This blog is the first in a series about new trends & changing attitudes in the workplace. We’ll be examining changing attitudes, conceptions and ideas surrounding the traditional 9 to 5, as well as our relationship to the work environment as a whole.
From offering more flexible hours, to placing a greater emphasis on employee mental health, companies across all industries are moving away from longstanding conceptions of the traditional work environment. One such trend is working from home. It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen-Xers value work-life balance over a higher paying job. And thanks to ever-evolving technology, from mobile devices to cloud-based systems that can be accessed from anywhere, the traditional 9-5 workday is becoming less relevant by the day.
That said, working from home can be tricky to balance. Here are a few ways to stay productive (and happy) when working remotely.
Get an Early Start & Make a Schedule
We all have those days where it’s difficult to get out of bed. And staying under the covers is only made easier when your phone makes it easy to answer work emails from underneath them. Technically speaking, you could do a full day’s work from right there as a telecommuter. Not that we’re speaking from personal experience or anything.
To a combat this enticing proposition, it’s important for remote workers to adhere to a schedule just as much, if not more so, than their in-office counterparts. In fact, according to recent survey, having dedicated working hours was the 2nd most effective way to stay productive for remote employees, between taking breaks and having a to-do list & calendar. Blocking off your day into manageable chunks helps you stay efficient, and helps you achieve a greater work-life balance from the comfort of your own home.
And seriously, don’t open your email as soon turn off the alarm. Treat working from home just like you would treat working in an office. We have a morning routine we do each day when we’ve got to commute to work. It only makes sense that telecommuters should develop a pre-work ritual, too. Consider things like mediation, exercise, or simply making some coffee and eating breakfast before you start the workday. Making a schedule and getting a consistent early start on your day allows you to ease into the day’s tasks, rather than diving in as soon as soon as you wake up.
A Dedicated Workspace
Figuring out your ideal workspace is crucial when telecommuting. In fact, some companies require a dedicated home office space for telecommuting. But even if your employer doesn’t require it, there are few standards that every remote worker should adhere to.
Make your work environment comfortable and inviting. You’ll be spending a lot of time here, so don’t skimp on your home office setup – computer chair, desk, etc. Be sure to de-clutter and clean your workspace at least once per week to help with your mood and minimize stress.
Personally, I’ve found it beneficial to mix up my work environment as well. Working part of the day from a coffee shop or a public workspace gets you out of the house and engaging in the real world instead of feeling fatigued at home. Humans are social beings, even the most introverted amongst us. A bustling environment among other people can elevate your spirits and provide a much-needed change of scenery if you’re feeling stuck at home.
Telecommuters can often feel isolated from their coworkers and cut off from the organization as a whole. That’s why communication is the foundation of any effective work from home setup. Think about it: Innovations in technology & communication are the only reason workers have the option to telecommute in the first place. So it only makes sense to utilize these tools to ensure you remain productive and on track. Instant messaging platforms like Skype and Microsoft Teams are a great way to cut through the overwhelming email influx and quickly touch base with coworkers. Additionally, providing frequent updates to your team members and implementing weekly status meetings ensures everyone is on the same page.
Nearly 50% of remote workers note that one of their biggest struggles is wellness related, and there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests telecommunicating may, in part, be fueling its own mental health crisis. Remote workers report difficulty unplugging from the job outside of operating hours, in addition to increased rates of fatigue and sleep disturbance.
That’s why it is incredibly important that remote employees practice self-care, not only for their job performance, but for their overall health. While it may seem insignificant, making sure your workspace has good lighting, taking breaks and getting outside a few times a day are incredibly beneficial to your well-being.
What’s more, in my experience telecommuting, I am less likely to take a sick day when battling a cold because I can get the job done without fear of getting an entire office of people sick. Instead, I’ll take mental health days, which amount to essentially the same thing, when I’m feeling a bit burnt out and need a mental refresh. Making and enforcing a schedule can also help combat this type of burnout and help you stay even-keeled.
Today telecommuters are in the minority but, with changing attitudes in the workplace, it is likely only to become more prevalent. There will likely come a day where more standards and company policies emerge. But for now, remote employees must stay proactive in how they structure their day-to-day. From creating a schedule, to taking care of your workspace— and yourself—remote employees must remain vigilant when it comes to their telecommuting practices if they want to work from home over the long term.