Remote work is increasingly becoming the status quo for many employees worldwide. Studies show that 56% of global companies today allow remote work to some extent, while 16% have gone fully remote.
And to no surprise, considering remote work comes with many benefits, including higher company-wide productivity, better work-life balance for employees, and overall higher job satisfaction.
That said, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies when you’re working remotely. On the contrary - there are also many remote workers who often report feeling lonely, unproductive, and stressed.
Whether you're having such issues with remote work or you're just looking for ways to improve your productivity and better enjoy your work, these 14 remote work tips are guaranteed to help!
#1. Understand when you’re at your most productive
Let’s be honest - most of us just aren’t productive for eight hours straight.
Studies have shown that people can stay productive for a maximum of six hours, with breaks in between. Moreover, not every employee is productive at the same time. For example, some people find they’re at their most productive in the morning, while others work much better in the afternoon, or after they’ve had a long mid-day break.
Knowing when you’re at your most productive can really help you make the most out of your day.
Say, for example, that you’re a morning person. You’ll find that what works for you is waking up and getting most of the deep work (work that requires concentration) done early on. You can then dedicate the rest of the day to meetings, syncing up with colleagues, and dealing with less important tasks.
If, on the other hand, you need some time to start functioning after you wake up, you’re probably better off starting your day with smaller tasks (replying to emails, attending sync-up meetings, etc.) and tackling bigger tasks later in the day.
Most employers won’t mind how you structure your work as long as you start and finish work at the same time as your colleagues and you’re also online throughout the work day.
What they will mind, though, is consistently starting work late and finishing up at 2 AM, even if that’s when you feel most productive.
#2. Learn when to log out
It’s easier to separate your work life from your personal life when you’re working from an office. In a way, physically leaving your work at the end of the day can be a way to mentally “sign out” too and focus on family, friends, hobbies, etc.
This, however, is not always the case with remote work.
One of the most challenging aspects of working remotely is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As you’re working online, work time and off time can sometimes blur.
For example, when working remotely, you and your colleagues may have different schedules and productivity hours, or even be located in different time zones. This may lead to receiving emails and notifications at all kinds of hours, tempting you to reply instantaneously or even sit down and work.
To avoid such issues, always keep this remote work tip into consideration and develop a habit of officially “logging off” for the day when you’re working remotely. This will help you work when you’re at your most productive and protect you from burnout.
#3. Explore different options
If you have trouble working from home, know that you’re not alone.
A study by Science Direct showed that feeling lonely at home and having a lack of social life are two of the biggest challenges of working from home. Meanwhile, the lack of a suitable space to work at home was another highly-quoted challenge by those surveyed.
Well, if you miss human interaction while working from home or lack an adequate home office, exploring different workspace options is the remote work tip for you.
Try, for example, working at your favorite cafe for some hours of the day. Leaving the house and working among people might help you feel less lonely and fulfill some of your social needs.
Alternatively, you can try out an actual co-working space. These spaces usually have all the necessary equipment to work comfortably, while seeing others work as well might do wonders for your productivity, too.
#4. Focus on communication
A 2021 State of Remote Work report found that remote workers’ second most-quoted struggle is having difficulties with collaboration and communication.
Mainly, this is due to the lack of shared working space and face-to-face communication. When you rely primarily on text, you cannot always be sure that your message went across exactly as you intended it or that you and your coworkers are on the same page about something. Here’s a remote work tip to avoid this - really focus on communication when you’re working remotely. Meaning, make time for one-on-one calls (preferably video calls), over-communicate via email or chat, ask your coworkers whether they have any questions for you, and never hesitate to ask questions if you’re in doubt about something.
- What’s the task at hand?
- Who’s in charge of the task?
- What’s the deadline for the task?
- Who should be notified once the task is complete?
#5. Create a healthy morning routine
How you start your morning can really set the tone for the rest of your workday.
Say, for example, your morning consists of repeatedly snoozing your alarm, checking your social media in bed, and then sitting straight at your desk because it’s already 9 am. This may cause you to feel unprepared, tired, and impatient before the work day even begins.
Creating and maintaining a healthy morning routine, on the other hand, can really help you control your schedule, instead of your schedule controlling you.
Whether it’s preparing and drinking a cup of coffee while checking your emails or doing some stretching and taking a shower before tackling your to-do list, having a morning habit that you enjoy is a lot more likely to get you (and keep you) productive.
#6. Take breaks and don’t cut them short
Specifically, studies have found that breaks - micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks, and even longer breaks - can reduce stress, help you maintain good work performance throughout the day, and protect you from burnout.
#7. Invest in reliable technology
If you’ll be working remotely, you have to make sure the technology supporting your work is flawless.
First and foremost, that involves your internet connection. Whether at home or at a coworking space, your wifi connection during working hours should be stable and reliable.
And, if your internet gets shaky at times (or you like to work at cafes), you can always buy a good mobile 3G or 4G internet connection to be on the safe side. That way, even if your WiFi gets cut off at an important moment, your mobile’s hotspot connection will be able to save the day.
Similarly, your laptop or personal computer should also be able to get you through your work without any hiccups. If you’re a remote content writer, for example, a laptop that can run Google Docs with Grammarly, as well as about a dozen tabs open, is going to be essential.
If you’re a machine learning engineer, though, you’ll need something that’s a bit more powerful than that.
#8. Attend optional meetings or take advantage of work dates
When you’re working remotely, the social aspect of your professional life can seriously suffer. Your communication with colleagues is mainly limited to work-related issues and you may have fewer opportunities to hang out or even become friends with them.
This is arguably one of the main reasons most remote work statistics point to loneliness as one of the biggest challenges of remote work.
To tackle such issues, companies may organize optional meetings where department members can hang out via video call, have a beer, chat, and catch up on anything non-work related.
