According to a study done by Global Workplace Analytics, 4.3 million Americans work from work at least half the time. And according to another survey done by Upwork and the American Freelancers Union, 53.7 million workers in America are freelancers, who work remotely: whether from home, at a coffee shop, a co-working space, or some other location where they can connect online.
How can you work from home more effectively? Getting things done even while working remotely can all be achieved with these nine tips we’ve compiled to help you accomplish more while completing projects, hitting business goals, and serving clients:
With the way business has changed (thanks to the ongoing pandemic), professional jobs just aren’t like they used to be anymore.
Companies have been forced to rethink the way they’re doing things, and that includes having the bulk of their workforce continue working even while sheltering-in-place.
We here at LOJO have been working from home ourselves. With that being said, let’s dive right into our nine useful tips to help
1. Plan Your Day Right
There are two things you can do to put some much-needed structure into your workday, and especially so when you’re working from home.
The first thing you can do is to make use of your calendar the right way. Start with a long-term calendar; perhaps a year or maybe six months in advance. Go ahead and plot the major due tasks for your job. These can be product launches, seasonal campaigns, or other regular annual or quarterly activities.
Use these as targets and start plotting your activities backward towards today, laying down all the action items and milestones you need to accomplish those targets.
As you have several targets, several timelines and tasks can overlap, but that’s now up to you to manage and prioritize accordingly. This way, you can spend a few minutes each day to keep track of tasks just over the horizon and plan your day, week, and month accordingly.
2. Prioritize Your Tasks
Now that you have your to-do list, the second thing you can do to put a bit of method into your work-from-home madness and prioritize your action items as you see fit.
Just before you start, take note your priorities for the day. Set pockets of time to complete your tasks and make sure you stick to your schedule. (At least as best as you can.)
Within a workday or a workweek, prioritize tasks that absolutely need to be done first. Whatever’s left of your time can be spent at your discretion, whether it’s tasks that are behind schedule, a bit more challenging, or in need of your immediate attention.
Being thoughtful of your tasks within any given day might only take a few minutes, but can go a long way towards keeping you productive and chugging along like a well-oiled machine.
3. Set Up a Work-Friendly Workspace
Now let’s get your work area in order. Here are a few things to maximize your productivity and keep you in the zone while working:
- Get a place with adequate natural light. Natural light supports good health due to its direct effect on mood and mental alertness.
- Consider noise control. Different folks respond better to different ambient sounds, music, or background noise. You know yourself best, so maintain a noise environment that will ultimately help you focus.
- Temperature. Again, a matter of preference; work with a temperature that’s just right for you.
- Essential office gear: your laptop, smartphone, office supplies, a work desk and chair, some storage, and a business-quality printer.
- Set up visual cues to designate your workspace. So others know that you’re working and will make the effort to keep away as necessary.
- Invest in a proper, comfortable work chair with sufficient back support.
- Consider getting additional gear, such as a noise-canceling headset and additional monitor, among others.
- Personalize your workspace. Just to add an element of fun to make you smile and feel positive.
4. Free Yourself From Distractions
Working remotely boils down to just about one thing: staying productive. It’s easy to just relax and take it slow while you’re at home (you are at home, after all), so here are a few tips and tricks to staying focused:
- Respect work time. Start your workday by deciding that various non-work activities are just distractions, and are therefore not an option during your designated work hours.
- No personal calls, emails, texts, instant messages, or social media time while working. That also means keeping your devices on silent so they don’t constant beep and chirp during your workday.
- Limit checking your email and messages: switch these off for an hour, power through an hour’s worth of tasks, then go check them but only to deal with the more important messages.
- Let your spouse, partner, kids, other family members, or roommates know that they must respect your work time as well. No interruptions unless it’s an emergency.
- Keep your distractions away from view. That includes TV, your games, your books, and pretty much anything that can take your mind off work.
- Eat healthily so you have enough energy to sustain you throughout the workday (and thus won’t get distracted by hunger or food cravings).
5. Put a Little Flexibility Into Your Work Routine
A work routine is good, as it keeps you organized and structured. On some days, however– maybe one day out of five– feel free to shake things up a little and do something different to keep things interesting and fun.
The most important thing to consider is your task list for the day: make sure the more pressing action items and activities are covered first. As long as you’re not too loaded or you have a bit of wiggle room, go right ahead and do some things differently.
Especially if you’re a content creator, a writer, or in the creative space, sometimes you run into the occasional block. The flexibility you add into your otherwise structured work routine will give you a bit of leeway to get some inspiration, shift gears, and keep those creative juices flowing.
