Working Remotely

Tips for Working from Home

By Burgess Powell

Working Remotely

Working remotely from home tip #1: set yourself up for success. Taking your work from home schedule seriously can make all the difference when it comes to productivity, happiness, and longterm success. No matter whether you’re a student, CEO or freelancer, working remotely can challenge your focus, collaboration skills, and even your sanity.

Wondering how to work remotely without getting angry at roommates, partners and yourself? Here are a few tips, tricks, and obstacles to look out for.

The following is meant as educational content. It is not medical advice.

What Does Working Remotely Mean?

Working remotely means working outside of a traditional office or work environment. Typically, it means working at home or in a public space such as a coffee shop. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote workers must work from their homes because most restaurants, coffee shops, and libraries no longer allow people to congregate.

Working from Home Quick Facts:

  • In 2018, 42% of Americans with advanced degrees completed some work at home in 2018 (compared to 12% without advanced degrees).
  • According to a LinkedIn poll of hiring professionals, 82% of candidates want the option to occasionally work from home.
  • People who worked from home in 2018 made on average $2,000 more annually than those who commute, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Only 29% of Americans can work from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Until coronavirus, otherwise known as the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home was often considered a luxury. But following a rapid escalation of coronavirus cases in the United States, upwards of 90% of city dwellers in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco are social distancing. As a result, remote working has skyrocketed.

Working from home

11 Working from Home Tips for Productivity

How do you stay productive while working from home in the midst of a pandemic under a stay at home order -- or even during normal times? Here are a few tips from the SiliconeGear community on keeping yourself sane (and productive) while stuck at home.

Related Article: Coronavirus Tips and Precautions.

1. Set Reasonable Remote Working Expectations

Having your hone be your office may seem like a luxury. In fact, before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people negotiated working remotely with their bosses. Shouldn’t this be an opportunity to get everything done without the distractions or commute required of office life?

Wrong. It’s important to remember that you are a human in the midst of a pandemic. Even before the pandemic, a study found that people are only productive for 3 hours of a workday.

This means setting reasonable goals (of course setting goals nonetheless), and not mentally beating yourself up if you miss them every once in a while.

2. Get Dressed for Remote Work from Home

Getting dressed helps, there is no denying it. Even if you have your camera turned off during Zoom meetings, changing out of your sweatpants is a great way to set the tone for the day.

3. Make a Schedule — and Stick To It

It’s crucial to have a schedule to maintain some sort of normalcy. This means having a morning routine that includes getting dressed and giving yourself time to transition into productivity mode.

Remember that a schedule means having breaks and actually taking them. Try to keep it consistent and on the regular side (not 3 pm to 3 am). When the workday is over, leave your workspace and transition to your “at home” time.

Out of work? Try an online learning platform to add variety to your day, and focus on new skill acquisition.

4. Have a Separate Space for Remote Working

Though this is, of course, more difficult for families and roommates sharing small spaces, it can be important psychologically to have a designated workspace. Avoid working on your laptop in bed in your PJs, for example.

Remote Work

5. Communicate with Your Team

Though you may be home alone, not everything can be done alone. That means keeping your team accountable for one another and helping each other out when someone gets stuck. It’s also a great way to maintain normalcy.

6. Socialize with Your Colleagues

This also means maintaining those social connections you’ve formed at work. Try to schedule or attend virtual happy hours and check in with people.

7. Schedule Out-of-Work Activities, Too

Just because you can’t go to restaurants doesn’t mean that you can’t have any fun. In fact, human connection is a crucial part of staying sane during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means scheduling time for talking or video chatting with friends outside of work, too.

Burnout is very real during regular times and COVID-19 especially.

8. Get the Tools You Need

There are so many tools that you can use to help with productivity. Instead of overwhelming yourself with trying to learn new apps overnight, do some research and test out a few. Then stick with what works.

9. Avoid Social Media and News Spirals

Though social media has always been distracting, it is now also a source of major anxiety. The coronavirus news cycle is important for keeping people healthy and aware, but it can be a major distraction when you are working remotely. Try to pick times, perhaps during a break or after work, when you can check the news.

10. Communicate with Partners / Roommates

Working at home with children is a challenge in and of itself. But working in a shared space with a partner or roommate can also be tough to negotiate. Try to communicate with whomever you live with regarding your work hours, what you need to be productive, and what space you’d like to use for it. Be considerate of their needs, too.

11. Get Out of the House

By amplifying blood flow to the brain, walking can have excellent impacts on mental health, creativity, and even memory. This is because walking increase oxygen flow to the brain.

Though check with your state government for up-to-date rules on COVID-19, leaving the house to exercise, go for a walk wearing a face mask, or just to get some sunshine is a necessary part of your day. Do not sacrifice short-term productivity for long-term mental health.

what does working remotely mean

3 Reasons To Enjoy Remote Working

Before the pandemic, it was a commonly-shared dream among professionals that they would be able to work remotely for at least some of the week. In fact, 80% of surveyed in one poll said that they would turn down an offer without flexibility for another with telework abilities.

