Telecommuting continues to climb in popularity among workers and employers, hitting 37% in 2015 according to a recent Gallup poll. Interestingly, that study also states that remote employees were just as productive as in-house teams.
While it may appear that way from the corporate perspective, any remote employee will tell you that they face some unique challenges when the watchful eye of leadership disappears.
“Losing that structure provided by a regular office job can be detrimental to success,“ warns Andrew Rosen, founder and editor of the career advice blog Jobacle.com in a conversation with Glassdoor.
“People who do it well are entrepreneurial,” says Gary Swart, former chief executive at oDesk (now Upwork.com) “They work well independently.”
There’s no Q&A chart to help you recognize whether or not you’re entrepreneurial, but there is a good chance you can identify when your productivity is slipping as a remote worker. If you want to change your habits and give your productivity a permanent boost, just follow these tips:
1. Commit to specific working hours
One of the perks of working remote is the freedom to adjust your working hours from day to day. You don’t necessarily have to work that 9-5, but you do need to make a schedule for yourself. Some people operate better at night, others work best with a late start midday, but the universal truth is that remote employees who commit to working specific hours as if they were in an office are more likely to get work done during those hours.
Whatever hours are best for you are the hours you should commit to.
Want to level up this tip? If you really want to stay motivated, get out of your pajamas. Dress for work to help set the tone and keep you focused. You don’t have to put on a suit and tie to work at your dining room table or the local coffee house, but do try to dress in something that doesn’t make you look like a model for Sleepy Time Tea.
2. Put up walls
Not literally, though that’s one way to keep people out. Your family isn’t likely to hound you at your office job, but when they know you’re working remotely at home, they’re far more likely to come knocking. Less restraint on their part equals big distractions for you. The same goes for your spouse and children.
Dave Tate from Lifehacker says, “I was very stressed with the noise of my kids and the general stress they cause when you do concentration-based work. I felt like a bad dad because I would have to tell them 8 times that I wasn’t done yet with work.”
Make it known to family, friends and those you live with that your time is important and they have to respect it. It may take some time to get everybody on the same page, but it’s a necessary evil.
3. Define your workspace and own it
Remote work provides access to a lot more comforts than the office, but in order to be productive, you must set some (or all) of those comforts aside. You need a workplace, and it can’t be in front of your television. Mixing work and entertainment can be a productivity killer: ‘Just a few minutes on the Xbox’ can turn into an hour you won’t get back.
A desk, a separate room as an office, an enclosed porch – wherever you set up for work, make that your workspace for the majority of what you do. Once you define, it you can optimize it.
Get yourself organized and add some things to make that work space more comfortable, ultimately improving your focus and productivity. Some people recommend using various shades of greens or adding plants. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers show that the mere presence of plants in a work setting can boost your attention.
4. Keep your tasks organized with a to-do list or a task program
Few people can keep all of their tasks in mind as they sort through what needs to be done. There’s no shame in creating a task list. It will keep you on track and reduce your chances of procrastinating.
Avoid tasks on sticky notes. Instead use a notebook, whiteboard, daily planner or a free cloud-based task-tracking tool.
I know you might be thinking, “But I work best up against a deadline.” That’s a good way for a remote worker to burn themselves if ever there was one. Don’t let heavy procrastination kill your productivity. Avoid it by breaking your day into scheduled blocks, with tasks fit within each block of time. That way, you’ll know immediately what needs to be done at what time.
5. Firewall your attention
There is absolutely no way you’re going to get a presentation completed, reply to email threads and research the next project when you’re stuck in a YouTube black hole. The average American spends over 3 hours each day nose-first in social media, so you can imagine the kind of impact that’s going to have on your productivity.
Save the social posts, video clips, news, surfing Reddit and browsing Pinterest for the short little 5-10 minute brain breaks you sprinkle 2 or 3 times throughout your day. When it’s not a scheduled break to give your mind a rest, keep those sites shut down.
If you have the social apps and notifications set up on your mobile device, shut those down as well to remove any added temptation.
6. Control your email
This isn’t a set-in-stone recommendation because it really boils down to the kind of communication expectations that are set for you and your organization. That said, it’s a good idea to leave your email off and out of sight to minimize the distractions and for good reason. A McKinsey Global Institute study found that the average worker spends 13 hours a week on email – that’s over a quarter of the average workweek.
It’s true there’s value in rapid responses, especially if you’re dealing directly with customers and clients who appreciate a quick reply. If you can do it, try to limit your email review and responses to specific windows throughout the day. Limiting communication can help you reclaim a lot of those lost hours. Remember, if people really need to reach you in an emergency, they can always call you.
7. Stop being a multitasking maverick
Save for a very select few people, multitasking just doesn’t work. In fact, researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London studied over 1,000 workers and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a significant decrease in IQ – as high as 10 points. According to the study, this essentially equates to losing a full night of sleep.
If you want to maximize your productivity, focus and bang out one task at a time. It’s that simple.
8. Meetings meetings meetings
Unnecessary meetings still happen in virtual workspaces. Whether you’re in the office or not, meetings can turn into unproductive time wasters if they drag on with idle chatter or are poorly organized.
To avoid getting sucked into unnecessary remote meetings, make sure there are always detailed agendas (provided by your or the host) to keep everything on track. It’s a little thing for sure, but when combined with the tips above, you’ll find your productivity as a remote worker skyrocketing.
This article was written by Sujan Patel from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.