Remote working has become a popular trend in the workplace in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. With the rise of digital communication tools and the need for flexible working arrangements, more and more companies are embracing the concept of working remotely.
While there are numerous advantages to remote work, such as increased flexibility and reduced commuting time, there are also drawbacks including social isolation, difficulty separating work from personal life, and the need for self-discipline and motivation.
LifeHack is a distributed team with members from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Singapore working remotely. With years of experience working remotely, I’d like to share with you how to work productively and maintain good work performance while working remotely.
Whether you are considering remote work or are already working remotely and looking for ways to overcome the challenges, this article is your complete guide to working remotely.
The Hardest Parts of Working Remotely
Working remotely comes with a unique set of challenges. Here are some of the most difficult and challenging aspects of working remotely:
Managing Distractions and Interruptions
Working remotely can present a variety of distractions, including family members and pets, as well as household chores and personal obligations. These distractions can wreak havoc on workflow and productivity, resulting in missed deadlines and increased stress.
Employees in a traditional office setting may receive feedback and recognition from their supervisors or coworkers, which can help motivate them to keep working hard and achieving their goals. Receiving this type of feedback and recognition, on the other hand, can be more difficult in a remote setting, affecting motivation and engagement.
Additionally, remote workers may struggle with self-discipline and self-motivation. It can be tempting to procrastinate or lose focus without the structure and routine of a traditional office environment. To stay motivated, remote workers may need to take a more proactive approach to time management and task prioritization.
Maintaining Work-Life Balance is Difficult
It can be difficult to separate your work and personal life when they are in the same place. Remote workers may find themselves working longer hours, having difficulty disconnecting from work, and feeling as if they are always “on call.” In fact, 22% of remote workers find it difficult to unplug after work.
Furthermore, working outside of regular hours to accommodate team members in other time zones can lead to burnout and decreased productivity.
Dealing with Different Time Zones
Addressing different time zones can be a significant challenge for remote workers, especially for multi-time zone teams.
It can be challenging to plan meetings and effectively collaborate when team members are spread out across the globe. As previously stated, the time difference can also make maintaining work-life balance more difficult.
Communication and Collaboration Challenges
When members of a team are not in the same physical location, they rely heavily on digital communication tools to stay in touch.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings occur when communication is not clear, timely, or effective, resulting in delays, mistakes, and frustration. This can be detrimental to team cohesion and productivity.
Unlike office workers who have regular social interaction with coworkers, remote workers often work alone or in a small team. According to a study conducted by the Next Web, more than half of remote workers experience recurring loneliness.This lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to feelings of disconnection, and isolation, all of which can be harmful to one’s mental health and well-being.
How to Work Remotely
Since my team began working remotely in 2020, I’ve learned a few tricks for staying productive. Whether you’re a seasoned remote worker or just getting started, the following Time Mastery Framework-based tips can help you make the most of your remote work experience.
1. Set Regular Goals
Working remotely without the structure of a traditional office environment can make it challenging to stay on track and maintain momentum. Regular goal-setting can provide a sense of direction and purpose, allowing you to stay motivated and focused on achieving your objectives.
By defining specific goals and objectives, you can create a road map for your work and focus your efforts on the most important tasks. This can help to reduce distractions and ensure that you are making progress toward your key objectives.
Furthermore, by breaking down larger projects into smaller goals and establishing clear success metrics, you can track your progress and evaluate your performance over time. Along the way, you can feel a sense of progress and accomplishment and adjust your approach as needed.
Learn more about how to set goals in What Is Goal Setting And Why Is It Important?
2. Create an Ideal Work Space
Working remotely can make it difficult to maintain the same level of routine and support as in a traditional office setting. By designing an ideal work environment, you can create an environment that supports your work and allows you to perform at your best.
To have a dedicated work space that promotes productivity and focus, you may need to create a quiet, distraction-free environment that is comfortable, well-lit, and organized. You can more easily enter the flow state (a.k.a. being “in the zone”) if you create an environment that minimizes distractions and allows for focus.
In addition, setting up the necessary tools and equipment to support remote work is part of creating an ideal work environment. This could include high-speed internet access, a dependable computer, and other technology and software tools that allow for remote work. You can ensure that you are able to perform your work efficiently and effectively by investing in the proper tools and equipment.
3. Create a Routine
One key benefit of creating a routine is that it helps to establish a sense of predictability and control. Establishing consistent patterns of behavior throughout the day can provide structure and routine, increasing control over your work and life and reducing stress and anxiety.
For instance, by establishing regular work hours, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to focus on work and create a sense of routine that promotes focus. Likewise, taking regular breaks throughout the day can help you maintain energy.
