For many of us, the standard of traditional office work may be a thing of the past.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work options are no longer an anomaly; they’re an expectation held by job-seekers across the country. In fact, Business Insider reported that almost 40% of workers surveyed would consider quitting their jobs if they were forced to return to the office full-time.
In the remote work vs. office debate, there’s a lot to be said for working from home. As millions of Americans found out in early 2020, working remotely can protect us from infectious diseases, cut down on carbon emissions, and even allow for more flexibility during the workday. For those who desire greater ownership over their work, want to spend more time with loved ones, and wish to avoid the rush hour commute, WFH is seemingly the only way to go.
But it isn’t just workers who are happy about this trend. Employers are also discovering the perks of remote work, as work-from-home arrangements can help curb overhead costs and actually boost both morale and productivity among employees.
That said, working from home has its drawbacks. Remote work can feel isolating at times – and with no one looking over your shoulder, distractions and temptations abound. Of course, it can be even harder to stay focused and motivated if you run your own small business or you work on a freelance basis.
And for creatives, in particular, remote work can come with challenges. Whether you’re feeling uninspired or you’re having trouble separating your work life from your personal life, you may not feel as productive as you usually do.
Although we’ve been dealing with this health crisis for the past year and a half, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. By now, many of those who thrived during the early days of lockdown are experiencing the effects of pandemic burnout. Others have decided that now is the best time for a career change, particularly if they felt their previous employers or clients weren’t taking proper precautions. And even if your job has remained the same since March 2020, you might feel stuck and in need of a WFH refresh.
Whatever the circumstances, it’s important for you to feel both creatively fulfilled and motivated to complete your daily tasks. Here are just three ways that you can prioritize productivity (without sacrificing your creative process) as you work remotely.
Divide Up Your Space
Many new remote workers put off creating a dedicated office space at home early on. Since no one knew exactly how long lockdown would last, it didn’t make sense to spend a lot on a fancy setup.
But if you’re going to be working from home for the foreseeable future and for at least part of the time, it’s time to take that step. Chances are that you’ll feel a lot more focused if you have a desk and ergonomic chair than if you’re slumped into the couch with your laptop each morning.
Depending on the kind of work you do, you may want to invest in a standing desk, work table, swivel chair, balance ball chair, or technological equipment. If you’re a full-time employee, it’s possible that your company may help shoulder the cost; if you’re an independent contractor, you may be able to write off these investments on your taxes, particularly if you have a separate room for your office that serves no other purpose.
Speaking of separation, that may be the most important aspect here. You need to clearly divide up the space in your home for maximum productivity and creativity. When work life and home life muddy together, it can be much more difficult to focus during the day or relax at night. Establish separate spaces for business tasks, creative tasks, and non-working hours. This can help you stay in the zone when it’s time to get things done and switch off your brain when you’re done for the day.
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Determine the Best Schedule
One of the great things about flexible work arrangements is that you can figure out when you’re at your best and create a schedule around that.
Simply put, some people simply aren’t ready to work at 8 AM. Others might experience a mid-day slump after lunch. When you’re on the clock but not in the right frame of mind, you might become stressed and have to scramble later on to make up for it.
While some work-from-home programs don’t offer much flexibility, others allow employees to dictate their own schedules. And if you’re an independent contractor, you legally have the right to establish your working hours (regardless of how your clients operate).
If you have the luxury of setting your own schedule, take advantage of this opportunity and figure out how you work best!
You may discover that giving yourself an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to enjoy a cup of coffee, catch up on daily news, and meditate will make all the difference in how productive you are. Alternatively, you might find that you’re more efficient if you have time in the late afternoon to reward yourself with time to yourself. Taking a long lunch break with time for a walk around the park can help you come back refreshed for the afternoon.
While some creatives work best under pressure, others thrive in low-stress environments. Whether you’re beholden to a 40-hour work week or you have the freedom to track your hours and invoice accordingly for work completed, working from home can open up new opportunities for you to feel your best while working. If you can stick to a schedule that’s centered around when you do your best work, you’ll inherently be more productive when it’s time to get down to business.
Set Some Work Boundaries
It’s easy to let your mind wander when you work from home. You might find yourself doom-scrolling on social media or tidying up the kitchen when you should be finishing up a project. You may even be tempted to socialize with a friend when you’re technically on the clock.
Little things will inevitably come up, of course. And there’s nothing that says you can’t take a 10-minute break to enjoy a snack during the workday. That’s one of the great things about working from home!
But to ensure you’re still able to complete the work that needs to get done, it may be wise to set some boundaries for yourself.
That may include discussing your schedule with your family members or housemates to alleviate interruptions, for example. If your kids or partner regularly come to chat or ask for help while you’re working, that can make it extremely difficult for you to focus and get your work done. Setting some ground rules with them for the work day may be warranted.
You may also need to set boundaries with friends and family members who assume that working from home equates to a free-for-all. If you regularly feel pressured to go out to lunch or your parents like to drop by in the afternoon unannounced, that could disrupt your creative process or even cause you to miss an important deadline.
While more people now understand the realities of remote work, make it clear that you’re not available during certain hours or make plans to get together when you don’t have to juggle work obligations at the same time.
In addition, you might want to consider setting some boundaries with yourself for things like social media use. When you’re working on a laptop or if you use a smartphone for your job, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can all be huge distractions.
There are apps available that can restrict your social media use during certain times of the day to help you stay focused. Alternatively, you could use a different device specifically for work that blocks certain websites or that isn’t equipped with anything other than the essentials.
While social media is pretty ubiquitous at this point (and you may even have to use it for work purposes!), it’s easy to fall into bad habits that can derail your productivity. By setting those boundaries for your own well-being, you’ll be better at your job and probably won’t feel as overwhelmed.
Make Working From Home Worth It
Although some creatives love being in an office environment, others blossom when they’re working remotely. Whether you love being part of the WFH workforce or you’re still struggling to adjust, these tips can help you stay productive, engaged, and inspired.