Remote Work: working from home

I think it’s clear at this point that remote work is here to stay. The pandemic has changed the nature of work for many of us, and made working remotely a norm across many industries throughout Canada.

Working remotely though can be difficult. When you’re at home, away from the team and distracted by home life, finding the motivation to get yourself ‘going to work’ can be a struggle.

I’ve experienced this myself in the past – it can be easy to put things off until an undetermined “later.” Remaining focused, organized, and productive throughout a remote-day’s work often takes extra initiative and, certainly, the establishing of new routines.

So, what sort of routines are best to establish for remote work? These are some of the easiest and simplest strategies I’ve found to work, and I encourage you to try them and share them with your team.

Build structure to your day

An office offers structure, and a structure to one’s day can go a long way to remaining motivated and productive. Whether you start your day with a healthy breakfast and exercise, or whether creating a list of the day’s goals is your particular best practice, finding what works to create structure to your day is important (although I’d suggest all of these).

  • A healthy breakfast with exercise is an excellent way to build energy and remain alert throughout the morning and beyond. I sometimes cheat (and I think it’s healthy to do so!), but even just 15 minutes of stretching first thing can awaken your body and mind properly for the day.
  • Create a schedule. Start and end every day at the same time. Create breaks and meal times. A proper schedule for your day emulates an office structure and helps you maintain your work ethic. You can of course be liberal, but that only means delaying lunch 30 minutes, not skipping it entirely. It also doesn’t mean allowing lunch to last the entire afternoon either.
  • Start the day by creating a list of what the day needs to accomplish, and then knock those items off the list as the day goes on. I use a white board so that it can be constantly updated, but also so that it remains a visual point of reference for me, reminding me of my day’s goals. It also allows me add tasks to the list throughout the day as I recognize them becoming necessary to what I need to accomplish. With a list, nothing is forgotten, and you stay on track.
  • I cannot stress how valuable calendar apps can be. I colour-code my meetings and phone calls to keep track of them, and I invite clients and partners to group presentations (they can work great for interviews too!), all on a calendar app. It’s on me and in my phone at all times with alerts: they are perfect for working remotely.

Build structure to your workspace

The same goes for your physical space: give it structure.

If you are working remotely from home, then it can be helpful to make clear distinctions between work-space and family- or home-space. Carve out a space in your home that really says that you are working when you are within it, and be strict with yourself to only work within that space. I have an office specifically for this in my home, and I’m rarely in it when I’m not working. Not only will you recognize that in that space you are there to work, but so will your family and friends, knowing to avoid distracting you while ‘at work.’

Some people will still find it difficult to work within their home. Perhaps they lack a proper office space or there are simply too many family around, but staying home doesn’t work for them. Thankfully, working remote means they don’t have to.

Finding a new space to work in can be fun and may in fact help motivate you. Shared office spaces can be most practical, but a local café, library, or even the park (although wi/fi use can pose problems here) can all provide various advantages for remote work. Even though I typically work from home, I usually try, at least one day a week, to leave the house and visit my local cafe to get work accomplished there for a few hours. It’s a nice change of pace, and helps to keep my week enjoyable.

Wherever you find, you need to be comfortable to work in the setting, and ready to work there. Changing your surroundings can sometimes be the difference between being focused and non-focused. If working from home is too distracting or uncomfortable for you, then leave the house and find a different space to work in.

So, regardless of where you are working remotely, finding the right space and defining it properly as a workspace for you is what is necessary to remain focused and motivated.

Make working remotely habitual

What’s great about all of these practices is that they can be easily made into routines and habits. And that’s really what an office space accomplishes so well: it makes working within them a habit. So making remote work as structured as an office, as habitual as those spaces are designed, by creating routines to your day that keeps you on a productive track is the key to maintaining a focused work day. It makes working remotely a habit.

I hope this helps you and your team at remaining productive while working remotely. For more tips on managing remote workers, read this article; and for more articles on management, recruitment, and leadership, check out the Bright Lights blog.