6 Tips on How to Be Productive While Telecommuting

6 Tips on How to Be Productive While Telecommuting

This post by Aki Libo-on from Search Engine Journal is part of Hubstaff’s “Remote Work Month” series. In them, some of the most authoritative sources in the world of remote work, share their best advice on how to succeed as a professional, and a team, while telecommuting. Follow and participate in the discussion on Twitter with #goremote.

Technology has changed the way people work.

It opened doors for telecommuting opportunities. Meaning, people now have the capability to work within the comforts of their home.

In an article on The New York Times, the American Community Survey revealed that telecommuting increased to 79 percent from 2005 to 2012. Moreover, telecommuters made up 2.6 percent of the American workforce.

Telecommuters come from different backgrounds. But there are common denominators on why it’s appealing to work from home.

For one, it lets them avoid the long commute. It also gives them the freedom to choose who they work with, where they work from, and what hours they work.

Yet, the relative freedom telecommuting gives can make you susceptible to procrastination. Sleeping all day is more enticing than grinding, and putting off work can be so tempting.

So, how can you stay productive while telecommuting?

Find out what are the 6 hacks to staying productive while #telecommuting with @AkiLiboon from @sejournal Click To Tweet

1. Have a Dedicated Work Space

Setting a dedicated space where you could work is important for telecommuting. This is where you put boundaries between your work and your surrounding.

Placing your office desk in the living room would be a bad idea. That’ll make you susceptible to distraction like your TV or the screaming kids. As success coach, Danielle Howell, writes:

“It’s important to remember that your environment and your surroundings are very critical elements when you’re working from home. If you’re not comfortable in your home office, your productivity will decrease and your work will suffer.”

Your work space can be a spare room or an empty corner somewhere in your house that’s far from distraction. It can also help to establish headphone rules at home. Just make sure that someone will inform you if it’s meal time or if the house is on fire.

It’s not good to work in your bedroom either. Working in your bed is like telling your brain that it’s for things other than sleeping. According to Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine, it weakens the “mental association between your bedroom and sleep.” Plus, working in bed can have a negative effect on your posture because you are not sitting properly.

Aki's work desk

Aki’s work desk

This is why my work desk is not in the bedroom. The space I own faces the window because I love the sunlight. What’s the use of living in a tropical country if I don’t enjoy it, right? Moreover, it prevents me from telling myself that I can work at night so it’s okay to sleep all day.

Not to mention that there’s this cardinal rule that the bed is for sleep and sex only.

Working in bed will ruin your good sleep hygiene, while your bed will just tempt you to doze off instead of hustle.

2. Get the Right Equipment

Aside from a dedicated workspace, you also need the right equipment. Well, the “right equipment” will depend on the nature of your work.

If you’re a graphics designer, you might need a computer with a large monitor, lots and lots of hard drive to save your work, and a drawing tablet. If you’re a writer, you’ll need a decent laptop, word processor, and access to dictionary and thesaurus. If you’re a podcaster, you’ll need a headphone with noise cancellation features and all those software you need for audio editing.

This is not to dissuade you from telecommuting, but the right equipment is also an investment. Without it, you’ll have a difficult time being efficient.

You may not afford to buy the right equipment now, but there are ways that you can save money for it.

3. Work Your System

Working from home can be overwhelming—especially if you’re a freelancer. One day you’re working your usual routine, and then unprecedented changes will disrupt you.

Knowing how to organize and re-organize your day is crucial in times like these. This is when task manager tools come in handy.

I like to use Todoist because it allows me to drag and drop tasks when I need to regroup. Plus, it gives me an overview of how my day and week looks like. So, if I notice that I have too many tasks for Monday and a bit of slack on a Wednesday, I can just reschedule some of them.

Another thing you can do is to delegate some of your tasks. This is a good idea if you work with a team. If you notice that you’re putting off a particular task over and over, it’s about time that you hand it to someone who can do it.

Better yet, outsource it.

4. Look for Workflow Bottlenecks

Another way to be an efficient telecommuter is to look for workflow bottlenecks.

This is easy if you have workflow documentation. Otherwise, take the time to learn how an entire process works from beginning to end.

Say, you are part of an editorial team. See which parts of the process are redundant and which are unnecessary.

Do you need to check a blog post on Copyscape twice? Or would it be better if you can check it before scheduling, when you’re done with all the edits and changes? Do you think having your editorial guideline on an open document would be a good idea?

At Search Engine Journal, our editorial guideline and publishing process is available to the public. Why? Because it will save us time if our contributors know what we look for in a post before submitting anything. It can also save them from the heartache of having their post rejected after days of working on it.

Don’t be afraid of pointing out some workflow bottlenecks and suggesting a workaround. You’re not cutting corners here. In fact, your team will thank you if you can find a way to make a process less overwhelming.

5. Have Time for Human Interaction

Sure, working from home is cool. You get to earn and pay your rent without leaving the house. Not to mention that it’s entertaining to see your landlord being boggled on where you get the money.

But there’s also a downside to it—the depletion of your social life (gasp!). In fact, the Ipsos 2011 survey reveals that 62 percent of remote workers feel social isolation.

Here’s the thing: You don’t need to work 100 percent of the time just to be productive. Breaks and days off keep you from burnout, thus, restoring your sanity.

Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project explains:

“When demand in our lives intensifies, we tend to hunker down and push harder. The trouble is that, without any downtime to refresh and recharge, we’re less efficient, make more mistakes, and get less engaged with what we’re doing.”

In case you forgot how to interact, start by not taking your meal in your workspace. Have lunch and dinner with your family instead. Dining tables exist to encourage family members to eat together and go about their day. Use it well.

It would be beneficial if you can give yourself a reason to leave the house. I’m talking about workshops and weekly classes.

Back in 2014, I attended a Korean language class. Doing so prompted me to leave the house early every Thursday morning. That went on for 12 weeks.

Aside from being able to meet new people, it made me feel smart because I can now speak three languages (Filipino, English, and Korean)! Cool, right?

You can also attend meetups and networking events. This is not just a great way to socialize but it also helps expand your professional network. At SEJ, we take advantage of conferences to get together—just like what we always do at Pubcon.

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The key here is finding the time to hang out. “Busy” should never be an excuse.

6. Give Yourself a Break

Yes, you read it right. You can be productive by giving yourself a break. And I’m talking about in-between breaks, days off, and holiday breaks.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, you don’t have to work 100 percent of the time you’re at home. You also need to stand up and stretch. According to the Cornell University Ergonomics Web:

“Sitting for more than one hour has been shown to biochemical changes in lipoprotein lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue rather than these being metabolized by muscle, and extensive sitting also relates to heart disease risks.”

In short, sitting for long hours can cause heart disease and weight gain (especially in your mid-section).

CUErgo recommends to use a workspace that promotes good posture, and then stand and move every 20-30 minutes. You can use a Pomodoro Timer app to remind yourself to stand up and stretch.

It’s also important to establish your day off. Not taking a break is a bad habit, and it can jeopardize your health and the life you’re supposed to live. As Allison Gabriel, assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University puts it:

“There is a lot of research that says we have a limited pool of cognitive resources. When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

So take the time to step back and recharge your mind. Disconnecting from your work and the Internet is good for your health.

How do you stay productive while telecommuting? Let us know in the comments.

Now you know what it takes to remain productive as a remote worker, find out what are the essential skills you need to possess to convince employers to hire you as a remote worker. And don’t forget to participate in the discussion on Twitter with #goremote.

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