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Success Structures for the [Suddenly] Remote Worker

Working from home can be hard, especially if you aren’t used to it.

Employees suddenly thrust into working from home must deal with a multitude of distractions including children (who are suddenly not attending school), pets, other people in the household trying to transition to remote work or already working from home, an environment not set up for working from home, sick relatives, being sick themselves, along with a constant barrage of minute-by-minute updates on the spread of the virus, the mad dash for supplies and other news that feels just as bleak. Whew! It’s hard enough to stay focused if you are a seasoned remote worker.

In my recent blog on the challenges of managing a suddenly remote team I talked about the fact that while studies show that remote workers are more productive, there is a transition period in which they are often less productive, while they learn new routines and structures. This fact, coupled with the challenges of transitioning to remote during a pandemic means you need to establish good routines and structures fast.

Here are 5 simple structures to help you get and stay focused.

  1. Stick to or establish your morning and evening routines (this includes bed and wake up times). If you had established routines before, they’ve likely been disrupted. Either return to what works for you or use this guide to establishing a daily routine that can help you start the day right. This may be the single most important structure you create for yourself. As a side note, a successful morning routine hinges on a successful evening routine.

  2. Time block your day for success. Take the blocks of time you have between meetings and schedule in your biggest three outcomes you want to reach that day. Then, stick to your schedule. Try to tackle the most important of the three first and when it’s done, allow the good feeling of completion to set the tone and momentum for the rest of your day.

  3. Turn off notifications from social media, news outlets and non-urgent communications. This includes slack and other internal communication platforms your company uses. Do not allow notifications to distract you from getting your work done. In between your time blocks, you can check your work notifications but save news and social media for specific times outside your normal work schedule. The exception: If your work actually depends on news and social media. Even then, try to create pockets of time in which you are able to work uninterrupted. Studies show that individuals who work uninterrupted for 25 minute stretches can be highly productive.

  4. Set up an effective workspace. Working from bed, while comfortable for some, is not going to lead to your greatest productivity or focus. If you are used to working in an office, your body and mind have a habit of getting focused in a particular way. You need to emulate that way as closely as possible. This typically means setting up an ergonomically friendly workstation.

  5. Remove yourself from distractions. Depending on your home environment, this may be tough. Do your best to remove yourself from sound distractions by either physically moving to another space or using noise cancelling headphones. On the note of headphones, I personally find that binaural beats help to improve my focus and creativity, particularly while writing. There are plenty of free resources out there if you want to try it for yourself.

Even if you aren’t used to working from home, never wanted to work from home or hope to continue working from home, setting yourself up for success is your next right move. Make your transition easier by creating the right structures early on.

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