The global pandemic put remote work to the ultimate test. For companies and employees that were new to working remotely, the last two years focused on learning how it’s done. Going into 2022, it’s time to shift our focus from survival mode to improvement – particularly when it comes to productivity.
Productivity is the single most powerful ingredient in making remote work work. Companies need to know their employees are contributing just as much at home as they would in an office. Likewise, employees deserve to see the value they’re bringing to the organization now that work isn’t a place you go to, but rather something you do.
Remote work has been quite the learning curve for everyone. It’s time to level up your remote work approach with these productivity tips for 2022.
1. Set Expectations with People Who Share Your Space
Setting expectations for your space is arguably the biggest barrier to remote work productivity. When employers shifted to remote work, your spouse or roommate may have become your new coworker. Sharing a workspace is challenging, especially when one or both people are fielding conference calls or video chats. There are lots of extra distractions that you can’t control, and your productivity might suffer.
Kids and pets at home compound these challenges. Because you’re always “on” as a parent or caretaker, your kids expect you to be available when they need or want you.
It’s not easy, but it is your responsibility to set the right expectations for others in your workspace.
- Let them know when you’re available and when you shouldn’t be disturbed.
- Set up activities for kids to keep them busy when you really need to focus.
- Share your schedule with your spouse so they know when you might spare a moment.
- Use a colour-coded sign on your door or desk or something similar to show when others can interrupt you and when they can’t.
- Shut your door if you have a separate workspace.
- Assign responsibilities, such as answering the door or phone.
- Negotiate quiet time or access to shared space or equipment, like a desk or the kitchen table.
Most importantly, don’t waver in your boundaries. When you bend the rules one time, your family might think you can do it all the time.
2. Stick to a Consistent Work Schedule
During the early days of the shift to remote work, a lot of people found themselves with more “free” time. They weren’t commuting twice a day and found better ways to use that time. For many, this period was one for experimenting. Maybe you tried different times of the day to fit in a workout routine. Or maybe you experimented with a different lunch schedule.
Whatever changes you’ve made to your schedule, try to be consistent with those changes. Your routine might not look like it did when you were working on-site. But it should look roughly the same day to day from a productivity-boosting standpoint.
Keeping structure to your day can help you better manage your time. Staying on track can also boost your motivation and reduce stress since it helps prevent work from piling up.
3. Create Your Own Business Continuity Plan
When the pandemic started spreading, employers everywhere faced a Herculean challenge: to keep business going. For months, companies focused on business continuity. They had to invest in remote work tools to keep teams united. They created new procedures and protocols to address a remote work environment.
Remote workers have that same responsibility when working from home. If you wake up one morning and your power or internet connection is out, for example, your company likely expects you to have a backup plan.
Backup plans work best when they’re thought out ahead of time. Take some time to figure out the biggest risks you face in your work. It might be a loss of power or the internet. It could be a hardware failure (computers don’t last forever!).
For each risk, come up with one or more ways that you can address them quickly. For example, if your power goes out, make a list of nearby coffee shops or other public spaces where you could plug in. Have several options ready since many businesses are changing hours or closing altogether due to an ongoing staffing shortage and evolving pandemic conditions.
Creating a backup plan before you need it allows you to take immediate action in case something interrupts your normal workflow.
4. Plan Your Day According to Your Personal Dynamics
While you’re developing a schedule that works for you, take your energy levels into account. Some of us are natural night owls and do our best thinking during the late hours. Some of us are early risers and start to lose energy as the day wanes. Remote work offers the flexibility to adjust our schedules to our own dynamics.
Consider your “peak” hours in the day and use that time to do your focused, individual work. Try to schedule meetings or collaboration during times when your energy might be lower. Avoid planning meetings when your spouse or children might have the greatest needs. This way, your work will naturally flow with your day instead of fighting the current.
5. Use Time Blocking and Task Batching
Time blocking and task batching are powerhouse strategies for remote work productivity.
Time blocking gives you a visual idea of what you’re spending time on. You set a time limit for a specific task and make a hard stop when that time block is over. Then, you move on to a different task. Time blocking helps you better plan your day and ensure you touch on all the things you really need to. And since you hard-stop at the end of each block, you can stay more focused and motivated to finish that task, knowing you won’t have extra time to give to it.
