As someone who has worked remote for years now, I know how challenging it can be to stay creative and productive. Remote work can be a real drain!
Sure, the freedom is great and all, but when you work in the same spot (alone) all of the time, it gets stale. Luckily, this guide post shares some of the best ways to stay creative and productive during remote work. Whether you’re working online long-term or just for a while, these are must-have tips.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given a significant number of people the opportunity to experience remote work. In many ways, this can seem like an ideal scenario. You have the ability to operate in a space that is comfortable for you, wear your pajamas to the office (at least, from the waist down during Zoom calls), and cut down your commute time to spend those extra precious minutes with your family. Businesses are also examining whether the shift improves productivity, and if they should implement remote work in the long term.
Of course, it’s not always quite so rosy for everyone. Making your home space and your workspace the same area can make it difficult to leave your job behind at the end of the day. Many people also suffer from not being able to socialize with and bounce ideas off of their co-workers in a physical environment. The combination of isolation and stress may well be leaving you feeling uninspired and less productive than you would like.
In order to keep getting the most out of your career, whether remote operations are a long-term option or just for the time being, you need to adopt strategies that can keep you creative and productive during remote work. Let’s take a moment to examine some of these.
Review Your Environment
While working from home can be enjoyable, it is often your choice of working environment that has a distinct effect upon your ability to be productive. It’s one of the reasons that, prior to the pandemic, of course, so many remote workers and freelancers were using coworking spaces. These provide the benefits of remote work, while also giving a place to go to replicate the atmosphere and organized layout of an office.
As such, you should be taking time to regularly consider your surroundings. Where possible, create a separate space in your home dedicated to your work; this will help you to better divide work life from home life. Invest in some organizational tools — a cabinet, some folders, even stationary holders — these will help you to minimize the clutter that surrounds you, which in turn helps you to better utilize your headspace.
If you live in a busy neighborhood, or with other people, background noise can become distracting. Invest in some noise-canceling headphones, and select some background tunes that can get you through the day.
Your environmental considerations also have to support your physical and mental health. Issues here tend to limit your ability to be productive or creative, but most importantly they have a detrimental effect upon your wellbeing. Where possible, let natural light into your office space — this can help your mood.
Be wary of how spending long periods of time looking at your computer screen over-exposes you to blue light, which in turn can cause eye strain. The headaches and vision issues this leads to will just exacerbate the stress you feel, and limit your ability to function efficiently. Take regular breaks, and if necessary, look into utilizing blue light filtering glasses.
Arrange Your Tools
You can’t be your most productive or creative if you aren’t using tools that are optimized for remote tasks. Home-working requires a different approach to in-office operations, and as such, you need to make sure your employer provides you with the appropriate equipment.
This should include:
- Technology: Often when workers are operating from a remote environment, they are expected to use their own laptop or internet connection. However, this isn’t always sufficient for your working or productivity needs. Therefore you may have to negotiate with your employer about providing you with a company laptop — particularly if they’d previously provided a computer in the office.
- Wifi: While it’s true that generally you’ll be expected to provide your own WiFi, if you’re dealing with particularly sensitive information or need high speeds, arranging provision of a separate connection may be necessary.
- Communications apps: One of the most essential elements for maintaining creativity and productivity while remote is an excellent communications tool. Generally, just a company mobile phone isn’t going to cut it. Many companies have been utilizing platforms — such as Slack or Microsoft Teams — that provide their workers with access to video meetings, text chat, and audio calls.
Optimize Your Day
Next, many remote workers overlook a schedule. In the office, this is usually a baked-in part of the day, so there’s no reason to think too much about it. But when you’re at home, the framework of these schedules usually goes out the window! Therefore you need to take time to optimize your day in a way that makes sense for this new approach to working.
Think about what gets you moving in the morning. Many people actually find their early commute helps to slowly warm them into the day and get them into the work frame of mind. Perhaps build a walk around the block, or even a short drive into the beginning of the day.
Remember that if you do take an early drive there is still rush hour traffic, so exercise appropriate defensive driving techniques — avoiding distractions, controlling your speed — in order to stay safe. Allocate break times to yourself throughout the day; it can be very easy to skip these when you’re already at home. Even if these amount to taking 10 minutes every two hours for some mindfulness and meditation, it can have a positive impact upon your state of mind.
It’s also important to formalize your schedule. Why? Well, we can happily ignore those plans that we keep tucked away inside our heads. When we have a physical document, or a calendar set with alarms to remind us of our schedule, we tend to be more likely to stick with it. However, it’s just as important not to over-schedule here. Leave space to allow yourself to explore your creativity, and to allow spontaneity and innovation to occur.
Remote work can sometimes be a struggle to mesh with — which is a shame, because it can be a boost to creativity and productivity in the right circumstances. As such, you should take time to optimize those circumstances.
By focusing on how your environment, your tools, and your schedule can be adjusted to match your needs, you can find you can better take advantage of this approach to work.
About the guest author
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but professional development topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.
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