Right now, millions of remote workers all over the country are resisting the urge to hoover the floor, do their laundry and check what’s in the fridge for the umpteenth time.
Remote work might be the ultimate perk, but it is actually quite hard to do well, especially when it’s enforced. It’s even possible to be both unproductive and burn out, because the inevitable feelings of guilt experienced after an unproductive work day forces people to work late into the evening to compensate.
I’ve now been working remotely for three years. Here are my top tips for peak productivity:
Don’t force it
This depends on how agreeable your boss is, but remote work can often come with a more flexible schedule. If you find you are totally useless at 9am or do your best work at 5pm, then build your work day around your golden hours.
The 9-to-5 might have tricked us into thinking we are all productive in the same way, but it just isn’t the case. Working from home means you can work in the way that suits you best.
Dress for success
No-one is watching, but that doesn’t mean you should make a habit of working in your pyjamas. Getting properly dressed does two important things. Firstly, it helps you to shake off “home-mode” and put you in the right mindset for work. Secondly, it means you’re ready to get out of the house for walks and fresh air. If you stay in your PJs all day, the chances that you’ll stay indoors and get cabin fever are higher.
Take it seriously
Has your phone been pinging with messages from loved ones all day, every day? Has your partner been trying to rope you in to do some housework during working hours? These kinds of distractions can throw your productivity, and one study from the University of California Irvine shows that it takes 23 minutes to regain the same level of concentration after a distraction.
To keep your partner happy and your home clean, assign one 30-minute slot per day to housework and blitz one room at a time.
Control the tunes
One of the greatest upsides of working in your own home is the total control of your environment and with that comes sound. No more do you have to bear the tiresome office conversations about a sport you don’t follow, a Netflix show you’re two seasons behind, or the intimate details of Peter’s love life.
You might think this is excellent, until you are faced with the silence. No-one around you, an empty house and just the sound of your fingers typing away on the keyboard. Enough to make anyone go a bit mad.
Some music in the background can help, but don’t go for music you want to sing along to or radio chatter, as it can steal too much of your attention. I recommend lo-fi hiphop beats that make for a mellow backdrop and a pretty chill workplace.
You might be working from home, but that doesn’t mean you should separate yourself from your peers. Prioritise taking timed breaks when you can socialise with your team and discuss your work. You’ll find this is when your best ideas come through.
Or you can do what I do and make paper doll co-workers by cutting out life-sized human figures, and positioning them carefully around the room.
What’s that little Edward? They won’t get the joke? Oh they will...
Get the kit
Invest in a decent desk, chair and screen so you aren’t hunched over a table all day long with no back support. Spend time making your work space look good. Add some plants, some pictures, some nice stationery, and make sure you’re in a space with plenty of natural light. It’ll help you get into that productive mindset even if you’re also that jammy git who plays Call of Duty every lunch break.
Close the door
A huge part of being productive is knowing how and when to switch off so you can give your brain the necessary downtime to recharge.
Working in a place or room that you can close off from where you like to relax is quite important. Having your office and all your work stuff in the corner of your eye can be a tiny underlying stresser that keeps reminding you of what needs to be done tomorrow.
Remember that when it comes time to clock out, shut down that laptop and “go home”