The world of work is quickly becoming remote-first. Employees for as much as 16% of all companies in the world today work completely from home (or from a suburban cafe, a secluded beach, a cottage with wi-fi in the middle of a tropical forest, and the list goes on).
The most popular cases in point?
AirBnB, for one. In April 2022, the company announced a LIFETIME live-and-work-anywhere policy for their employees, without any adverse effect on their compensation.
Spotify also has its own “Work From Anywhere” program which debuted in 2021. It offers flexible living choices for remote, in-person, and hybrid work options for employees. For example: Spotify will get them a coworking space membership if they relocate to a place far away from the office and miss in-person work.
Further, an overwhelming 72% of employees surveyed in Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2022 report say that their organization is planning for some form of permanent remote work going forward.
Why remote work/work from home?
As a remote employee, who is neither a morning lark nor a night owl, I love my flexible work hours. I can have a morning routine without spending the better part of my day commuting. And I can work at times when I am most productive, from places where I am most productive, without needing to be at my desk constantly.
44% of employees surveyed in Buffer’s report also admit to being more focused thanks to remote work.
No wonder employers are opening up to the possibility, too. Better focus is often the cornerstone of higher productivity. For fully remote companies, it also saves the ginormous costs of maintaining a physical workplace. Both these directly translate into higher profits.
Working from home appears to be a win-win for both sides.
Remote work and productivity
Though remote work seems to have all the perks, it also comes with its share of pesky challenges.
Distractions ranging from the blackhole of social media to the demands of young children or pets abound.
Then there’s the looming threat of isolation, of loneliness that dissipates only through in-person connection, of ineffective collaboration with one’s team, of working way too much and without boundaries, and ultimately of diminished productivity .
Despite these roadblocks, about 75% of the 12000 remote employees questioned in a BCG survey across US, Germany, and India perceive that their individual productivity has predominantly stayed the same or even improved thanks to working from home. And more than half of them echo the sentiment even for productivity on collaborative tasks.
Productivity perceptions of remote employees are positively correlated with 4 factors, as per the survey. They are social connectivity, mental health, physical health, and workplace tools.
“79% of respondents who indicated they are satisfied or doing better on all four of these factors said they have been able to maintain or improve productivity on collaborative tasks. In contrast… When we looked at respondents who are dissatisfied or doing worse on at least three factors, only 16%...said they have been able to maintain or improve productivity. That’s a difference of almost 400%!”
This leads us to some interesting conclusions about how employers (and employees themselves) can make remote work actually work, without disrupting performance and business results.
How employers can set remote employees up for success
Focusing on the mental and physical health of remote workers as well as providing them access to the right workplace tools can be a gamechanger for their productivity.
Here are the top strategies for companies to make work from home a success.
1. Clear expectations
Clarity in communication goes a long way when it comes to remote work. Clear expectations give employees clear OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to work with. Further, documenting productivity standards also allows companies to identify and eliminate possible bottlenecks to performance.
Recommended reading: Guide to being a good manager in a remote workplace
2. Flexible working hours
Almost one-third of remote workers say they would consider looking for another job if their companies took away the existing remote-work policy. Flexible timings help remote employees harness their peak productivity without needing to put in the hours just for the sake of it. This also fosters a sense of trust and transparency which bodes well for team cohesion.
3. Right tools and trainings
It’s essential for companies to provide their remote workforce the same tools, training, and support available to in-office teams. This can solve the key challenge of collaboration for remote employees. Establishing an async, dynamic knowledge management system will also improve their productivity by eliminating the time spent on searching for things.
Recommended reading: Guide to finding the best productivity tools for your company
4. A supportive remote culture
Making remote work like clockwork is not a one-off task. It requires creating a supportive culture throughout the organization. To do so, managers should set aside specific dates and times for recurring team interactions, have regular one-on-one meetings with remote employees to identify where they may be struggling, and make sure that remote workers are treated with the same respect and get the same acknowledgement for their achievements.
