Many of us now find ourselves more than seven months into our remote working adventure. The coronavirus pandemic continues to be the pressure issue in society, and people everywhere are still adjusting to the "new normal" of working life.
As we head into the winter months, many countries around the world find themselves facing the prospect of greater lockdown restrictions.
However, some of us have yet to master the art of working from home.
People are finding themselves uncomfortable, unable to balance the demands of being home 24 hours a day with recreating the productivity of a typical office. As a result, their motivation and productivity are dropping significantly.
It’s not too late, though. Optimizing your workspace is something you can get started on at any time. In this article, we’ll guide you through some key points to consider and how you can implement them into your new (fully optimized) remote working setup.
Now more than ever, health in the workplace should be a top priority.
You might think working from home would be both safer and more comfortable than being chained to your generic desk in a generic, grey office. After all, you have all your home comforts around you. Ask anyone who’s worked from home for an extended period, though, and you’ll soon realize there are common issues with remote working and that a spare room or bedroom desk isn’t going to cut it.
That’s why, when you’re planning your remote working space, you need to make genuine considerations for how comfortable and easy a space it’s going to be to perform to your expected standard.
Consider every little detail. Is your desk big enough for two monitors? Do you have the right chair for proper back support working a 9-5 day? Does your shared house bedroom have the right level of natural light, especially throughout these coming winter months?
Consider asking your manager if there is a way you could get the equipment to make your feel more comfortable, or finding the optimum room in the house to work from. Employers should be considerate of the part they can play in optimizing this working from home experience.
Because well-being is not just a case of whether or not you’re developing RSI (repetitive strain injury) — you need to also consider your mental health. Create a workspace from home you feel emotionally comfortable in. The pandemic has presented issues for both young families and generation rent. It’s hard to get the privacy you need, and locking yourself away isn’t the most emotionally sensible idea either. Optimizing your workspace means knowing when to step out of it, to give your body and mind a rest.
Find tools and technology that work for you
A huge reason many companies have been able to not just stay afloat, but essentially operate with business as usual throughout this pandemic is down to the litany of fantastic digital tools at our disposal.
Staples of day-to-day office life — from meetings to creative collaborations — have been replicated through the medium of highly intuitive and accessible remote work tools. And while many of us are really starting to tire of Zoom calls, there’s no denying that this sense of normality and everyday human interaction has been a crucial part of the success remote working has achieved.
With this in mind, a huge part of optimizing is not necessarily throwing money at a bunch of expensive digital tools everyone is using, but making sure you find the ones that gel with your approach to working and your role.
Project management tools, in particular, are essential in this day and age. In a world where trying to corral a team requires multiple direct messages, app updates, and sending out numerous calendar invites, it helps to have all of this directed to one app.
Physical tools are equally important. While the difference between one laptop and another might not seem so important at first glance, forcing someone to work from home on a Mac when they’re used to a Windows PC will make them significantly less productive. Don’t be afraid to insist on the right tools and be ready to use your personal optimization as an excuse.
To really optimize your working from home set up you need to consider the challenges that exist at home that stop you from completing typical office tasks and find solutions for them. Whether that’s protecting sensitive information, connecting to any display, or collaborating on projects as a team, it’s crucial you find the tools to help you do just that.
Life in lockdown has blurred the boundaries between work and home.
The advent of mass remote working has led to many people working more hours than they regularly would, with the idea of jumping onto a few emails in the evening more tempting than ever before.
However, this attitude of never being able to switch off from work has potentially disastrous consequences, and it is absolutely not an optimal way to conduct yourself.
Part of optimizing your time on the clock is making sure you clearly understand when you’re off it. Creating a boundary between your work and home life is essential, whether it’s a mental or a physical one. For many people, it’s a case of both.
While the renting generation faces little choice, try and avoid working in your bedroom. Not only does this leave you trapped in one room for 90% of the day, but it dilutes your ability to sleep there comfortably.
Make sure you have a space you can step out of and close off for the evening. It’s important not to be reminded of work when you’re trying to relax, or tempted to play and relax when you’re trying to work.
Communication is key
Working remotely is a physically and mentally challenging endeavor.
No matter how good your home office or collection of devices, nothing can really replicate that feeling of being around people in the office, sharing ideas and just enjoying some idle chit-chat during wind down time.
