As most of us now know, remote work is here to stay. While it may have started as an unfortunate side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people quickly learned to embrace working remotely. In fact, according to a survey done by Growmotely in 2020, 97% of employees preferred to continue working remotely or in a hybrid environment.
Many employers have listened to what their employees are saying and have allowed remote or hybrid work to continue. At this point, you don’t need to learn how to make remote work functional because it already is.
Instead, now is the time you should focus on being productive, successful, and happy as a remote employee. So, here are five tips for feeling successful as a remote worker.
1. Don’t overwork yourself!
Remote work is fantastic because you can cut down on a lot of distractions and really focus on your projects. However, more focus can be a double-edged sword. You may be able to get more done, but it’s also a lot easier to slip into “the zone.”
Now don’t get me wrong, “the zone” is a good thing, but there’s a lifestyle saying that applies here.
“All good things in moderation.”
Suppose you regularly slip into the zone and come out only to realize you’ve missed lunch, your beverage break, and dinner. If this story sounds familiar, chances are you’re overworking yourself. You no longer have the social cues of a regular office with people frequently getting up and down, going out to grab food, or stopping to ask questions.
The lack of social cues means you need to set boundaries for yourself. Keep a regular schedule and if you’re having a hard time switching off your “work brain” at the end of the day, try simulating an evening commute. Forbes suggests ending your workday with meditation, a brief walk outdoors, or anything else you know disrupts your internal work mode.
2. Maintain an organized and dedicated workspace.
This remote work tip may feel old or trite, but I’ll repeat it because it’s so important. Having a separation between your work life and your home life keeps you productive and focused.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should build a shed in the backyard or convert one of your children’s bedrooms into a home office. It is possible to be in your home while keeping a dedicated workspace. For you, maybe this means you have a special “work” chair at the kitchen table or a desk in the living room that you only use for work.
It’s also critical to keep your work area free of clutter and other unnecessary items. The human brain is incredible, but it’s not great at filtering out unnecessary information. The brain gets distracted very easily, and it actually takes a lot of brainpower to ignore things. A Princeton study found scientific evidence that you will boost your productivity and quality of work by keeping a clean, clear, and organized workspace.
3. Stay connected.
There are two aspects to staying connected.
First, you need to be collaborative. Just because you’re working at home and not seeing anyone face-to-face doesn’t mean you don’t have to talk to anyone. If there’s a project you’re working on with multiple people, stay in contact with the group. Update them as pieces are finished and come together.
Always make sure everyone is on the same page. You can do this by phone, text, Zoom call, or instant messenger. How you collaborate doesn’t matter in the long run — what does matter is you actually collaborating.
Second, you need to stay socially connected as well.
Being socially connected is different from being collaborative. In an in-person office space, you create relationships with your coworkers, and you can easily fulfill your social needs. The same can’t be said for a digital workspace, but building those good relationships is still just as vital.
It’s okay for you to occasionally reach out to your team or coworkers and have a conversation with them. By doing so, you can prevent feelings of isolation and continue to foster friendships with your coworkers, even if you don’t see them in person.
4. Be a good self-manager.
Self-discipline is one of the most critical parts of working remotely. When you’re sitting in your dedicated workspace, there’s no manager or team lead watching your every move over your shoulder. The lack of constant supervision feels like a breath of fresh air, but if you’re not careful, it can also lead to decreased productivity if you’re not self-disciplined.
If you think you can’t be self-disciplined, I have good news for you! No one is born self-disciplined because it is a skill you learn. Anyone can learn to be self-disciplined — it’s all about finding what works for you.
Some people find using headphones helps them stay focused because they block out noise. You can play music. Most music streaming platforms have fantastic pre-made playlists meant to act as background music. If music would distract you, then you can just wear the headphones. They still muffle noise and can minimize distractions.
Others find scheduling “focus hours” is the best way for them to stay on task. During your focus hours, you don’t respond to emails, IM’s, phone calls, etc. Instead, you place all your attention on the project or task at hand.
5. Have all the things you need on hand.
The first and most obvious thing you should have is a stable and secure internet connection. Without this, all the other remote working tips we’ve given fall apart. For you to be a reliable employee and coworker, your internet connection needs to be stable. Your connection needs to be secure because you’re working with valuable company information that may not be ready or meant for public viewing.
Second, keep the things you need accessible and on-hand. When I say accessible, I mean the item is either within arm’s reach or two steps of your workspace. If you’re like me, you waste a lot of time whenever you need to go hunt down a pair of scissors, tape, or a phone charger.
Buying scissors, tape, a phone charger, etc., specifically for your workstation, will save you time, energy, and focus in the long run. Trust me.
Finally, consider a plant or two for your work area. Taking just 40 seconds to look at a plant — real or fake — refreshes your attention capacity. As mentioned above, the human brain isn’t great at sustained focus on one task. So, when you forcefully focus on projects and tasks, it’s no wonder you feel exhausted at the end of the day. Plants can give you a relieving breath of fresh air, literally and metaphorically.