Remote working isn’t a new “trend” anymore. With 4.2 million US employees now working from home at least half of the time, it’s fair to say, remote working is here to stay. As distracting as an office and/or your colleagues can be, trust us when we say that working remotely can be even more distracting. Whether that’s the pile of dishes staring at you all day or the constant silence which is slowly driving you insane. Building strong habits and routines can therefore be the stepping stone to making remote working a success.
We don’t just share popular routines with you, all of the below have been personally tested by our very own full-time remote worker, our Head of Outreach, Hannah. Not only do we Walk the Talk when it comes to time management, but our team here at Think Productive North America is a remote team, starting with our Productivity Ninjas and ending with our HQ team.
As tempting as it might be to stay in your Pajamas or getting that extra hour of sleep in, it’s crucial to start the day the right way, even if you’re not heading into the office. Draft out a new morning routine to help you start working on time and dress to impress even though there’s no one around to see.
Once you’ve had breakfast and got ready for work, don’t jump straight into work. Remember when you used to work in an office and you had that, probably dreaded,morning commute? Create a fake commute for yourself to ease into your work day. You decide how long you want it to be, but use it to warm up your brain for the day. Some ideas for your new commute: read, go for a walk, listen to a podcast or if you’re an active morning person use the time for a workout. Either way, try not to use your commute to sit in front of your laptop, you’ll be doing that soon enough.
Hopefully this won’t be a surprise to you, but whether you’re in the office or not – you DESERVE that lunch break. If you find it difficult to stick to your daily lunch break, try setting an alarm on your phone which will remind you to stop working. When I first started working remotely, I set myself alarms for the following: Starting work, morning stretch (10 minute break), start of my lunch break, end of my lunch break, afternoon break, 30 minute warning for finishing the day and of course my end of work alarm. Just make sure you use different sounds for all of them, otherwise they will drive you mad. 🙂
Now that you remember your lunch break, let’s have a look at what it should look like. If you’re working in a small office, it can be difficult to find a good spot to have lunch away from your desk. Use working remotely to your advantage. Go out and explore places in your area or simply leave the room you’re working in and sit somewhere else. As you’re leaving your home office, don’t take your laptop with you. Try to enjoy a technology-free lunch break with no reminders of work.
If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still struggling to take a lunch break, try to arrange weekly lunches with friends or family, away from home. You’ll get some fresh air and you’ll be able to catch up with your loved ones. If you’re part of a remote team, it can feel as if you’re only talking about work every time you do jump on a call with your colleagues. Our team here at Think Productive North America host monthly Virtual Team Lunches, where we all jump on a call and talk about everything but work.
If you’ve set your alarms, you’ll have an afternoon reminder to take a break. Go for a quick walk to get some fresh air or do some desk exercises or stretches. We sit down far too long and often in our jobs, so it’s very important to get up and stretch out as much as possible.
As tempting as it might be to get a start on housework, try to avoid replacing work with housework. It will make a big difference for your work-life-balance if you separate your work time from your personal time. Be creative. I’m sure you can think of better ways to spend your break rather than cleaning the dishes.
If you’re hitting a bit of a roadblock in the afternoon, also consider switching rooms, position or location in the afternoon. Personally, I try to work from a different location at least one day a week. Being surrounded by other people and different noises, will give you both a productivity as well as a creativity boost. With 60% of remote workers saying they would leave their current job for a full-time remote position, you should have no problem in finding a café with strong Wi-Fi or even a nice co-working space in your area. Remote working can get lonely after some time, so ask around if there’s anyone else in your social circles who works remotely and meet up for an afternoon working in the same location, so you get that office chatter vibe, once in a while.
End of Day
Before moving to my new apartment, I wasn’t fortunate enough to have an entire room dedicated to my working space, so it was trickier to leave work behind at the end of the day. If you don’t have your own home office, then I suggest you invest in a big box, where you can put in all your work-related notes and put it out of your sight at the end of the day. If you use your laptop for work and personal use, close down all work-related documents, apps and avoid saving work-related material onto your desktop.
As mentioned earlier, working remotely can get a bit lonely from time to time and as humans, we all know we need a good amount of social interaction – some more than others. By making plans for straight after work, you don’t just make it easier for yourself to actually finish work on time and leave it all behind, but you’ll also ensure that you get out there, get some fresh air and get that face to face human interaction. Dog owners have a big advantage here, as they will be “forced” to take multiple outdoor breaks throughout the day and are also more likely to socialize with other dog owners. But this might just be my own personal attempt to justify getting a dog 🙂
Did I miss anything in my remote working habits and routines? How do you structure your remote days? Share your remote working experience with us in the comments below or @thinkproductivecanada
By Hannah Urbanek
Hannah is Think Productive UK’s Head of Outreach and is the voice behind a lot of our blog and social media content.