Tips for Working Remotely

Over the past month, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced professionals and students to transition to a remote work lifestyle. For some, this transition has posed an array of new challenges, especially for those of us who have never experienced working from home before. For many of us, our work or our studies are areas where we shine bright. How can we continue to shine in what feels like uncharted territory? Creating a plan and routine for the coming weeks will be instrumental in establishing both professional and educational success. 

Here are 5 ideas for staying focused and disciplined as you navigate the experience of working from home!

1) Create a Schedule and Stick to It
One of the most difficult aspects of working from home is creating a schedule and actually sticking to it. Creating a personal schedule not only establishes a new routine, but gives us a sense of control over our lives and holds us accountable to the goals we have set for ourselves. Consistency is the key to success when it comes to working remotely. Make an effort to wake up and get out of bed at the same time every weekday. Create a daily to-do list and keep track of completed tasks. Take lunch at the same time every day and set aside time for short ‘brain breaks’. The more consistent we are with our schedules, the more natural the change in our work environment will start to feel. 

2) Designate a Work Space
Working from bed or the couch, while extremely comfortable, is probably not the most productive place to get work done. Our minds and bodies associate these comfortable locations with rest and relaxation. If we begin to associate work and studying from these spaces, it could make transitioning from ‘work’ to ‘home’ life more difficult. It is important to choose a location that is not only comfortable, but that provides adequate space for any materials that will be needed throughout the day. If you do not have a desk at home, setting up shop at the dining room table or kitchen island are great options. Be sure to communicate with roommates or family members that you will be using this location as a work space. A space that is quiet and provides distance from others is ideal.

3) Avoid Distractions & Set Boundaries                  
Working from home presents a variety of new distractions. If you are finding it difficult to focus due to noise, try utilizing headphones. Many music streaming platforms have ‘focus’ playlists available to users. Keep the music loud enough that it drowns out the extra noise, but quiet enough that you can hear yourself think. If unable to focus while listening to music, utilize noise canceling headphones or purchase a pack of ear plugs. Tempted by every cell phone notification? The best way to overcome the impulse to reach for your phone is to silence devices or leave them in another room during designated work hours. 

Many individuals may find themselves struggling to adapt to working out of a shared living space. Whether it is a family member, roommate or furry friend, boundaries are key to increasing productivity. If necessary, sit down and have a conversation with all members of the household about designated working spaces and expectations during working hours.

4) Take Productive Brain Breaks
When utilized responsibly, ten to fifteen minute brain breaks have been shown to reduce stress and contribute to overall productivity (Psychology Today). Instead of using this time to watch the news or scroll through social media, try doing something that keeps the mind and body engaged. Maybe this time is best used to swap out a load of laundry or load dishes into the dishwasher. Prefer to step out of both home and work responsibilities? This is a great time to take a walk or complete a yoga routine. This is also a great time to play with pets or socialize with other members of the household. Remember, it is important to stay disciplined when taking these short breaks. Include these breaks when creating a schedule and set an alarm as a reminder to return to work.

5) Know When to “Leave” Work 
Creating healthy work life boundaries has never been so critical. When working remotely, one can easily fall into the habit of continuing work on a project or replying to quick emails past scheduled hours. This includes working through scheduled lunch breaks (my own personal habit). In order to avoid burnout and create a routine, we have to be cognizant of how we are spending our time. Prioritize tasks based on impending deadlines. Be sure to set clear expectations for yourself when it comes to when and where work will be done. If it is difficult to stop working at a designated time, schedule a FaceTime call or workout routine to help transition out of your work day.

Working remotely can be challenging, but can be made easier by implementing healthy habits. In doing so, we will establish a strong foundation for professional and educational success during this time.

– Lexi Moore, EΦ

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