5 key productivity tips for remote workers

At the 2014 Global Leadership Summit in London, 34% of the business leaders surveyed believed “half their company’s full-time workforce would be working remotely by 2020.” Times, indeed, are changing. With telecommuting on the rise, management and their employees are going have to adopt new beliefs, habits and tools that will positively impact the way they work.

Of course, working remotely comes with its drawbacks. Without surrounding peers and shoulder-peeking supervisors, telecommuters must hold themselves accountable for their own productivity. As workers move away from their cubicles and into home offices, they will need to learn a few tricks for staying productive. Here are five must-follow tips for the remote worker.

Create an entertainment kill-switch

Connect all of your entertainment devices to a power strip that you can easily turn off at the flip of a switch. While this isn’t foolproof (you can easily turn it back on), the added step may be enough of a deterrent to keep you from watching ESPN or Food Network all day.

For your computer, use programs like SelfControl (for Macs) or SelfRestraint (for Windows) to “block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet.” When your boss isn’t around, watching one YouTube video or reviewing your Facebook feed can seem harmless. An hour later, you’ll have wondered how you got yourself into this mess.

To keep your recreational impulses and wandering mind in check, make access to entertainment hard. This way, you’ll have to think twice before you let the Internet or TV steal your productivity.

Design a dedicated work space

To avoid blurring the lines between where you sleep and where you work, select a dedicated work space. (This may also come in handy during tax season.) Choose a chair, desk and room that will solely be used for work. Avoid using it for other purposes and, most importantly, do not work in bed.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests, “It is best to take work materials, computers and televisions out of the sleeping environment.” This helps to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. “If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.” Doing so allows you to get a more restful sleep every night so you will wake up feeling refreshed and ready to seize the work day.

To build the perfect home office, check out Lifehacker’s top tips.

Exercise, rest and sunlight

Sitting at your desk all day, especially at home, can be depressing. In between tasks, take your eyes off the computer and enjoy a brisk walk around the block. A break from your work, a bit of light exercise and some extra sunlight can help increase your happiness, boost your productivity and get your creative juices flowing.

According to a 2014 study by Stanford researchers, “Walking had a large effect on creativity. Most of the participants benefited from walking compared with sitting, and the average increase in creative output was around 60%.” Feel free to step away from your desk a couple times during the day to recharge. The 3-5 minutes you invest in an outside stroll can easily enhance your work performance.

Good, healthy food

Eat a light and healthy breakfast to start your day on a good note. Avoid rolling out of bed and straight into your desk. The mind needs time to adjust after a good night’s sleep and your body needs proper fuel before you can effectively spring into action.

When it is time for lunch, take advantage of your kitchen and cook a wholesome meal for yourself. Resist the urge to order delivery or take-out to save energy and time; these options are rarely better for you than foods you can make at home.

According to Ron Friedman for Harvard Business Review, “Unhealthy lunch options also tend to be cheaper and faster than healthy alternatives, making them all the more alluring in the middle of a busy workday. They feel efficient. Which is where our lunchtime decisions lead us astray. We save 10 minutes now and pay for it with weaker performance the rest of the day.” With just the right ingredients, you can cook any number of meals in under 30 minutes, and savor every last bite before your lunch hour is up. You’ll feel better about your life choices and you won’t have greasy or heavy foods weighing your productivity down for the remainder of your work day.

Morning and afternoon sync ups

In his 2010 TEDxMidWest talk, software entrepreneur Jason Fried made a shocking statement: “Work doesn’t happen at work.” His point was that the traditional office offers too many involuntary distractions and interruptions due to meetings, miscellaneous chatter and a never-ending stream of urgent questions from colleagues.

“Very, very few people actually have long stretches of uninterrupted time at an office,” Fried said. Hard work is rarely done in 15-minute blocks in between meetings. In his experience, Fried found that, “especially with creative people — designers, programmers, writers, engineers, thinkers — that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done.”

Fortunately, when people work from home, they can designate when and how coworkers can reach them. Therefore, remote workers should schedule specific hours when virtual office interactions are permissible. Outside of those time blocks, telecommuters can tackle big projects that require their full attention. Beginning of day and end of day sync ups are logical options to ensure important action items and progress are communicated before anyone starts their work day and when people are preparing to check out.

How do you stay productive when you telecommute?

Post by Danny Wong

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award winning menswear company focusing on luxury made-to-measure garments) and does marketing at Grapevine (a platform that drives eCommerce, helping retailers partner with YouTube celebrities). Tweet him @dannywong1190