Working remotely for an extended period can present new challenges, especially for parents when schools are closed.
However, there are a number of things you can do to stay productive while working remotely.
- Keep your routine: It will help if you can keep your regular routine as much as possible. This means things such as setting your alarm for the normal time and getting out of your pyjamas before starting work.
Getting dressed helps make the mental switch in your mind between home and work. Set up regular times for breaks and have a start and end time to your working hours. One of the traps to working remotely is keeping healthy boundaries between home and work so that you aren’t doing ‘just one more thing’ late at night before you go to bed.
- Plan your day: At the start of the day plan your tasks for the day and follow the same guidelines you would while working in the office. Do your highest priority tasks first during your greatest energy periods.
If you have other family members in the home, you might have to factor planning your work around their needs or setting up their learning or craft activities. It is important to have regular breaks throughout the day and set yourself time limits on how long they will be so you don’t end up having a two-hour lunch break.
- Use technology to connect: You may not be able to connect and communicate with your colleagues or clients in person, but there are a lot of ways you can use technology to check in with their wellbeing, have meetings and collaborate on projects even while working remotely. Pick up the phone rather than email them as it will help to check on their welfare and maintain the connection that relationships need.
- Have a stop symbol for family members: Have a visual symbol for family members to tell them when you are working. It might be anything from a closed door on your home office to a red hand towel hanging over the chair near where you are working at the dining table. This lets other family members know when you are working (in a meeting or making a call, etc.), so they can practise being quiet and come back later with their questions.
- Designate a separate comfortable workspace: You might not have the luxury of a separate home office, but if there is some way you can delineate your workspace and have a comfortable chair you will be more productive. It is best not to work in a lounge chair, for example, as it is not only bad for your posture but also for your focus.
- Limit distractions: Although you have removed the distractions of open-plan offices when you are working remotely, it does become easier to distract yourself when you are not in an office environment. You can help yourself by removing browser shortcuts for social media, removing them from your toolbar bookmarks or signing out of all your social media accounts during working hours.
You can also use technology to set timers for how long you will stay focused on tasks before you have a break. The other distraction to limit is the things that need doing around your home. The cleaner your home and your working space, the less inclined you will feel to distract yourself by doing the other tasks that need doing.
As challenging as working remotely can be, it can also be incredibly productive and rewarding. There are opportunities to create new work habits, to find new ways of doing things and to do things you enjoy in the time you would otherwise spend commuting.
Petris Lapis is director of Petris Lapis Pty Ltd, a senior trainer, presenter and facilitator.
This story was originally published in Proctor May 2020.