Setting regular work hours and clear boundaries between work and personal life also helps you prioritize your well-being and avoid burnout. This could include establishing boundaries around communication with colleagues and clients, as well as engaging in self-care activities that promote well-being.
Take inspiration from these routine examples and design your own.
4. Prioritize Tasks By Energy First, Then By Time
Energy fluctuates and requires rest from time to time. Some tasks require significantly more mental or physical energy than others. For example, mundane tasks such as data entry or file organization require a different amount of energy than writing a proposal or conducting a live training session.
Energy-intensive tasks demand more of your attention. As a result, it makes no difference how well you manage your time if you can’t focus.
To stay productive, sort tasks by energy first. You can make a list of the tasks or activities you want to complete over the next week. One week is a good logical unit of planning because it is long enough to allow for balance while not being too short that you cannot complete goals.
With each of your tasks, assign two values:
- Energy Rating — A number representing how much energy this action gives you or takes away. For example, a +3 for something that’s really refreshing, or a -5 for a super energy draining activity.
- Time Cost — How much time you think it will actually take in terms of hours.
To prioritize your actual activities, use the Superstructure Method, It’s a quick and easy way to divide actions into three priority categories:
- Must Haves – Items that are absolutely necessary for completion.
- Should Haves – Items that are useful but not critical to achieving your goal.
- Good to Haves – Items that are optional, meaning there are no negative consequences if they’re not included. Good-to-haves are purely optional advantages.
The goal of your plan now is to hit all of the Must Haves and Should Haves first, while also making sure you don’t run out of energy at the end of the day. You can then create your schedule based on the plan.
5. Use Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication refers to communication methods that do not require the presence or engagement of all parties at the same time. It is a powerful tool for promoting productivity, collaboration, and work-life balance in a remote work environment.
Because it does not require everyone to be present or engaged at the same time, asynchronous communication not only allows you to work on your own schedules and focus on deep work without constant interruptions or distractions, but it also supports collaboration and teamwork across different time zones or schedules.
Moreover, the flexibility and autonomy that asynchronous communication fosters allows you to take greater control of your work and schedules. This promotes work-life balance by allowing you to prioritize your personal needs and responsibilities while still meeting work obligations.
You can easily implement asynchronous communication with colleagues and clients by using tools such as email, instant messaging, or project management software.
6. Leverage Project Management Tools
Utilizing project management tools has numerous advantages for remote workers. These tools provide a centralized platform for team members to collaborate, communicate, and track project progress:
- Clear and organized communication – Project management tools allow you to create tasks, assign them to team members, and set deadlines. This ensures that everyone understands their responsibilities and what is expected of them.
- Transparency of projects – Team members can see which tasks have been completed, which are in progress, and which are scheduled. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and keep everyone on the same page.
- A centralized platform where all project information can be stored – Remote workers can easily store and share files, leave comments, and ask questions using project management tools. This can help the team stay organized, reduce the need for lengthy email chains, and ensure that everyone has the most up-to-date information.
At LifeHack, we use Basecamp to track the progress of tasks and projects, make team announcements, and check in with one another. We find Basecamp to be a very useful tool for keeping everyone on the team up to date on project plans and progress.
7. Create Clear Communication Protocols
As a remote worker, you must communicate your availability and preferred communication channels to coworkers in other time zones. This can help to reduce delays and miscommunications and ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page.
Another approach is to create a shared calendar or scheduling tool to help coordinate meetings and deadlines across time zones. Our LifeHack team members typically use Calendly to make meeting scheduling easier.
Finding a community to help you feel more connected and supported is an important aspect of remote work.
You can try to make social connections using digital tools. Regular video calls, instant messaging, and virtual team building exercises can help you feel more connected to your coworkers.
Joining online communities or forums related to your industry or profession can also provide social interaction and support. Communities such as Remote Work Community, Digital Nomads World and NomadList facilitate in-person connections between digital nomads and virtual workers.
Make use of co-working spaces and local networking events as well. These opportunities allow you to collaborate with other remote workers, meet new people, and form relationships.
Working remotely is becoming more common, but as a remote worker, you may face difficulties in staying motivated, managing time effectively, and maintaining work-life balance.
The good news is that you can overcome these challenges by setting regular goals, creating an ideal work environment, establishing a routine, using asynchronous communication, leveraging project management tools, establishing communication protocols, and finding a community.
With the right strategies and tools, you can maintain your productivity and performance while also reaping the benefits of remote work.
Featured photo credit: Persnickety Prints via unsplash.com
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