Welcome to the new normal! Many companies have asked their employees to work from home full-time, and many have even decided to operate remotely long-term. This shift has left many of us working remotely for the first time, navigating this new WFH frontier for those working in remote virtual jobs.
At first, it was exciting—wearing pajama bottoms all day? Yes, please! Afternoon naps during my lunch break? Of course!
Checking your email right when you wake up and right before bed? Wait, no, I- Feeling isolated and unable to focus on tasks? Okay, this isn’t what I signed up for! As many of us have learned, remote working has its advantages and disadvantages.
Working from home without effective strategies and work-life balance can turn into an endless time warp of monotony and a blurred line of work life and personal life. Working remotely today comes with so many perks and so much freedom, but first, you have to make sure working remotely benefits you.
In this guide to working remotely, we detail seven actionable steps you can take to have the most productive, energizing, and fulfilling work from home life ever. From following this guide, you will be able to enjoy all the benefits of remote working while avoiding its pitfalls.
Here we go!
1. PRE-WORK ROUTINE
Working from home means there is a fine line between work life and personal life. One way to help solidify that line is to designate time in the morning before work just for you, to indulge in things that get you centered and ready to dive into the day’s tasks. This can be anything from a five-minute meditation with Yoga Download to a full hour of activities that bring you joy.
My pre-work morning routine consists of journaling morning pages, drinking French-pressed coffee while reading a library book, taking a walk while drinking a breakfast smoothie, and not checking my phone until all of that is complete. This whole process takes about forty-five minutes and waking up with enough time to do my routine before work is always worth it.
A morning routine can also help to set your workday apart from your personal time, so it doesn’t feel like it’s consuming every minute of your day. If you want to take it a step further, create a post-work routine as well! This can be the simple act of shutting down your computer, indulging in a glass of wine, or stretching out your body.
Separating your workday by creating a routine just for you helps with focus, prevent burnout, and keep that joy in your day-to-day life.
2. MAKE YOUR SPACE WORK FOR YOU
One of the awesome things about working remotely is that your office is in your home, and you have a complete creative license over your workspace! Although working in an office building has its perks, there are only so many ways to make that old brown desk in a cubicle feel fun and energizing. In your own living space, you get to make your workspace work for YOU!
A work environment that makes you feel excited and happy to be in is important because:
- It gives you a reason to get out of your cozy bed in the morning
- It can help to keep you motivated and energized throughout the workday
If you don’t have a whole room to devote to an office, no worries. Find a corner of your living room or bedroom to claim as your office. Everyone is different, which means everyone’s workspaces will look different. Section off your workspace with an accent wall that you can DIY with paint, washi tape, or removable wallpaper.
Do you prefer sitting at a desk in a super supportive computer chair? Or do you want to plop down on a cushy loveseat with a side table to hold your morning smoothie? Decorate your space by framing a picture of your friends, a print from your favorite Etsy artist, a quote that inspires you, and adds some plants while you’re at it.
Even after creating a beautiful and functional workspace, you still may need a change of pace sometimes. A lot of the remote workforce takes advantage of the abundance of coffee shops with free WiFi to set up shop in with a hand-crafted caramel latte for the day.
You can also utilize a coworking space, where self-employed and remote employees can come together in a shared office to work independently. These spaces can give you a sense of community and a change of pace from being at home all day.
If you don’t feel safe going into a public space to work during the pandemic, you still have some options. Pop over to your apartment complex’s pool to use the clubhouse WiFi, and get some Vitamin D while you’re at it. Bring your WiFi hotspot and laptop to a picnic table at your local park for that fresh air and new view. Switch it up!
For more tips and tricks on making your space work for you, read our article This Is How You Work From Home Like A Pro!
3. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT
So many people are promoting the idea that to work from home effectively, you have to dress up in your work clothes every single day, even if you don’t have any video meetings.
For some, this may be an effective way to infuse professionalism into their headspace and be a transitional part of their morning routine. For some, though, we want to take advantage of the “wear whatever you want” perk that comes with working remotely.
When I get dressed for work at home, I love to throw on a pair of leggings because I like to sit cross-legged on my chair (you can’t do that comfortably in dress pants). Every once in a while, though, I love to throw on a pair of earrings and makeup to spice things up. You know yourself best, so don’t let anyone tell you what to wear in your own home—that’s one of the joys of remote work! You do you, girl.
4. GET A PLANNER
From the least organized person to the most Type A person, everyone needs a planner. Planners help you create daily and weekly to-do lists, prioritize tasks, keep track of goals, and make sure you never miss a meeting, which is especially important when working remotely.
Since my freshman year of college, I have never gone without a planner! One of my favorites for task management and motivation is the Productivity Planner. This planner utilizes the Pomodoro Technique (which we’ll discuss in the next section, Time Tracking), helps you focus your mental energy on the most meaningful tasks, and empowers you to take advantage of every moment of every day. Bonus: it’s printed on sustainably sourced paper from FSC suppliers!
One Productivity Planner user said, “This planner is my key to stay focused on all my tasks throughout the week even during crazy COVID-19 lockdowns when every day feels the same.” Girl, we can relate.
