Our top 10 life hacks for remote workers
Updated 30th April 2022
The widespread implementation of remote work has been largely successful for a lot of businesses. In fact, many employees are performing just as well or better in their newly remote positions. Even so, telecommuting isn’t without its challenges.
Working remotely for the first time takes some getting used to. It’s easy to feel anxious about whether you’re doing enough. For a lot of people, access to remote options is a fairly new development. There's a lot of pressure to show that you can be trusted to work under your own supervision. So, let’s take a look at some remote work hacks that can make your life much easier.
1. Cut down on unnecessary meetings
Social interactions may be important for remote workers, which we’ll examine further in. But it’s still possible to overegg the pudding with too many meetings. But sometimes, you need an emergency group stand-up. So, the biggest offenders tend to be excessive numbers of recurring meetings throughout the week. This isn’t just a remote work hack, but something that office-based employees should bear in mind as well.
2. Set aside communication time
This is another example of having too much of a good thing. Ongoing communication is great. But, if you’re constantly responding to a flurry of emails and instant messages, it makes it difficult to get into a good workflow. Sometimes, you need to put the “asynchronous” in asynchronous communication. If you’re regularly getting snowed under by work emails, pick points throughout the day to catch up on correspondence.
3. Use status notifiers when you need to concentrate
This is a relatively minor thing. But video conferencing apps like Microsoft Teams usually have a status icon you can change to reflect your circumstances. It’s not exactly hidden, but the fact that you can change it manually is easy to overlook. This lets people tell at a glance if you’re busy, or out of the office. Just don’t set it to “Appear offline” when you’re on the clock, or you might end up in hot water.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a method for tightening your focus and producing work in relatively short increments of time, making one of the best remote work hacks going. It’s great if you find yourself struggling to concentrate, because it encourages you to shake off distractions.
Once you’ve established your goal, set a timer for 25 minutes. When the alarm goes off, take a five-minute break. You could use that time to check your emails or your phone. The pomodoro technique makes it easier to ignore them while the timer is active, or just relax. After five minutes, restart the timer and get back to work. Just remember to take longer breaks every few increments to avoid burnout.
5. Take regular breaks
We’re pushing it a little by including this on a list of remote work hacks. But even if you’re not using the Pomodoro Technique, it’s important to take breaks as a remote worker. For starters, it gives your brain a rest between tasks. And, because remote work is usually pretty sedentary, it’s best to get up and stretch your legs at regular intervals. Not moving for extended periods of time is bad for circulation and posture.
6. Establish a workspace
Having a specific workspace helps you get into that professional mindset easier. It’s best if you can have it be separate from your bedroom, living room, or other personal spaces. But a lot of people don’t just have spare rooms to turn into a home office. So maybe your workspace could just be a specific desk. Improvising might be fine in the short-term. But it’s probably worth investing in professional office equipment, like ergonomic keyboards and chairs.
7. Avoid procrastination bait
Unfortunately, email isn’t the only easy distraction lurking about. We all have those things we default to on computers. Checking our preferred news websites, looking at holiday packages, or scrolling through social media. While it can be tempting to have those things open in the background, it’s best to avoid the temptation. If it’s too much of an issue, take the same approach as with communication. Pick specific points in the day to browse those sites like you were checking your email.
8. Make time for social interaction
This might be surprising on a list of productivity hacks, especially considering the first one was to cut out unnecessary meetings. But workplace friendships enhance productivity, and it’s possible to make time for your teammates without bloating your schedule.
Some of the most important life hacks working from home are the ones that help you stay resilient to the isolation of telecommuting. Having time at the beginning or end of a meeting for a chat, or having a chill-out call with games and music at the end of the week, is a great way to stay connected.
9. Experiment with your schedule
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to stick to a rigid 9-5 like an office worker. One of the biggest remote work hacks is the freedom to play around with your schedule. You can try different shift patterns out to figure out what works best. You could blast through your assignments early in the day. Or you might prefer to follow up your morning group meeting by going for a run before you get started. That is, unless your employer has saddled you with extremely questionable remote productivity tracking software.
10. Set a time to step away from your desk
One of the concerns remote workers are often dealing with is that high levels of productivity can often come at the expense of working late. Remote workers often exhibit presenteeism from the comfort of their own home. But trying to stay focused for several hours at a time is a path to diminishing returns. If anything, knowing that you’ll be clocking off at X time regardless can be the kick up the backside you need to make the most of your core working hours.
2022 bonus: Make time away from your desk part of your routine
Clocking off at a certain time is all well and good. But the hours a full-time employee spends at their workstation takes up most of their day. Remote work wasn't so commonplace before the pandemic. At that point, a lot of remote staff felt judged by colleagues who viewed them as taking it easy. And this sense of guilt still hangs over remote workers today. The fact that remote staff work significantly more overtime than office-based colleagues is just one example.
Telecommuting can sometimes blur the line between our work and personal lives. That means you have to put lines in the sand yourself. So, for the sake of your own wellbeing, set breaks into your daily routine. Have lunch away from your desk. Go for a walk and get out of the house for a bit. Go play a video game if that's how you de-stress. But, whatever you do, just do it somewhere you don't handle your professional responsibilities.
Getting out of work-mode for even half an hour or so can help you mentally recharge and get your second wind. But don't forget what we've said about diminishing returns. Working flat-out for eight hours might seem responsible in the moment. But really, it sells both you and your employer short.
We could feed you remote work hacks all day. But the important thing is that remote workers have the flexibility and autonomy to find the approach that works best for them.