That casual interaction, more than anything, is what we’re lost in the pandemic.
There are ways you can try and implement more social interaction into your remote working life however, and it involves integrating communication into your digital setup.
Ensure your business is one that understands the importance of digital communication tools. Everyone knows about video meetings, but having a Slack channel open for everything from creative project work to random chatting is crucial for ensuring you get information fast and have the chance to reset.
Create a workspace that isn’t closed off. There will be times you need to shut the door and get your head down into a long-term project, but mostly you’ll need to replicate the social aspect of an office and how little conversations can spark ideas and re-ignite energy in equal measure.
Keep your bedroom office door open, create a separate Zoom room just for everyday chatting and have a chat when you make a cup of tea, rather than scrolling through Twitter. Emotional streamlining and optimizing are just as important as physical solutions.
Remote working success stories
Practical advice can be hard to apply to your own workplace or routine without first seeing some examples of it working in the real world.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few companies and individuals that have found a way to thrive in a remote working environment and act as a shining example for us on both a personal and professional level.
Project management tool providers Basecamp had a bit of a head start when it came to the pandemic. They have offices in 26 countries across the world, with a modern approach to flexible working. Employees can essentially work wherever they like, as long as they’re at their most productive.
While this 2020 hindsight might not mean much to businesses struggling to work from home now, it can teach you a lesson about preparing for the worst-case scenario. You don’t need to become an enterprise full of doomsday preppers, but think about where your business could become more flexible and don’t shy away from new technologies.
Staying on the tech industry trend, social media management tool developers Buffer have long thrived as a business that offers remote working flexibility. Employees have been enjoying working from bedrooms or cafes for years, with generous social packages including gym membership to keep them in touch with society.
As the pandemic swept the world, Buffer’s policy of allowing employees greater autonomy of their hours and how they split them up throughout the day and different projects has helped keep productivity stable.
SaaS business Hotjar have not just found continued success throughout this prolonged remote working period, they’ve been able to bring more people along for the ride. If your job involves hiring, you need to find the smoothest way to handle that process.
While Zoom interviews are an almost necessary evil now, HR and hiring professionals should follow Hotjar’s lead and focus on building a workplace and setup that builds company camaraderie. Your desk might be productive, but what about your digital set up? Can you reach out to people in the company quickly?
These are just three examples of businesses thriving in a COVID world. From eCommerce to digital conferencing, many businesses have found not just new opportunities in the pandemic, but an opportunity to streamline the way they approach work. While many of the businesses have powered through on name value and built up capital alone, incredible ingenuity has been shown which can inspire your remote working setup.
Remote working myths to avoid
As a final point before we go, let’s address a couple of common ‘myths’ about working from home, and how you can optimize your mindset by avoiding them.
Myth 1: Remote workers are lazy
One for the bosses and bottom ladder rung workers in equal measure here.
A productive remote worker is not one who goes above and beyond. As discussed, a vacuum of the traditional work distractions does not mean you employees should be putting more hours in by default. Remote workers are attentive, productive and actually working more hours than before in this pandemic situation.
Business owners need to leave workers to develop and get into the remote working groove at their own pace. Pushing them will only slow the optimizing process and leave them resentful. Employees need to be aware of the perception of them and perhaps learn from them. Maybe working with Friends in the background isn’t the best idea.
Myth 2: Remote working gives you more time
While in many ways this is actually true, with remote working cutting out commuting time every day, it is actually a myth in practice for many.
As mentioned in the earlier point, remote workers are actually spending more time logged on and on the clock. Then you should also consider how fast time flies working remotely. With little to break up the days in a lockdown situation, you can find the time slipping away and the temptation to check emails growing.
To get around this, you need to force yourself to make time. It will not come naturally. Take longer lunches, use your evenings for yourself and start at a time when you’re most productive.
Optimizing yourself and your set up for remote working is more than buying a brand-new desk and having a coffee ready and waiting for you at 9am. It’s a state of mind, a sense of community (even if it’s virtually), and having everything in you need to be the best you can be.
These tips will help you lead not just a more optimized remote-working life, but a happier one. And happiness and positive thinking in your work life is a crucial step to being more productive and creative.