Recommended reading: How to manage remote employees effectively for maximum productivity
Having said all this, it’s not just the employer or management’s responsibility to guide employees to peak productivity while working from home. A lot depends on the attitude, routines, habits, and motivations of the employees themselves.
How remote employees can work from home effectively
If you’re a remote worker, here are some tried and tested tips to help you skyrocket your productivity.
1. Clarify ground rules with those you live with
Remote work schedules can be as erratic as they are flexible. Sometimes, you’ll be so caught up in meetings that you can’t sit down with your family for a meal. Sometimes, there won’t be a single meeting in the day, and you might be inclined to spend your breaks with your spouse, kids, parents, or flatmates.
It’s important to clarify ground rules regarding your availability during work hours with your family and/or flatmates. Let them know when you’d like to remain undisturbed, for example. Also work out how comfortable (or otherwise) you are with taking up additional domestic responsibilities while working from home.
This will help you avoid misunderstandings and protect the peace at home. After all, no one is productive when the atmosphere at their place of work is tense.
2. Get your pretend game on
“Get up, dress up, and show up,” goes a popular saying. And it can indeed turn your day around. While it’s tempting to take that early morning standup in your pajamas and from the comfort of your couch, you’ll find enough productivity experts to shoot the idea down.
While working remotely, it helps to pretend that you are working from the office instead. So go ahead and act as you would if you were doing the latter.
This may include any or all of the following:
- waking up on time (and not 5 minutes before your first call)
- having a morning routine such as going for a run, taking a shower, stretching/working out, meditating, reading etc.
- making yourself a cup of coffee and some breakfast
- ditching your sweatpants for a more professional look
- planning your day and structuring your to-do lists just as you would in office
You’ll start noticing the positive effects not just on your productivity but also on your mood!
Recommended reading: Guide to link management tools
3. Set your home office up for peak productivity
Your pretend game extends to your home office as well.
If you can, invest in a good home office setup or request one from your employer. A separate PC/ laptop and phone for work is useful for minimizing distractions that could arise on your personal devices. Furnish your home office with an ergonomic chair and desk to avoid the adverse health impact of sitting for long hours.
Having a dedicated space to work in the form of your home office will also help you cordon off your work from your personal life and in turn, boost your focus.
4. Make friends with productivity apps
You know those beautiful to-do lists, those colorful time-trackers, and those unforgiving app-blockers that keep popping up on your Instagram feed and Facebook timelines?
They can be your best friends while working from home.
Productivity apps and browser extensions are revolutionizing the way remote workers connect with their teams, collaborate on common tasks, and focus on their biggest projects. They result in huge time and cost-savings by letting you make the best use of your resources. Try them out and make them a part of your everyday life. You won’t regret it!
5. Make room for life
Work from home does not mean that you are expected to work 24x7 simply because the lines between your home and your office have blurred. On the contrary, it means that you actively need to guard your personal time and choose boundaries against burning out.
Make sure you
- start and end work on time
- eat, sleep, and exercise right to stay healthy
- have a morning and/or evening routine to help you unwind and recharge outside of work
- disconnect and unplug from technology from time to time
- spend quality time with your family and friends too
Only when you do this will you let your beautiful brain get the rest it deserves. And only when your mind gets a break, will it have the capacity to do its best work.
Check out what 71% of the most productive remote employees do (hint: it’s not just work!) :D
6. Step out of the house
You won’t spend the whole day in the office only to camp there for the night, and repeat the process the next morning, right?
When home = office, change of scenery becomes an inevitable requirement. At least it does for someone like me who loves to travel and meet new people in order to discover new places and new stories that break the monotony of everyday life.
Even if traveling frequently is out of the question, you can switch things up by working from a cafe or coworking space on some days, taking a workcation to a place you love, or simply going out (and maybe taking your pet) for a walk before or after the workday.
