The pandemic shifted millions of people to a remote workforce. According to a Gallup poll, 70% of U.S. employees worked remotely in April 2020 with 51% still working remotely in April 2021. Spare bedrooms, basements, attics and even dining rooms and living rooms were repurposed as home office space. Sales of home office furniture, electronics and supplies skyrocketed – along with slippers and comfy pants.
However, not much of this was new for me.
I’ve worked remotely for several companies, including my most recent gig for a digital marketing agency that has used a fully virtual model for 10+ years. Our team members are dispersed throughout the country, and we leverage technology to stay connected and productive.
So, the biggest change for me in 2020 wasn’t working from home, it was working in a house filled with people as my husband and children shifted to working and learning from home. As of the writing of this article, many companies are implementing hybrid work plans or have decided to keep their workforce fully remote.
If you struggle with efficiency while working remotely, here are some WFH productivity tips and strategies that you may find helpful.
Stake out a dedicated workspace
Since 2020, a home office or “bonus space” that can be repurposed for work has become the hottest real estate feature in houses, condos and apartments. When selecting a home office space, try to choose an area of your home that has fewer distractions and invest time into creating a comfortable, attractive work area. Clear away excess clutter and organize any work materials.
Select a desk and chair that fits your body well and ensure your monitor or computer screen is at the right height so you do not feel neck or back strain. Many people prefer a convertible standing desk that can be elevated while presenting or talking and then lowered for seated work.
Selecting a good quality headset or earbuds with background noise-blocking functionality will enable you to jump on conference calls easily. They can also be useful for blocking out any distractions when you are not in a meeting. Since many of your meetings may be via video conference, pay special attention to your lighting. If you sit in front of a window, you may need to invest in a heavy shade to avoid appearing like a dark shadow on the screen.
If possible, opt for an indirect, overhead light or a soft backlight that angles upwards. Lastly, don’t forget to use a surge protector for your computer and any other office equipment, such as a primer or scanner.
If your work space area is a bit cluttered or prone to other visual distractions (like family members walking by), consider using a background app or a meeting platform that has a background filter.
Keep projects moving forward
To ensure work stays on track, utilize project management software. This is an invaluable tool to keep “to dos” in order, task and monitor the progress of team members and create a historical record of the correspondence, files and other important details for each project.
Depending on the platform and version you opt for, you may also be able to track time against specific project tasks. At the end of the month, downloading your hours for end-of-month invoicing or an accounts payable request is a breeze. Our agency currently uses Teamwork, but I have also used Basecamp and Trello in the past – all are great options.
Stay connected with your team
To maintain camaraderie and efficiency for your team and stay top of mind with your boss or client(s), you will need to work a little harder to stay connected. Here are some suggestions that our agency utilizes:
- Chat app, such as Slack or similar, for ready access to other internal team members.
- Frequent team tactical meetings, such as a daily “stand up” or weekly “scrum”.
- Regular internal campaign or project strategy & results meetings to share ideas and outcomes.
- Virtual “brown bag lunches” to educate and also promote team bonding.
- Regular client meetings to review objectives and discuss work completed, results and suggested next steps.
See and be seen
In the pre-pandemic days, it was very common for people to video conference with the camera off. But with the 2020 WFH movement replacing in-person work, the camera became a critical tool to help people connect.
Post-2020, it almost feels a little passive aggressive when someone does not put their camera on. Keep this in mind as you join meetings…expectations have changed. Also, remember that you can dress professionally and comfortably at the same time. Dressing comfortably should not equate to looking slovenly.
Avoid joining meetings with wet hair or wearing gear from the gym. Depending on how casual your office is, you might make an exception to this rule for internal meetings, but never for client meetings.
Prioritize personal health and well-being
Remote work often has fewer interruptions, and this sounds like a positive thing, right? Well, fewer interruptions are generally good for short-term productivity. With dedicated time, you may be able to complete a task more efficiently. But, throughout the course of a whole day or a whole week, fewer interruptions can actually slow your productivity.
To combat this, make sure you take time (or make time) for frequent, short breaks. Get a glass of water, stretch or take a brisk walk around the block. When you return to your desk your mind will be clearer and work will feel more effortless.
If you feel overwhelmed and a break seems impossible, try scheduling “walking meetings”. This can be especially effective for internal calls or for any meeting where you need to listen in but are not presenting. Then dial into your meeting while you walk outdoors. Also, don’t skip meals and don’t forget about exercise.
Whether you bike, run, swim, do yoga or something else, find a little time every day to be active. Make time before work or after work or block out time on your work calendar if you need to. By staying healthy, you will have more energy for work as well as for the rest of your life.
Match your work to your time
To be most productive, there’s a lot to be said for “chunking up” a larger project or task into smaller pieces. Some of these pieces you may delegate, others you may work on with others and some you may work on alone.
Those who work remotely often find that their typical work schedule looks a bit different than 8+ straight hours in the office. If you feel like your typical remote workday consists of multiple small segments, try to match your work to your available time.
For example, if you need two uninterrupted hours to write an article but you have only 30 free minutes available in-between meetings, then put off the writing for a bit and choose a 30-minutes task instead. You may also find it useful to block off time in your calendar to deal with tasks that require a larger chunk of time.
Switch up your surroundings
If you’ve been writing a proposal, toiling away on a financial model or grinding through another task and find you are just not getting anywhere, it may be time to change your location.
You could try going to the local WiFi coffee shop or even just shifting temporarily to your living room, porch or deck. You may even get a different perspective by just turning your desk or opening/closing the window shade. Some people find that working one day a week from a cafe or a friend’s house helps them avoid getting “stuck”.
Set some boundaries
Working from home can translate to more flexibility, but it can also become all-consuming. To protect your personal time, it may be helpful to establish some boundaries. This can take the form of adhering to a certain work schedule. It can also mean creating physical boundaries for your WFH space that you can walk away from during non-working time.
Jessica Srinivas has worked remotely in different roles and capacities for nearly 20 years, and is currently a Digital Marketing Manager at periscopeUP. She enjoys writing about local search, content marketing, data analytics and productivity.
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