Task batching takes a similar approach. But instead of using individual time blocks, you group similar tasks into the same block. For example, if your job is social media management, you might group all of your copywriting activities together before doing all of your analytics activities.
Both of these strategies work well because you’re not having to constantly shift your mindset from one thing to another. Every time your mind changes course, you lose precious minutes of productivity.
6. Create a Resource Bank Before You Need It
When working remotely, having the resources you need when you need them can keep productivity high. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: not having what you need means spending time searching for it, requesting it, and being idle while waiting for it.
From company docs to passwords to client-shared resources, start collecting these items and storing them in an easy-to-access location. Bookmark information-rich articles (like this one!) that have helped you in the past so you can easily find them again. The less time you spend searching for and requesting resources, the more you can accomplish.
7. Build Up a Remote Network
Remote workers need human connection more than ever. You don’t have the advantage of sharing energy with the coworkers around you. You can’t pop over to the next desk to ask a question. It’s easy to feel isolated, lonely, and less like a part of the team when you’re working from home. These feelings can kill your motivation and productivity while you question if your work is really making an impact.
The best remedy for remote work isolation is to stay connected to others in the same situation. Keep socializing with colleagues via messaging apps. Keep building familiarity with workers, especially newcomers that have only worked remotely with your company and haven’t met their coworkers in person.
8. Take Advantage of Time Management and Blocking Apps
Staying productive while working remotely isn’t easy, and technology is both part of the problem and part of the solution.
On the problem side, remote work is fueled by technology tools. Employers have invested in countless types of software, from video conferencing tools to project management and even tools that measure your productivity. They mean well, but too many tools can actually make you less productive.
One reason is because tools that measure productivity gamify the process, such as offering badges or leader boards. These achievements become more important than the outcome itself, which distracts from the purpose of the work. Plus, as mentioned earlier, every time you switch between a task (or tool, in this case), you end up losing productivity.
However, some tools can provide solutions to productivity loss. It’s a matter of choosing the right tools to add to your workday. For example, if certain websites or social media platforms distract you from working, then an app blocking tool can fill that gap. You won’t be able to access those sites during certain hours, helping you stay on track.
Time tracking apps can also help by showing you how much time you’re really spending on tasks. As humans, very few of us are as good at estimating time as we think we are. By knowing how long tasks really take, you can get better at estimating how much work you can accomplish in a given period.
9. Set Up an Ergonomic-Friendly Workspace
Your mind might be laser-focused on your work, but if you’re not feeling great physically, you could end up sacrificing your productivity. Ergonomics plays a big role in remote work productivity. They help you stay comfortable when sitting or standing for hours. Good support for your body helps you avoid fatigue and pain, both of which can make you less focused and less inclined to work at a decent pace.
An ergonomic workspace is an investment, not just in your productivity but also in your health.
- Make sure you have adequate wrist support.
- Use a mouse with a back button on the side for easy internet exploring.
- Get an adjustable monitor to avoid neck strain.
- Add back and neck support to your desk chair.
- Take stretching breaks frequently throughout the day.
The better you feel while working, the more work you’ll be able to finish!
10. Don’t Overwork Yourself
Many employers fear that when employees are working remotely, they’re doing laundry and bingeing Netflix. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many remote workers report they work more than they did on-site because they find it harder to turn off their work each day.
That said, working more doesn’t always mean you’re more productive. Taking breaks throughout the day and not overworking yourself can help you stay more focused and motivated. If you do need to work late one day, try to make up for it the next day by taking longer breaks or ending the day early.
11. Plan Your Next Work Day Today
There’s an old saying: “Prior preparations prevent poor performance.” At the end of each work day, while you’re still tuned into work, take a few minutes to map out a game plan for the next work day. This way, you don’t have to take a “cold start” to your workday. It’s easier to think about work when everything you just accomplished is still fresh in your mind and you know exactly what to do next.
12. Speak Up about Your Concerns and Needs
One of the most overlooked opportunities in remote work productivity tips is knowing how and when to ask for help. Remember, your employer and managers want you to succeed just as much as you do. But many are at a loss as to how to help their employees remotely.
If you have ideas on how you can be more productive or have unique needs that might not apply to everyone on your team, speak up. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Sharing your concerns might help the company improve its remote work approach for everyone — and allow remote work to continue to thrive.