Here at Teamdeck, we have always embraced the concept of virtual teams, so the goal of this blog post would normally be to help you see the benefits of working from home.

Granted, we still think that remote work is a great choice for companies. Surveys show that it can be more effective than keeping your employees in the office, plus many workers actually prefer to work remotely.

However, the reality of the situation is that remote work is no longer a perk some businesses opt to offer. In times of the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home is no longer a question of preference, but rather a necessity for millions of people.

What about the productivity of newly remote employees? It’s not always great. A report from Slack shows that 31% of people who have only recently started working remotely admit that their productivity at work suffers. The same sentiment is much less common among seasoned remote workers: only 13% say that working from home has negatively affected their productivity.

In this blog post, we’ll try to share our productivity tips that apply to experienced and new remote workers. We’ve divided our tips into two groups. First, you’ll read about ways to make your work more productive as a remote employee. Towards the end of this blog post, we’ll also share some advice for company and team leaders.

Remote productivity tips for you

We tried to tailor all of our tips to the situation we’re facing at the moment. However, depending on where you live and how you work, the restrictions and conditions you experience may differ. Feel free to take our advice and adapt it to your particular case. And first and foremost: be kind to yourself, especially in these difficult times. 

Build your workstation

Chances are that your work performance is less than optimal because you constantly feel distracted and out-of-place when working remotely. It’s not unusual—working in the same place where you spend the rest of your life is challenging. Normally, we would suggest you change your environment by working in a coffee shop or at a coworking spot.  Of course, that’s not an option for most of us nowadays. But even if you have to stay home with your kids, pets, family members, etc., you can still try to make your home office better. Keep in mind that even though severe restrictions are temporary, it doesn’t mean that your remote work station should be half-baked—put some effort into creating a space you enjoy working from.

Start with collecting the equipment you need to work efficiently and effectively. If you can physically take the equipment (your laptop, screen, keyboard, etc.) from your office, take advantage of this opportunity. Don’t forget about headphones that can help you switch to the “work mode”.

Pick the right workspace: ideally, you want to be able to “come” and “leave” the home office every day. If you can dedicate a separate room to your remote office space, that could be an excellent solution. Of course, not everyone can afford to do that, but even using one corner of one of your rooms as the “working area” will help you feel more at work.

Now that you’ve chosen the right space, try to suit the workspace to your needs. Perhaps you feel unproductive when seated all day? Office workers have multiple opportunities to move: attending meetings and going for lunch—when you work from home, it’s easy to spend all day in one position. Sure, you may not be able to recreate the usual office schedule, but you can use a standing desk (even a makeshift one) for your work calls and introduce other physical activities. Your body will feel much better.

If you’re struggling with distractions, a solution would be to protect your workspace by installing an “I’m at work” sign. It could be a written sign (especially if you’re dealing with curious family members), or even a scented candle that you light at the beginning of the day. Not only will it signify that you’re currently busy, but it will also become a small focus-inducing ritual for you.

One last thing: clean your workspace regularly. It may become a nice afternoon habit or something you do on Sundays to get ready for the week. Working in a clean and organized environment can positively affect your productivity.

Introduce habits that enhance productivity

If you’re not used to working from home, it’s normal to feel slightly lost and unsure of your work routine. Here are some ways for remote employees to organize their work and get things done.

