Life as we know it has changed—remote work has become the new norm for a massive chunk of the workforce. With the spread of COVID-19 and the changes brought about to mitigate it, many companies have had no choice but to adapt new policies and practices to facilitate effective remote work.

For many of us, it looks like we may be working from home for weeks or even months. If you’re still getting settled into the shift away from office life or are looking for some tips to optimize your day, here are three pointers to keep you productive, focused, and efficient.

1. Over-communicate

For many of us used to chatting with coworkers in person throughout the day or meeting clients at conferences, the switch to nothing but emails, instant messaging, and the occasional phone chat can be jarring. In person meetings have largely vanished for the time being, so what now?

While there’s no replacement for face-time, effective remote work starts with keeping a strong rapport with coworkers and clients. That said, don’t be afraid to err on the side of over-communicating while you get used to the new norm—your coworkers, clients, and employees will likely thank you for it! 

If you’re a manager, this advice is especially critical. During these uncertain times, managing expectations, keeping morale up, and making sure projects stay on track are key to your role. Schedule weekly meetings with your reports, keep your schedule transparent, and maintain open lines of communication. In turn, your employees will reward you with consistently quality work.

2. Invest in your workstation

When it comes to your desk and work space, there’s functionality and there’s aesthetic. 

And you know what? There’s more than a bit of overlap between the two. For many, avoiding clutter allows them to flow easily between tasks, stay mentally engaged, and in a peaceful state of mind. If you’re like many others that have lugged home a bunch of gizmos from your office and don’t have a dedicated work space at home, consider some of these cool desk organization ideas for getting yourself properly organized for effective remote work. 

If you don’t have a dedicated work space of any kind, consider taking some time on the weekend to get creative with your workstation. While this may take some time, let’s be real: there’s not much else to do and that Netflix watch-list has to be wearing pretty thin by now. 

And Then there’s hardware

Laptops are great for working on the go and frequent travel, but they are seriously lacking in something many take for granted at their office workstation: screen real estate. If you’re currently working at home and find yourself scrambling between browser tabs or spreadsheet windows, have you considered how investing in an external monitor could increase your productivity?

With face-to-face meetings temporarily on pause, many are turning to video conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Cisco, etc. Having the right tools for conversational clarity will keep your message clear and your words persuasive. 

That said, if you don’t have a quality webcam and good lighting in your room, that’s a great place to start (and make sure you’re careful using it). If you’re frequently giving presentations or sales pitches, consider investing in a high-quality USB microphone to make sure people aren’t left scratching their heads when you’re talking.  

Lastly, if you’re a business owner with tight cash flow and need resources for learning about funding to keep your employees equipped with the right tools to work remotely, make sure to explore the options and resources at your disposal. There are tons of great guides out there, like this one from Forbes.

3. Know when to disconnect

When your home is your office and your office is your home, the line between when you’re working and when you’re relaxing can start to become blurred. 

Maintaining separation between both is a two-way street that’s crucial to effective remote work. On one hand, you need the mental discipline to not get distracted while you’re working at home. Your family or roommates might be around at all times, along with Netflix and all the snacks you may or may not have hoarded (just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger, this happens). 

Take whatever steps are necessary to flip the mental switch that says, “I’m at work.” For some, that means getting dressed up in the morning (I know, those pajama pants are so comfortable, but trust us). For others, it can help to take a walk in the morning. When you set foot back inside your home or apartment, you’re stepping into “your office,” so act accordingly. Whatever it might be for you, figure out a routine, and stick to it. 

On the other hand, you can’t get sucked back into your office life with every insignificant email arriving in your inbox after office hours. Barring an emergency, when you’re finished with your work day, be finished with it. Leave yourself the time to focus on mental clarity, and it’ll show when you’re thinking sharply and ready to go the following day. 

Make sure to carve out enough time each day for unwinding, personal development, some physical activity, and spending time with your loved ones—and remember, that last one is most important.

Wrapping up

You may be asking yourself, “how do these guys know so much about remote work, anyway?” 

Over the last several years, a large chunk of our workforce has made the transition to year-round remote work. We keep all employees set up with secure virtual work spaces and the hardware needed for remote work, and are currently operating at full capacity. For more info on how we can help your business during these unprecedented times, get in touch today.

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