As you open yourself up to new experiences, talk to people outside, and expect your creative juices to flow much faster the next time you sit down at your desk and stare at that darned blank page.
7. Work at your most productive times
Here’s a tip on making the most of your time and energy: attend to your goals when your mind and body are most productive.
Some of us are morning larks; others are night owls. Some may prefer to get the most important work done first, others like to build the momentum by checking off small tasks as they go through their day.
You know best when you are most productive, when your home or workspace is distraction-free and when you get that creative burst of energy. Use that time and don’t let anyone or anything interrupt it (yeah, I mean unnecessary meetings and zombie scrolling on social media).
8. Get personal
Working from home sometimes makes me feel like I spend more time talking to (at?) my laptop than with an actual human being. The sense of estrangement from my team and my manager(s) is hard to deny. Which is why it helps to connect to coworkers and superiors on a personal level.
Having regular 1:1 meetings is a great way to do that — get personal while you work on your professional development. In addition, some companies encourage virtual coffee hours for informal catch-ups between colleagues while some create dedicated Slack channels for exchanging light-hearted banter, jokes, and memes to simulate water-cooler moments that remote workers miss while working from home.
Between employees who work from the office and those who work from home, the former tend to get many more moments in the sun. Making our presence known and clarifying our contribution can be deterring challenges for remote employees, especially in hybrid or distributed teams.
Overcommunicating. And advocating for yourself.
You can do this with some simple steps such as
- Showing up for important meetings virtually and keeping your camera on
- Asking questions and sharing your thoughts proactively in meetings and collaborations
- Communicating your availability and async work expectations to your colleagues
- Interacting with your colleagues on a regular basis even outside of work
- Seeking advice and sharing solutions for communication gaps
Recommended reading: Guide to effective communication in the new remote world
10. Take that PTO!
Lastly, even as you work from the relatively relaxed environs of home, don’t forget to take that PTO. Surveys show that burnout is a real threat particularly for remote employees. Your PTO is both an earned right and a potent remedy against early burnout.
Recommended reading: The Toptal Playbook for Remote Work
Choosing the right tools for maximum work-from-home productivity
Remember how I said productivity apps are your friends when it comes to working from home?
Here is a list of the 5 best remote productivity tools you can start using without much ado:
- OSlash. This agile tool makes it easy for team members to share informative links quickly and accurately. You can better organize and manage work-relevant links and find them using a cross-app search function. Stop wasting productive time scouring old chats, emails, and bookmark folders for old links. Create single sources of truth for your distributed team to get their best work done, faster.
Recommended reading: OSlash for remote teams
- Zapier. Zapier is an automation tool that integrates with more than 4,000 apps to create trigger-and-response workflows. You can use it to automatically send emails, set calendar notifications, and publish Slack notifications, all of which can streamline remote work infinitely. It saves individuals and teams time by automating simple tasks and allows workers to complete complex projects with speed and accuracy.
- Notion. Used predominantly as a wiki for all kinds of teams and organizations, Notion’s USP lies in its ever-expanding library of templates and advanced collaboration, organization, and content customization features which are a blessing, particularly for distributed teams.
- Loom. Loom has made it super easy to report bugs, share suggestions, explain ideas, and simply talk to colleagues async and without needing to indulge in the exasperating back and forth of scheduling meetings. It lets you record a video with your screen and cam and send it over with a simple link, saving loads of time, especially for remote teams.
- Slack. As a workplace communication app, Slack reduces the email load massively and speeds up collaboration. It allows you to work in specific channels with select teammates for specific projects. This is great if you want to maintain a sense of calm in the midst of chaos that remote work sometimes can be. You can call your teammates, text them, share files, and collaborate on projects from a single app — on desktop or mobile.
A lot of things go into making remote work a success. Right from the motivation and discipline of employees to the work culture in the organization.
Balancing work with other areas of life remains the key to being at your most productive while working from home.
We hope you found some of these work from home tips valuable for maintaining a well-organized routine and accomplishing your work-related goals.