  • Implement some time management techniques: remote work is different from office work, so you might need to look for new ways to manage your time. Me and two other Teamdeck employees have tried a couple of them and recapped our experiences in a blog post. I admit that I still resort to the technique I tried, deep work, every time I need to pull off a difficult task. It helps me to stay on track and keep my productivity level very high, especially when working remotely.
  • Make checklists – in order to get something done, you need to know what exactly there is to do! Many companies use project management tools to keep track of tasks, but remote workers may also create their own checklists. Write down what you want to do on a given day/week/by the end of the month and keep checking off tasks—it feels amazing!
  • Prioritize tasks – being able to put your tasks in order is always handy, but having clear priorities is even more essential when you work remotely. We have recently published a blog post about project task prioritizing, but you will find the techniques listed there useful even if you’re not a project manager.
  • Track your time – many remote employees find themselves feeling that they didn’t accomplish much in their workdays. Time tracking could be your opportunity to a) acknowledge the hard work you do b) find improvement areas. For instance, if you spend very little time on productive work and instead have to waste time digging through files looking for important visual assets, that’s your cue to optimize something (e.g., clean up your team’s virtual drive so that you spend less time on searching key files). 
  • Take some breaks. We know that it’s easy to forget about them when you stay at home. In reality, getting at least a couple of minutes to recharge your batteries is essential. Granted, you might not be able to go for a walk or grab lunch outside, but the least you can do is to do some stretching exercises and walk around your home. Speaking of lunch—try not to eat it next to your computer as you’re typing out emails. Instead, sit at the table and relax: it’s a well-deserved break.
  • Pay attention to how you communicate: you may feel like you always express your thoughts in a very clear way, but effective communication in a remote team is a whole different ball game. Double-check if your messages are understandable and don’t leave any room for doubts. It will allow you and your remote team members to be more productive.

Take care of yourself

When you work from home, it’s easy to lose the sense of “where work ends and life begins”, and as a result, sacrifice your work-life balance. This is why it’s so important to remember that working remotely doesn’t equal working always. Stick to your traditional working hours or plan periods during which you will work. Notify your teammates about the end of your workday. You can do it by sending them a message or setting an appropriate status on your chat app.

It’s also essential to keep in touch with your colleagues. Many office workers will definitely feel the lack of friendly interactions when switching to remote work. Make time for casual chats with your colleagues and reach out to them to see how they’re doing.

Last but not least, practice self-care. It’s absolutely essential that, during these difficult times, you find some activities that make you feel better. Listen to your favorite podcast, do a facial, or put in a great workout: do whatever keeps your spirits up.

What can leaders do about their remote teams’ productivity?

Switching from office work to remote work may be difficult for you and your office workers turned remote employees. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ease the transition and increase the productivity of your remote workers.

  • Define roles & goals clearly. It’s always important, but especially with people working from different locations. When your employees know what is expected of them and what they should accomplish, scheduling and prioritizing tasks will be easier for them.
  • Communicate the company’s strategy to your remote workers. People who work at home may find it difficult to focus on different tasks when they don’t see the big objective behind them. Make sure that your employees know what they should be doing and why they should be doing that.
  • Facilitate non-work-related communication. Remote workers who used to work together may struggle to receive the same level of casual human interaction. Luckily, you can organize online meetups for your teammates, so they can hang out together and chat about their lives. Apptension, which is the software house Teamdeck has been built at, started organizing virtual coffee <br>eaks (we do love our programming lingo). Each of these meetings has a different lifestyle-related theme (e.g. meditation or fitness) and employees can share their experiences and simply chat with each other.
  • Use tools that support remote collaboration and communication. Chat and video call apps are essential, but there are more types of software you should be looking at. Project management apps can help your employees manage projects and keep track of their progress. Resource management tools, on the other hand, help to keep a balanced workload and plan the work of your teams. Want to learn more about how resource management may help your company when making a switch to remote work? Use this invitation to schedule a free consultation with Teamdeck’s customer success experts. We’ll show you how your particular company may benefit from proper resource scheduling, time tracking, and managing the availability of remote employees in one tool.
  • Educate your team—tell them about good practices and share interesting resources. You can find several posts on our blog that could be useful for you and your employees: a guide to work-life balance for project managers, tips for effective remote communication, ideas for remote team-building.

We hope that this blog post gave you some ideas for increasing the productivity of remote workers, whether you’re a team leader or an employee who works from home. Do you have other tips on this topic? Share them in the chat—we’d love to hear from you. Stay safe and keep up the good work!

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