6. Stay in Touch With Your Manager and Co-Workers
While it’s true that you won’t have to deal with the usual interruptions you normally get in the office, when you do work remotely, you’ll need to be a lot more proactive and purposeful especially when it comes to communicating with your fellow team members.
- Check-in with your boss and colleagues from time to time. Update them on your schedule and deliverables, especially if there are any changes.
- Stick to official communication channels while at work. Shutting down your personal social media channels are already a given, especially if you’re looking forward to getting a lot of things done.
- In the same manner that you’re limiting your email throughout your workday, so too must you limit your other office communication channels.
- Build the habit of proactive messaging: instead of waiting for your colleagues to ask for updates, particularly on collaborative endeavors, push out the information yourself instead to minimize interruptions or having to tell folks you’re busy.
- Remote meetings via conference calls are great in that they also serve the purpose of allowing for a more human, more relatable way of communicating with the team from time to time
7. Set Up Your Technology Stack
Tools are great in that they help get the job done, and making sure you have your tools properly set up and ready to go in your work-from-home environment can help you get a lot of things done with your team.
- The essentials: your phone and your computer should both be primed for your work activities.
- To work remotely, you must have these four things: adequate power supply (which means you have enough outlets available nearby), quality access to the internet, backup systems, and adequate security.
- Power: especially if you’re on the go or out and about, consider having a power bank or spare batteries along with you. If you’re at home, uninterrupted power supplies (UPS’s) are great to have as backup power, just in case.
- Quality internet: you’ll likely have your main internet connection, but you’ll also want a backup connection, which would likely be a hotspot via your mobile phone.
- Use a proper cloud service (such as Google Drive, G Suite, or Dropbox) to store files for your team. You should also have an external hard drive for storage.
- Make sure you have adequate antivirus and malware protection, especially if you’re running and managing websites. When necessary, use data encryption, especially if you’re sharing data and files with your co-workers.
- Other tech tools you will need include your messaging and collaboration apps (such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, or some other service), your project management tools (such as Trello, Asana, or Basecamp), and other productivity enhancement services.
8. Set Realistic Expectations (of What You Can Accomplish)
Yes, we need to get things done. However, you don’t need to pressure yourself too much.
As you become more familiar with the way you work, go right ahead and set and manage expectations early on with your team. This is particularly true with what you are able to complete within a given workday or workweek.
The same also holds true when it comes to your working hours: let your manager and co-workers know when you’ll be most likely available. Even as you plan out your day to be as productive as possible, if you foresee any distractions or interruptions to your workday, let your team know so they may make adjustments as necessary.
9. Take Care of Your Mind and Body
Even while staying at home, and especially so during this COVID-19 pandemic, make the effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Which means at the very least, that includes eating right, getting enough sleep, and having regular exercise.
Don’t forget to take breaks from time to time as well. Give yourself enough time during the day to walk away from your computer screen and phone. Move around, take a step back, and don’t forget to clock out at the end of your shift.
Lastly, do something fun for yourself. Have a bit of playtime, and reconnect with family, friends, and loved ones when you can as soon as your workday has ended. Tune out the news once in a while and turn towards more creative endeavors as you see fit.
The key is balance, most importantly. Remember: we’re in this for the long haul, so pace yourself accordingly, keep yourself sharp, and be extra-conscious of your health, safety, and well-being.
Bonus Tip: Reach Out For Help or Resources
You can’t do it all, and especially when you’re a working parent, you know all too well what we’re talking about with your kids sheltering-in-place with you while you’re trying to get things done.
For starters, as much as possible, children shouldn’t be under your primary care while you’re working. So hash out a realistic schedule with your spouse or partner, hire some outside help, and work with your kids to create their daily or weekly schedule.
Take it a step further and give them opportunities to choose some of their own activities and help them be more independent as much as possible.
Also: these are certainly extraordinary times and we must all come together (virtually) to help each other out. It’s alright to feel a bit of cabin fever or acknowledge the fact that you feel a little isolated at times.
Know that your colleagues, and especially your family and friends are all willing to help you if you need some. And that there are also professionals available online for counseling should you feel the need for such services.
A Final Word About Working From Home More Effectively
Linkedin Learning has made a number of its courses available for remote workers and other professionals (and even freelancers) currently making the transition to working from home these days. So you may want to check those free online courses out.
While we’ve tried to cover as much as we can about working from home effectively, we know we’re probably missing some items on this list.
Which of these tips do you think is most useful to you at the moment? Do you have some important nuggets of wisdom you’d want to share with your fellow work-from-home folk as well? Do let us know by leaving a comment or a message– we’d certainly love to hear from you!