Virus or no virus, remote work isn’t going anywhere. What once seemed like a temporary break from the status quo in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 now seems poised to totally take over.
Since we can expect WFH to stick around, the question is: What’s the best way of doing it?
It’s no secret that our current WFH situation was thrown together haphazardly. Most people thought they were leaving the office for a couple of weeks, not a couple of years. But is there a right way to do WFH?
Today we’re going to break down five ways you can be as productive—if not more so—at home than in the office.
Let’s not pretend that working from home is for everyone.
Over the last year, many people have voiced concern that permanent remote work might be damaging to their career paths. A recent study found that 45% of people surveyed think 1:1 facetime would help them get a leg up in their careers (not FaceTime—we mean actual IRL conversations).
New technology is aiming to solve or soften some of these WFH issues.
Take the Metaverse, for example. It’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, many of us will be working remotely, interacting with our coworkers via virtual spaces in the Metaverse.
For those of you who don’t know about the Metaverse, it’s a vague, futuristic concept that combines the physical and digital worlds to make a new liminal space. This can include VR, augmented reality, digital economies, and many other virtual experiences that transcend any singular hosting server or physical tether.
Right now, Microsoft is diligently building its avatar capabilities. These avatars are meant to bridge the gap between in-person work and the often headache-inducing Zoom call. With avatars, people can react authentically without the pressure of a live camera feed.
Remote work may not be for everyone, but it’s likely going to be a permanent fixture in office life, whether that means avatars, hybrid work models, or meetings in the Metaverse.
How To Be More Productive at Home
Knowing that WFH is probably here to stay, let’s talk about how we can build our own remote work policies.
Everybody wants different things from their work life. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you want to be just as productive at home as you are in the office—and that you want to establish some firm boundaries between your work life and your personal life.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to be working away on your laptop right at all hours of the night, respect. You do you.
This list is will help the rest of us hack a slightly more balanced life.
1. Designate a Workspace
This one is key.
Now, we know space can be something of a privilege. For people working out of small, city apartments, WFH generally can mean Work From Couch or Work From Bed. Simply put, it wasn’t a priority a couple of years ago to find an apartment that could include a home office or designated working space.
Turns out, that’s really important.
A set workspace that includes everything you need is essential, whether it’s dual monitors, a standing desk, or space to take notes. Why?
Well, one, it makes your job easier. Desks were invented for a reason. Two, a designated work environment also sends small triggers to your brain that help you understand that you’re working.
Building a routine plays such a big role in productivity, and a spacious, specific environment can reinforce productive behavior.
For years before 2020, your brain was wired to see your bed as a place to sleep and your office as a place to work. Now, your bed might be your primary workspace. See the problem?
It’s time to invest in remote work home design.
Ask if your company can help subsidize a proper office chair with back support, quality tech that you’d get at the office, and even supplies like Post-It notes, pens, and desk calendars.
What’s more, try to resist the urge to wear pajamas to work. You want to give your brain as many cues as possible that you are now in work mode. The good news is that professional wear is taking WFH’s lead and is about to get way comfier.
2. Outline Your Days
Assuming you now have a good-looking, well-equipped office space, let’s talk about how you spend your working hours.
The age-old criticism of WFH used to be that without the pressure of a boss figure in the office, workers wouldn’t feel as motivated to accomplish tasks promptly. Although this has been disproven, that’s not to say remote workers aren’t lacking structure. On days with endless meetings and non-stop Slack notifications, it can feel hard to accomplish anything at all.
That’s why organizing your time is such an important skill.
While your brain is still in ‘work’ mode before you log off every night, outline what you need to accomplish the following day. That way, you’re not coming in cold and needing to warm up when you get started the next day. You can just get right to it.
What’s more, try blocking off your calendar with hour- or two-hour “do not book over” standing appointments. Use this time to push aside all distractions, mute your notifications, and get some work done.
We’re not sure why, but sometimes having a plan can make all the difference in feeling more calm and motivated to take on the day.
3. Prioritize Taking Breaks
We’re not sure what happened, but somewhere in between the in-office and remote work switch, we stopped taking regular breaks. Maybe we were so desperate to show that we were actually working remotely that we all picked up a bad habit of getting chained to our laptops and being online constantly.
Here’s a little secret: The company will survive without you for thirty minutes.
Taking a lunch break in addition to other regular smaller breaks can help soothe feelings of burnout. They give your brain a chance to cool off, reset, and rest, all of which can help you be more productive later.
Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique?
It’s a style of time management that helps break up the minutes and gives your brain enough time to rest. Here’s how it works. You work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five-minute break. You repeat this three times until you get a longer, fifteen-minute break.
Pretty straightforward, right? You’d be surprised just how much more productive you can be in those twenty-five-minute spurts, rather than attempting to hammer it out all at once. Because you only need to focus on doing as much as you can for twenty-five minutes, you can avoid the anxiety of attempting to finish a task all at once.
Pomodoro technique, trust us.
4. Build and Maintain Boundaries
One of the hardest parts of working from home is no longer having a physical boundary between personal time and professional time.
If anywhere can be an office, any hour can be a working hour.
For your sanity—and to safeguard your experience and productivity at work—establish firm boundaries around when you are working. Assuming it’s a regular working day and nothing’s on fire, set a time when you want to log off. Communicate that time with your boss and team. Then (and this is the hard part), when that time arrives, actually log off.
You should also let your family, partner, or roommates know about those designated working hours to help distinguish the different corners of your life. On that topic, let’s look at distractions.
5. Minimize Distractions
It can be tempting to have a TV going in the background while you’re working from home, but it’s doing much more damage than you think.
Try to minimize the number of stimuli around you. If you’re sharing a space with a roommate or partner that is also working from home, this includes shutting the door, putting on headphones, and letting them know that you’re in the zone.
That goes for digital distractions as well.
The truth is our brains are pretty bad at multitasking. That’s tough in this day and age, considering just how many notifications we receive every hour. That’s actually gotten worse since WFH became ubiquitous. A recent study found that the average worker switches screens to check notifications 566 times a day.
When you block off your calendar, make sure you’re also muting notifications. That way, you can laser in on the task at hand.
Last Thoughts on WFH
We hope these tips help you thrive (and not just survive) during WFH.
Many companies, including Twitter, have opted to forgo their big-city leases, enacting a permanent WFH policy with smaller satellite offices to support things that must happen IRL. For many other businesses, it’s looking like a hybrid model in which people can decide when and how often they want to work in the office is the most likely scenario for the future of office work.
That freedom of choice represents a big shift in how our society perceives remote work. Once criticized and shunned by many for representing a ‘paid day off,’ the productivity of remote work over the last few years proves not only is the model possible, it might even be profitable.