5 Hacks to Stay Productive and Engaged While Working Remotely

Transitioning to remote work can be challenging. The accountability, structure, and social interactions with coworkers that get you through the workday are all disrupted, and all of a sudden you have a blank slate of a workday to rebuild. Managing distractions and staying focused and productive are some of the biggest challenges newly remote employees struggle with as they manage their work life in the midst of their home life. Thankfully, there are ways to help bring some of the benefits of in-office work environments to your remote workspace to build the ultimate WFH space. Here are five tips and tricks to get you started.

1. Block Off Time On Your Calendar for Focused Work

When working remotely, it sometimes seems like you’ve become more available to coworkers and supervisors. When chat messages and emails can be sent the same minute someone thinks to send it, all of a sudden your coworkers don’t have to prioritize their own work over physically getting up and visiting your desk to ask you a question or request a favor. 

Choosing a block of time in your day to turn off notifications and focus on your own tasks can mean changing your availability icon to “busy” or “in a meeting” in your messaging or calendar app to let your coworkers see that you’re busy and when they can expect to hear back from you. If you’re in a position that could be needed for an emergency, consider sharing in a group chat that you’ll be unavailable for a set amount of time but that if they really need you to call or text you on your personal device.

2. Put Your (Personal) Phone Away

If you don’t use your personal devices for work, put them away. Not only are they distracting but they will keep you from getting in the zone. Keeping your personal devices out of sight and out of mind can help you stay focused and make it easier to resist the urge to check for messages and updates during a stressful task. Have a bucket for things (such as your cell phone) where they can live in do not disturb mode until your pre-determined break time. By being intentional about your cell phone use, you’ll be more productive and less distracted during your workday. In case of emergencies, add specific contacts (like immediate family members) onto your Do Not Disturb exceptions list on your phone so you can selectively block out the noise from the important stuff.

3. Keep a Distraction Journal Handy 

Having a place to write down all the non-work-related thoughts and to-dos that pop into your head while on the clock is a great way to keep track of your personal responsibilities without compromising your work-related ones. When you’re in the middle of a task and remember you need to call the pharmacy, write it down. You don’t need to get out of your groove to make the call right that second. Distraction journals, along with a whole host of other mind-decluttering benefits, will also keep you from forgetting important things that you’ll need to do later but can’t right that second. Boom. Two productivity hacks for the price of one!

4. Plan Out Your Day 

Before your workday begins, map out what your schedule will look like: the tasks you need to complete, the tasks you want to complete, what meetings you have to attend, and when you’ll take your breaks. (You can do this in your handy dandy distraction journal if you’d like.) By having a solid plan to refer to, you’ll be replicating the structure you’d normally have in an office setting. Besides helping your stay on top of your tasks, having a plan will also provide mental clarity and accountability to yourself. 

Finished your top-priority tasks? Take a look at your plan to see what other things you can knock out before you log off for the day. Or, if you get to five and still have more to do, you can quickly get an idea of what you did accomplish and what needs to be pushed to your next day’s agenda. By acknowledging and celebrating even your small accomplishments throughout the day, you’ll fend off feelings of being overwhelmed and unproductive that can spiral into work-life-balance mental health fiascos. 

5. Get Involved in Office Group Chats

Lastly, working from home can just feel isolating. And it turns out good old water cooler chats can improve productivity by creating a positive and collaborative environment and building trust among peers. This kind of face-to-face bonding is hard to replicate remotely, but getting involved in topic-based chats (that don’t revolve around job-related tasks) can be a great way to bridge the gap. Whether you join a virtual event planning committee group chat or a group chat filled with fellow employees who love their furry friends, chatting with peers in more relaxed contexts can make interacting in professional environments that much smoother. Besides, social interactions are just fun, and being engaged with the people you work with is a great motivator to keep you engaged in the work you do, too. 

Remote Can Be Fun

There are a lot of benefits that remote employees can get out of working from home, sometimes it just takes a little bit of planning. Now that you have a strategy in place for staying on top of your tasks outside the office, consider ways you can make working from home not just doable, but fun. For example, having access to your own kitchen means no more lunch packing (and probably higher-quality lunches, too), and those of us with pets have instant stress relievers available to us 24/7. 

Setting up a home office means you can decorate and light your workspace the way you want. There are so many ways to make working from home a productive and enjoyable experience. So keep these tips in mind and create the work environment of your dreams at home.