While working remotely, you are living and working in the same space, day in and day out, which can feel like a time warp sometimes. A planner helps you to focus on the day ahead and shows the progress you’ve made towards your goals. And if the idea of a planner sounds boring to you, get yourself some glitter gel pens or colorful stickers to make it fun to write in.
5. TIME TRACKING
Time management is touted as one of the most important skills to have in the workforce, so let’s talk specifics on how to achieve that maximum time-management effectiveness. While working remotely, it’s easy to get off task while there’s no fear of a supervisor walking by while you’re on Facebook, not to mention the easily-accessible naps in the next room.
I’m going to talk about two of my favorite time management tools that you can utilize while working from home: Time Blocking and Pomodoro Time Tracking.
First off is Time Blocking: splitting your days into “blocks” of time to focus on specific tasks.
This can be done on a smaller scale (i.e., 8 am–12 pm is for writing a blog post, 1–3 pm is for email correspondence, etc.) or on a larger scale (i.e., Mondays and Wednesdays are for content creation, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for meetings, emails, and housekeeping), OR a blend of both! Multitasking is extremely harmful to our focus, so time blocking allows our brains to relax into one task for an extended period.
For me, I love to block out days for creative work or logistical/technical work. That way, I don’t have to switch between the left and right brain throughout the workday. My creative juices tend to flow better when I don’t have to worry about crafting an email or scheduling meetings.
“But that seems daunting to have to focus for such a long time!”
Pomodoro Time Tracking
Don’t worry, Pomodoro Time Tracking is here to save the day! This technique breaks your time into twenty-five-minute chunks, with short breaks in between. The Productivity Planner has a Pomodoro Time tracking tool on their daily pages where you fill in a little bubble for every twenty-five-minute chunk you complete. So satisfying!
These two strategies work quite well in conjunction with each other because Time Blocking keeps you focused, and Pomodoro Time Tracking breaks that time up into manageable pieces. Work hard for twenty-five minutes, then take a ten-minute break to do yoga, go on a walk, check Instagram, pet your dog, whatever!
Repeat the process, and before you know it, that daunting task is complete. I’m actually using both of these techniques right now as I write!
6. MOVE YO BODY
When working remotely, there tends to be much less movement in our days. When you’re in an office, you may have to walk to the conference room or check in on someone across the building. At home, everything is right on your computer, and other than getting up to go to the bathroom, it’s super easy to accidentally stay seated for hours at a time.
This is not only harmful to our physical health, but also our mental health. When we move and get our blood flowing, our brains work better, and we prevent those aches and pains that can plague our necks and lower backs.
An easy way to get more movement into your day is to blend it in with Pomodoro Time Tracking. Use your breaks between twenty-five-minute work blocks to talk a walk or do a few sun salutations, or even just walk around your apartment while checking Twitter. You can also work long stretches of movement into your days by pacing around your room while on a work call, or packing a lunch to eat on-the-go and while taking an extended walk.
7. MEET IN THE (VIRTUAL) BREAKROOM
When working a remote job or working for a remote company, your workday can feel quite isolating. Lucky for us, technology has blessed us with things like Google Hangout, Slack, Zoom, and countless other apps to help us stay connected.
Whether your company already uses apps like this or not, you have the power to suggest them! Pitch the idea of a “daily question” via Google Hangout to facilitate conversation between team members or even invite a few of your fav work friends for a virtual happy hour at the end of the day. Staying connected with your coworkers is important not only for socialization purposes but also because it improves teamwork and helps to lessen the possibility of miscommunication.
If your company has a Human Resources department, they are there to support remote workers! You can always reach out to them if you have any concerns about engagement within the remote team, email communications, or how they can better support you at home. They also would be a good person to discuss implementing more social aspects into your company’s virtual work realm.
So what are you waiting for?
With these working remotely tips and tools, you now have seven steps you can take this week to make working remotely work for you! Although this transition from office life to remote life can be hard for some, it can become functional and freeing when you implement these strategies.
You will have more time to cook gourmet meals at home, you can indulge in that afternoon nap, and who says you have to wear pants? Business on the top, party on the bottom (as long as you don’t stand up during your video meetings).
Need some accountability for implementing these techniques into your remote work life? Grab a Productivity Planner that gives you a great jumping-off point for time management, prioritizing tasks, and hits you with inspirational quotes every few pages.
Grab your glitter pens and get to it!
Brooke Benson is a freelance writer, actor, and content creator based out of Sarasota, FL. She strives to destroy the “Starving Artist” trope by sharing her personal finance research and experience with creative freelancers and runs an Instagram community/coaching platform called “Not Starving Artists.” You can follow her on Instagram @notstarvingartists.
Her love for content creation and writing began while working for the brand Margaritaville in college (she’s a huge Jimmy Buffett fan and wants everyone to live on island time). Some of her favorite things are scrapbooking, a huge stack of library books, T-Pain, rainy days, her Passion Planner, cinnamon apple spice tea, and super soft blankets.