Now, although you may be tempted to skip anything “optional” when it comes to working, our remote work tip here is: don’t.
Although virtual, these types of meetings are the closest thing to company get-togethers and can really help you create and maintain personal relationships with the colleagues you no longer see on a daily basis.
In addition to helping you feel happier and more involved, these optional meetings can also improve the work dynamic and professional communication among employees.
Or maybe there’s someone new you feel has the potential of becoming your friend if you got to know them better.
Propose a work date - choose one day of the week to work together at a cafe, for example.
You’ll get to socialize, fight off loneliness, and enjoy one of the nicest things about working in an office - interacting with people you like!
#9. Use your sick days
When you’re working remotely, you might feel like powering through illnesses to keep working, especially when there’s a deadline looming. That, however, can be detrimental to both your health and productivity.
When you’re feeling sick and unable to work, make sure to take advantage of your days off. Check how many sick days off are included in your compensation package, for example, and use them to get better and return to work even more productive than before.
If you’re only now starting out with remote work, your remote job interview is as good a time as any to ask about your sick days, holidays, and other company policies related to working remotely.
Even if you’re self-employed and don’t get paid sick time, you should still give yourself time to recover from illnesses to ensure you can start work again at full capacity.
#10. Look for learning opportunities
It can be easy to overlook your professional development when working remotely and simply fall into a loop of doing your job and not acquiring any new skills.
This, however, doesn’t have to be the case.
Most companies that support remote work offer training and educational opportunities to their employees. Some even have a dedicated annual budget that remote employees can spend on online courses and educational resources.
To continue developing your technical skills when working remotely, take advantage of any such learning opportunities offered by your employer. They can help you improve at what you do, enrich your resume, and get a raise - even as you’re working remotely.
#11. Stay away from social media
Did you ever open your phone to check one notification and ended up wasting an hour scrolling your favorite social media?
Worry not, it happens to the best of us!
Research shows that checking social media at work increases stress levels and nervousness, leads to avoiding important tasks and causes a lack of concentration.
To avoid this from happening altogether, you can take some easy but super effective measures, including turning off social media notifications during working hours or putting your phone in airplane mode when you really have to concentrate.
Alternatively, you can try using tools like StayFocusd, which is a Google Chrome addon. Once you turn on the addon, it blocks you from using time-consuming websites such as Reddit, Facebook, and others until you’ve finished working.
#12. Set ground rules with family members
Seeing you at home on a daily basis may lead your family members to forget that you’re working and that, though you may physically be there, you’re mentally at work.
For example, your children may distract you and ask you to play with them, or your spouse may expect you to walk the dog and go grocery shopping since “you’re working from home.”
That is why setting ground rules with family members is essential when you work from home. That may involve finding someone to care for your children during your most busy work hours or clearly communicating to your family members that you need complete privacy to work at least five to six hours daily.
#13. Prepare meals the night before
To avoid feeling swamped with work, house chores, and social responsibilities to the point where you don’t have time to engage in fun activities anymore, being proactive with some of your daily routine tasks is one of the most practical remote work tips out there.
Meal prepping is definitely one of them.
Whether you live alone or with family, save yourself some time by preparing meals the night before. Some people go the extra length and prepare meals for the entire week on their day off, just so that they won’t have to think about cooking during the week.
#14. Ask for feedback regularly
Especially if you’re new at the company or at working remotely, don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues and supervisors for feedback every now and then.
For example, you can have check-in calls with the colleagues you work more closely with at the end of each month and discuss what works and what doesn’t for each of you. Are there things you can improve regarding how you communicate with them? Are your projects and work goals being met or are you facing hardships? What would they change, if it was up to them?
Feedback from your supervisors is just as important. Although it might sometimes come in the form of constructive criticism, it can help you grow and improve the way you work remotely by tackling issues you might have been unaware of.
What NOT to Do When You’re Working Remotely
So far, we’ve established that remote work is here to stay and discussed in detail all the things you can do to stay productive when working remotely. But what about the don’t-s of working remotely?
Take these remote work tips into consideration to make your remote work day as pleasant and productive as possible:
- Don’t snack all day. Snacking continuously on junk food may quickly become a habit when you’re working remotely. To avoid this becoming a stress-coping mechanism, try to limit the snacks you eat during the day or, even better, make sure they’re healthy snacks (fruits and nuts, for example, are known to be great for the body and the mind alike).
- Don’t keep the TV on. When you’re working on simple tasks, you may be tempted to keep the TV on and watch something in the background. Just like checking social media while you’re working, though, having the TV on is bound to eventually get you distracted. If you work better with some background noise, we recommend you opt for ambient music or white noise instead.
- Don’t work from anywhere. One of the aspects of remote work that’s advertised too much is that you can work from wherever you want, whether it’s your work desk or your bed. This, however, is definitely not the best idea. Not only can working from your bed or couch cause you physical problems (e.g. back pain or posture issues) but it can also harm your productivity by conditioning your brain to think it’s nap or rest time.
- Don’t forget to take breaks. Working productively doesn’t equal sitting at your desk for seven hours straight. As we already mentioned above, taking breaks has been proven to help you work more productively. So, no matter how counterproductive it might feel, don’t underestimate the importance of taking a break every now and then.
- Don’t focus on fulfilling the traditional 8-hour work schedule. Quality always tops quantity and that’s especially true when it comes to working. Working productively and without interruptions for five to six hours is much better than sitting in front of your computer screen for eight to nine hours and spending more than half of them scrolling through social media or procrastinating doing your tasks.
And that’s a wrap! You now have all the information you need to stay productive when you’re working remotely, be it at home, in a coworking space, or in your designated remote workstation.
All you have to do is start applying them!