Let me guess. You tell people that you’re working remotely and they immediately swoon with envy. They picture you sipping artisanal herbal tea in your comfy pyjamas while meditative music plays in the background, and they tell you how lucky you are.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some definite benefits, such as no commute time, no overspending at the food truck, and no getting hit in the head by the “ideas” team who toss around a football while they’re thinking up their action plan. (Okay, it only happened once. But still.)
However, there are also some definite challenges, too. People who work at home tend to work more hours than their office counterparts, but they also struggle to make those hours more productive with the daily interruptions and the effects of isolation.
Here’s how to take on those problems head on.
Write down your goals for the day. Arrange your schedule so the most important projects are at the top of the list.
Turn off your notifications so you don’t get distracted by social media and unimportant messages, and focus on your work for a scheduled block of time. Then take a five-minute break. The break may seem counter-intuitive, but your brain stays sharper when you concentrate hard and then take a moment to do something else. Reward yourself with a cat video. Make a snack. Move. A few stretches and jogging in place helps because your body gets tired of doing the same thing, too.
Create your space
Carve out an office area for yourself. If you don’t have a whole room, take a corner and set up a desk and a comfortable chair. Decorate the area like you would if you had a cubicle in an office that needed some personalisation.
And get out of those PJs. It’s hard to feel productive when you’re dressed for sleep. But you don’t have to go full-office and wear a confining suit, either. Poppy and Dot’s women’s basics have soft casual clothes that will differentiate your work hours from your off time but will still keep you feeling comfortable.
Switch it up
Working at your office space is ideal, but occasionally it helps to work in another location to keep you from feeling isolated. This is particularly effective if you’re working on a project that only requires your laptop and you don’t need to drag a whiteboard and a dozen files with you. On a nice day, go out and sit under a tree or on your deck. The change in scenery will keep you from going into full cabin-fever mode and remind you there’s an outside world.
When COVID is over and if you’re still working remotely, go to a small coffee shop or the local library occasionally. Just make sure to focus and prioritise.
Defend your time
Make sure your family and friends know that when you’re at work, you are at work and they can’t interrupt you unless there is a major emergency. Explain that an emergency doesn’t include you locating the socks they want to wear or telling them what’s for dinner.
Schedule your time, including lunch breaks, so people know when you’re available for a quick catch-up if necessary. If you have a particularly polite family member, explain to them that gushing blood is an emergency.
You also need to defend your personal time. It’s tempting to keep working on a project when you’re in the swing of things, which also explains why at-home workers tend to work more than they would at the office, but in the long run, you’ll be less productive. Make some notes so you can pick up where you left off and step away from the desk!
Working at home may have its challenges, but if you can overcome the difficulties that come your way, you can make working remotely a pleasure as well as a convenience.