If your workplace is one of the many that are opting to go fully digital, the transition to working entirely from home is going to be a big one for you. After all, how can you possibly remain as laser-focused and highly productive from the comfort of your home office—or if you’re like some of us, your couch.
Working from home isn’t a trend that’s going to go away. In fact, 2021 might cement its status as the future of the American workforce, as CNBC data shows this year will see a quarter of us working remotely, the largest number ever! You’re going to have to get used to it and, luckily, once you’ve established a routine, working from home has been shown only to positively impact the lives of workers, giving them back valuable time spent commuting, a more flexible schedule, sometimes more money, and most importantly: more opportunity—remote work allows you to compete for more jobs than you can just in your area.
For those just starting, I’ve got five tips for how to hit the ground running and be a successful remote worker.
Create a home office
Designate a single space for yourself to work in, and try to avoid spending too much time in there once you’re done for the day. This will help give you a sense of work-life balance that’s going to be critical to your success as a remote worker. Studies have shown that when you work from your couch or your bed, you’re not only less productive and more susceptible to distractions, but it will also impact your enjoyment of those places off the clock. People who check their emails from their beds have been proven to get worse sleep at night.
Build yourself a home office, even if the space you have to work from isn’t very big. Outfit yourself with all of the things you used to have in your on-location office: a desk, an ergonomic chair, your office supplies. Make sure you have a door that you can close when you are in a meeting or need time to think. It’s like set dressing in a movie—part of the point is tricking your mind into forgetting you’re at home.
Stick to a schedule
Work while you’re at work and leave work behind the second you clock out. If your previous schedule was nine to five, only work those hours while your remote, or a different schedule if that suits you. The important thing is to have defined hours and not let the fact that your home is now your office blur the line between your work life and your home life.
It might seem convenient to work a few hours here and there and get some important around-the-house tasks checked off in the meantime, but this isn’t going to benefit you. It’s really not possible to multitask and do two things well—you’re just going to end up with your home tasks and your job tasks taking a hit in quality.
Avoid intrusions from friends and family
The occasional watercooler chat aside, when you’re at work, people don’t normally stop by your desk and start to talk your ear off. Make sure that your friends and family know that while you’re working from home, you need to be left alone during your specified hours unless there’s an emergency, just like if you were in the office.
Even minor distractions like your kids asking you to help find something or your partner calling to ask if you checked the mailbox are going to knock more time than you expected off your workday.
Disable any distractions
The biggest thing to get used to while working remotely is all the comforts of home you don’t have in the office. For a while, it will be pretty hard to remain motivated when your TV or treadmill is just in the next room. But, of course, the biggest black hole of productivity is the one you carry around in your pocket.
If you were in the office, you’d get chastised for scrolling through social media on your phone. Your supervisor isn’t going to be there anymore to look over your shoulder, so you’ll have to remain vigilant about not wasting time on Facebook or your time-waster of choice. If you don’t need your cellphone, put it in the other room. If you’re working from your personal computer, fully log out of your social media sites. This will cut some of the temptation to scroll mindlessly when work starts to burn you out.
If you find yourself getting restless, maybe invest in a treadmill or bike desk, just to keep your feet moving while your mind is on the work. I know people who do this and they love it!
Make yourself a checklist
If you’re worried about productivity, this is the right advice for you. Make a checklist at the beginning of every day of all the tasks you want to accomplish. This will ensure that you are doing the same amount of work from home as you were in the office. Use whiteboards, Trello, calendars, or other tools to help keep you on track and accountable. Your employers will be checking to see if everybody is honoring the responsibilities that come with working remotely, so coming up with a way to make sure you keep on task is going to be essential to your success!