Working remotely – how to keep balance and productivity

Many of you are reading this from the comfort of your home office. At first, this may sound like heaven on earth (a lot of people think they want to work from home). The reality will settle in quickly (if it hasn’t already).

Working Remotely – How to Keep Balance and Productivity

Working from home is HARD! While some people adapt quickly, some realise that they are just “better” when they are with others.

It is easy to fall into some bad habits. We must catch them early and get on-the-right-track!

Here are some tips to help your work from home routine stay smart!

Establish work zones

Don’t work from the couch or your bed. While that may feel comfortable, in the long run, it is a dangerous thing to do. One-third of professionals report they work from the couch or bed, and the Harvard Division of Sleep Medicine advises us to keep computers, television, phone, and work materials out of the bedroom will strengthen the mental association between the bedroom and sleep.

Do you want to wake up in the morning and the first thing you see is your laptop? Don’t start by blurring the boundaries between workspace and personal space.

Find a dedicated working space. Preferably with natural light and a door (so you can walk away from work when it is time). Make it separate from your personal space if you can. The kitchen table is not ideal. Will you have to remove all the work paraphernalia to eat dinner? If you do, you’ll find yourself eating in front of the television quickly (which we know is a slippery slope).

Keep it need and tidy, hopefully, the same way you would if you had coworkers who judge your space. Don’t scatter paper around the house. Have your workspace in a place where you can ‘walk away’ if at all possible.

Create a routine

If your previous routine had you get up at 6 am and workout, have a shower, listen to a podcast, and then get to work for 9, do something similar. Get up at seven and work out to a YouTube video. Shower and listen to your favourite podcast.

Get dressed in something other than pyjamas. While you don’t need to wear your “work clothes” you do still need to be professional (even if there isn’t anyone to see you). I wear yoga pants, a sweater, a bra (I do need to be on camera for video conferencing during the day, and if you want to be on camera, consider this important piece of clothing as well). I don’t always wear makeup, but I’m undoubtedly presentable.

My hair isn’t in a ballcap. This isn’t the time to look homeless. If you “dress” for work, your brain will move into work mode. If you are in weekend mode, your brain won’t help you get much done.

Work hours that are agreed upon and make sense. For some of you, the regular 9-5 will apply. If you have school children at home, perhaps you need to stagger your hours with your partner so that there is someone in charge of the children during the day.

Maybe you work 7-12 and 6-8. Figure out what makes sense to your situation and work with your executives to ensure they are confident that you will get it all done, as usual.

Keep connected to the team

Many of you are used your executives travelling all the time, so you have a system in place for you to communicate regularly.

Create systems for your coworkers too. If your executive doesn’t travel, make sure that you have daily or weekly meetings (telephone or virtual). You need more contact with each other in times of crisis, and this time certainly applies.

Be sure to reach out to those that are newer to your team. They are probably feeling abandoned right now. When you chat with a team member, ask how they are doing and then listen to the answer! Introverted people are generally a little better with working remotely. For those that are highly extroverted, this is a big challenge for them. Make everyone feel connected. Isolation is very real. Do what you can so that people feel connected – even if it is just for a few minutes.

Prioritise your health

Be sure to get up and move. Working from home has some people sitting far longer than they usually would at work. Get your Fitbit to remind you to move. Set alarms or use an app such as Time Out to remind you to get up.

Keep away from junk food. It is easy to snack when working from home, and wearing our comfortable clothes and yoga pants won’t remind us that we’ve been snacking because they will always fit.

Drink lots of water.

Stand every 30 minutes. Be sure to break for lunch, and take time away from your work. Work from the kitchen counter (or high surface – an ironing board might work!) occasionally so it feels like a stand-up desk. Take the time that you would usually commute to exercise. Follow an online exercise or yoga class, meditate, read, stretch. Keep regular sleep hours. Don’t sleep until you wake up; set your routine as per above.

Stay positive in these turbulent times. I realise that is a big “ask” but do your best to stay positive. It is just healthier.

Beware of blurring your balance

It is easy to work for very long hours. It is easy to be distracted. Make sure you don’t blur the balance between your personal life and professional life.

I do my best not to work on my laptop while watching television at night. That isn’t always easy. I could easily be a work-a-holic (and have been in the past), so I need to set rules. I am generally done work at 5 pm. I try not to escape into the office after that time unless I have to (Wine with Rhonda is an example of when I work in the evening – which I love, please join us).

According to the 2017 British study by the University of Cardiff, remote employees tend to work longer hours than co-located employees.

Make time for your relationship. This won’t be an easy time for many relationships. We love our partners, but spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with them, is a lot to ask. Make sure you have some time where you are not working and can spend quality time with your partner. During the day when you are both working is not quality time.

While working from home can be a wonderful thing, it doesn’t happen naturally for most people. It takes effort to make it a good place to work. We have to use discipline to ensure we are working smart and healthy.

Go wash your hands, grab a glass of water, and focus on work!