A study conducted by a Princeton economics professor found that people were even willing to accept 8% less pay for the ability to work remotely.

Why is — or was — telework so popular before the pandemic?

1. Flexibility

Flexibility is a huge benefit for many. It can mean setting your own schedule (hint: not getting up early to catch a rush-hour train) or working from anywhere in the world.

2. Working Remotely = More Family Time

For many, staying at home meant more opportunity to spend time with kids and spouses. It can also be helpful when negotiating daycare and school schedules, especially when both parents work.

Of course, this is not usually the case when everyone is home. During COVID-19, parents around the world are struggling to keep their children engaged — and get through meetings, work, and daily housework — while kids and spouses are home at the same time.

3. More Productive When you Work from Home

Data shows that companies with remote workers actually get more done. Specifically, a study of U.S. Patent and Trade Office workers increased productivity by 4.4% when permitted to work remotely — without a higher margin for error.

Why would this be the case? Instead of coffee breaks, long lunches or getting distracted by talking coworkers, telework allows you to focus on what you have to get done and work at the times when you are most productive.

Of course, being productive when home alone is different from being productive when spouses and children are home, too. Remote work for an entire family in one space threatens to decrease productivity and cause stress, instead.

9 Biggest Obstacles to Effective Remote Work

Even before COVID-19, telework had its fair share of problems. Here are a few of the biggest issues that you can solve by adopting the working from home tips listed above.

how to work remotely

1. Trouble Separating Work from Relaxation at Home

The #1 rule of working from home is not to work in your bed or anywhere else you associate with rest and relaxation. This is because it becomes all too easy to blur the line between “work hours” and “at home” time — especially when you're stuck in the same space all day.

In fact, people who work remotely from home tend to work longer hours, according to research.

Other research has found that, for women, working from home means more work — specifically, 3 hours a week of additional childcare.

2. Working from Home Can Be Lonely

Most people spend an incredible amount of time in the presence of their coworkers. Though they may be a source of distraction, they’re also a source of connection and community.

A sense of loneliness and isolation is not uncommon for people who work at home. Coupled with the stress of an unprecedented pandemic, the mental health impacts can be extreme.

  • In the U.S., calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s Distress Hotline have increased 891% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Alarmingly, 45% of Americans feel that the coronavirus and the isolation it requires have negatively impacted their mental health (statistics from April 2020).

In other words, loneliness and stress are on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the fact that, even during regular times, working from home can trigger feelings of isolation.

If you are feeling depressed or helpless, please reach out to a medical professional for help. We are not doctors so the above is meant for educational purposes only.

3. Distractions of Working from Home Remotely

At the same time as telework can trigger feelings of loneliness, it can also come with a host of distractions. This is especially for those who share space with their family members, particularly children. For women especially, working remotely can mean up to 3 hours of additional childcare per week, which may cut into productivity or relaxation time.

Distractions may include:

  • Childcare
  • Household chores
  • Other family members working / on video or phone conferences
  • Social media and the news
  • Snacking
  • Cell phone use
  • Noise from other household members
  • Stress associated with COVID-19, especially regarding health and finances

In normal circumstances, working from home can be test of one’s discipline. Today, everyone has the added stress of an unprecedented pandemic and either the pressure of sharing space with others or loneliness that comes from separation.

In all remote working conditions, it is best to adopt an attitude of kindness and patience with oneself. This can mean setting a schedule and creating specific workspaces for you and other household members.

4. Trouble Communicating Virtually

Though many enjoy the lack of distractions that come with hearing your coworkers on the phone or talking to one another, working from home can also entail its fair share of communication problems.

For many, it can be challenging to feel heard via video conferencing. Additionally, the feeling of collaboration and shared goals may not be as prevalent when working remotely at home.

Beyond that, there are some serious privacy concerns when it comes to video conferences. Zoom has come under fire for displaying LinkedIn profile data without users’ consent. The F.B.I. has also warned that the video conferencing software was vulnerable to hackers.

5. Maintaining Motivation When Working from Home

Our culture assumes perpetual productivity — even during psychologically challenging times. Even though many of us are working from home with family members and health and financial troubles, we may assume that we should have the same level of motivation we had prior to the pandemic — or that motivation should be consistent throughout the day.

Periods of lower activity while working remotely are normal. Just as you would stop by a coworker’s desk or take a coffee break, you should not expect super-human output every moment of every day. Feeling stuck on a project? Do not hesitate to reach out to a coworker.

6. Unsuitable Remote Home Work Environment

One of the biggest problems with sudden remote work, such as what millions of people are currently experiencing, is that their at-home work environment isn’t, well, working for them.

Unlike people who are used to working from home, those who have been thrust into it may not have the wifi bandwidth or even appropriate seating and space for at-home productivity.

Working from Home Tips for COVID-19

Working remotely is an adjustment — especially when you’re forced to do so during a global pandemic. In addition to being kind and patient with yourself and your team, try to keep a schedule, stick with it, and develop some consistency in your work/life balance.