Pandemic or no, 2020 is a great time to be looking at how to successfully work from home. As the world becomes further digitised and people want greater control over their time and resources, more and more businesses are starting to implement remote options for their employees.

There are plenty of benefits to having remote working arrangements, but it can be a hard transition for those who are used to working in an office. Staying productive and focused in your home environment can be difficult with so many of your creature comforts around you. Our team here at Vine Street Digital all work 100% remotely and face these challenges daily. 

We’ve put together some tips on how to stay productive and focused while working remotely. Everyone is different, so some of these things may not resonate with you, but we’re sure you’ll find something that helps!

Work Space

If possible, a separate office – or at the very least, your own dedicated desk – is great. However, not everyone has the space for this in their residence. If you can’t have a separate office, maybe you can fit a desk into another room. You might find you’ll be more productive working at a desk than if you were on your bed or the couch. Having a second (or third!) monitor screen is a great booster as well. Sometimes I’m tempted to take my laptop somewhere else to work; but if I have lots of spreadsheet duties on that day, then there’s no way I’m ditching my dual-monitor setup!

If you can’t fit a full-sized desk, try getting a small laptop desk or tray. IKEA has some great options here: they sell a tray table that has space to rest your legs underneath. This is great for working from your bed or a couch/chaise lounge, especially if you are not able to sit at a desk (because of illness, disability, space, or other reason).

Also, set yourself up where you get some natural light. It helps you keep track of the day, and one of our staff says it helps them feel less isolated. If you have fresh air and see the world moving about outside, it feels less like you’re sitting in solitary detention. Plants are also great for this – introducing greenery and/or flowers into your space brings a sense of vibrancy and life to your surroundings.

Mental Boundaries

You’ve heard it time and time again: don’t bring your work home with you. It makes sense! But when you have to work from home, one of the most important things you can do is to set some strong boundaries. 

Tell your housemates/family when you’re working, and at what times it might be okay to distract you. If you know you’re due for a business call, perhaps put a sign on your door to warn the other members of your household. Teach them that they can’t come and bother you all day just because you’re physically there with them.

Try to discipline yourself, too. When you’re working from home and have 24/7 access to your emails, work files, task list, and more, it can be hard to break away. It’s a slippery slope – ‘just 5 more minutes’ can easily turn into another hour or two of staring at the screen. Don’t let your work take over! If you think you might struggle with this, try setting alarms for yourself or bring in an accountability partner. Ask a friend/coworker/family member to come fish you out of your work hole if you’ve not surfaced by a set time.

Routines & Schedules

Speaking of time; keeping to a relaxed schedule on regular days can help with improving your mindset for work. Some of our team keeps their gym and lunch break times consistent so that it’s easier to manage their time, and they try to be at the computer by 8:30am, ready to work.

Figure out what times of the day that you’re most productive and see if you can schedule your breaks around that. If you usually hit a slump around 3pm, then schedule a break for 3pm. You could use it to do some yoga, meditation, cooking, singing; whatever helps you feel rejuvenated. 

Maybe you’re the kind of person who gets a power surge in the evening? Great! Consider taking the afternoons off to do something relaxing, and come back to work with renewed focus. Or, maybe afternoons are your best time? Then use the mornings to tick off some smaller tasks, and save the afternoon for the big projects once your brain has warmed up.

Make sure your routine feels good specifically for you. Maybe you want to wake up later – you don’t have to get up early for the commute anymore! 

This might be difficult if you are still expected to be online and available from 9–5, but see if you can make an arrangement with your boss. Try to find a compromise for you and your team. Perhaps you can start earlier or finish later, enabling you to take a larger break throughout the day where required. 

Embrace JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out)

When you’re home (and possibly alone), you don’t have the regular hustle and bustle and accountability of the workplace. Take advantage of it! But do this in a healthy, productive way. Instead of the same old office playlist, enjoy the silence or your own music. Eat your lunch in peace, away from your desk, without worrying about someone coming to barrage you with questions and tasks.

Beware of what you might be tempted to do when there’s no manager looking over your shoulder. Maybe you’ll scroll Instagram on your phone or Google for your next holiday destination. Don’t get sucked into the black hole of the internet! What’s worked for one of our staff members is putting their devices on aeroplane mode and placing them in a drawer out of reach. You can also add plugins to your computer browser to restrict your access to specific sites such as YouTube and social media.

And remember, take regular breaks! Take the opportunity to stretch often, or dance around the room, whatever you’d like to do that makes you feel good. It’ll feel even better knowing that nobody is watching!

Communicate with your team

All the benefits of working from home aside, the reality is that sometimes it can get a bit lonely. Remember to keep communicating with your team. Whether you use a chat app (Slack, Skype, etc) or have the odd phone call, daily communication goes a long way to helping you feel more connected. You’ve lost the opportunity to pop your head over the cubicle divider to say hi to someone, but you can still send messages and give a few smile emojis! 🙂

Our team has implemented multiple ways to help us connect. These include weekly icebreaker questions, shout out Fridays, and a fortnightly pairing of team members to have a chat and get to know each other more. 

Having a casual chat with your coworkers might not sound like a way to stay focused and productive, but it can increase your happiness and morale, which in turn can boost productivity. As long as you’re doing this in moderation, you should be fine! And of course, everyone has different levels of interactivity that they require to feel happy and comfortable. Sometimes it’s nice to have peace and quiet to be able to put your head down and work hard. But for when that’s not working, try reaching out to a teammate to have a friendly conversation. It could give you the boost you need to be able to focus on work again!

Best of luck to you in your remote working arrangements!