home and work life. Now with the two intertwined, productivity and organizational challenges can arise, while the physical separation from others and reduced socialization can be an obstacle to overcome in itself. While everyone will respond to this situation differently, there are a few tips to consider to help establish a healthy and productive remote work routine.
1. Have a get ready routine
Now that you’re no longer commuting, it may be tempting to allocate that saved time for precious sleep and just roll out of bed to go straight to work. However, it’s important that you still establish a pre-work morning routine. By taking some extra time to ease into the day, you’ll find yourself more focused and productive when it’s time to work because your brain had more time to wake up.
2. Stick to a schedule
While you might not need to have the same working hours as you do when you’re in office, you should still pencil in hours when you’ll be “at work.” Once it’s time to begin work, you should schedule and plan your day in a way that will be most beneficial to you. Ultimately when it comes to remote work, creating a firm schedule and daily routine will help keep you focused and productive as it recreates that structure we subconsciously miss from an office environment.
3. Set up a designated workspace
Since humans are creatures of habit, your brain will need time to adjust to your new work environment. By setting up a designated workspace, this kind of consistent structure will actually help rewire and train your brain to begin forming productive habits. Whether you live on your own or you find yourself in close quarters with others, just be sure your designated workspace is in an area where you can shut out distractions.
4. Use timers to break up your day
Whether you’re working in the office or at home, distractions and interruptions to your work are inevitable. Rather than trying to fight it, the Pomodoro technique recommends working exclusively on a task just long enough to make meaningful progress before taking a short break. To try this approach, you’ll need to set a timer to work for 25 minutes straight while putting off any interruptions during this time. Once done, you can take a 5 minute break before starting another 25-minute session. After doing this a few times for a couple hours, you can then take a longer 15-30 minute break to recharge. This method can be particularly helpful for people who aren’t used to remote work as the structured intervals can help keep you honest about how much time you actually spend working.
5. Connect with others
Despite having the comforts of home surrounding you, remote work can be incredibly isolating. When this begins to take a toll, it's no surprise that focus and productivity can be harder to come by. While you probably check in with colleagues and your supervisor regularly to touch base on projects and other professional matters, it’s important to make connections for more lighthearted conservations as well. By making the effort to develop relationships with other telecommuters, this sense of belonging and knowing that others are going through the same challenges can do wonders for your mental health.
6. Know when to stop working
Without a doubt, this is the most important tip to remember. As much as you set your schedule to keep you accountable for starting your work day, your schedule is also there to signal when you need to stop. Even if you feel like you weren’t productive, you didn’t get enough work done or you’ve got nothing better to do since you’re self-isolating, please don’t try to compensate by working longer hours. By knowing when to completely shut off from work, you’ll be allowing yourself the critical time that’s needed to take care of yourself in order to sustain optimal mental health and your overall well-being.