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Working Remotely Amid COVID-19: How to Increase Productivity Outside the Office

The ability to work remotely is important as we navigate COVID-19, but many people aren’t sure how to work from home productively. Try these top tips during this difficult time.

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Mar 13, 20204 minutes

Many teams are making the move to remote work in the midst of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

If your team has recently made the switch to working from home (or is thinking about it in the near-term), here are some tips and best practices to help your team stay productive, maintain trust, and keep the lines of communication open as your business shifts toward remote operations.

How to Work From Home Productively

Make Sure to Prepare

Your home is the safest option for remote work while COVID-19 is still active, so make an effort to create a space that’s welcoming and conducive to getting work done.

It should go without saying, but all employees should be prepared with the technology and tools they need to succeed at working remotely. If you’re working outside of the office, check your calendar and make sure you have what you need for any important events or meetings that are upcoming. Block out the time so people know not to book anything that day. Get approval from your manager, and inform your team by Slack or email to set expectations accordingly.

Set the Scene

Your home is the safest option for remote work while COVID-19 is still active, so make an effort to create a space that’s welcoming and conducive to getting work done. If you perform best with natural light, move your working space near a window to get some sun. For those who need music to stay focused, make sure you’ve got a solid pair of headphones to help block out the rest of the world for a few hours.

Dress the Part

It may sound silly, but dress like you’re going to work anyway. It’s an easy way to give yourself a mental cue that it’s time for work to happen, rather than relaxation. So change out of those pajamas, even if you are at home. It will make you feel more like getting down to work. Wearing your loudest Hawaiian shirt or bright-colored apparel can also give you (and your video conferences) some much-needed delight!

Find Your Groove

Do you work best when it’s quiet, or does silence make you squirm? Find the noise level that’s best for you. According to a study by the Journal of Consumer Research, a moderate level of ambient noise (around 70 decibels) increases productivity more than low and high ambient levels (50 and 85 decibels, respectively). If you’re working in a quiet place, find the music that really makes you tick, or invest in a white noise machine. It will make your workday more enjoyable and more productive.

Related Article: Working Remote During COVID-19? Tips for Workers and Employers

Keep a Schedule

Working from home doesn’t mean you can’t be organized. Schedule your day ahead of time. When are you going to answer emails? What time is that conference call? When will you allow yourself to block out breaks and eat some lunch? Use a timer or calendar alerts to help yourself stay on track. If you lay the groundwork in advance, you’re more likely to adhere to it.

Track Your Time

Once you’ve set a schedule, track how well you actually stick to it. Did you spend 45 minutes writing reports, or did that actually take an hour and a half? Once you’ve got a good idea of the ebbs and flows of your working habits, use that knowledge to keep yourself accountable and productive. If you have concerns about how you’re adjusting to remote work, discuss with your manager. They can support you by helping you identify ideas or opportunities for improving the areas concerning you.

Take Smart Breaks

Nobody is built to concentrate for eight hours straight (or more). Take strategic breaks to boost your productivity. Social scientists suggest a range of times — work for 52 minutes and break for 17, work for 90 then rest a bit. And remember, not all breaks are created equal. Psychology Today suggests that activities like meditation, working out, or helping a colleague make effective breaks because they help with detachment and boost positive emotions. Experiment to find what works best for you.

Related Article: Working Remote During COVID-19? Tips for Workers and Employers

Keep Communication Lines Open

Working remotely can come with a higher level of responsibility. Keep your lines of communication open with your coworkers, boss, and clients by staying on top of emails, keeping Slack open, and letting people know when you’re stepping away from the computer for lunch or a break. This is especially important in the current, constantly changing, environment. There are plenty of alternatives to in-person communication (like phone calls, teleconferencing, and messaging platforms) to help you maintain communication.

Not only will open communication help prevent misunderstandings and establish your credibility as someone who can be relied upon to work independently, but it will demonstrate how teams can pull together to continue working fearlessly in the face of uncertainty and change.

Justworks is monitoring multiple trusted sources including the CDC and WHO, as well as working with our insurance providers and other partners to ascertain the most accurate and current information about the COVID-19 outbreak. As new and verified information becomes available we are communicating it to our community.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.