Love it or hate it, remote work is likely here to stay across several different fields or industries.
Sure, many workplaces still require face-to-face interaction—I can't imagine running a restaurant with all your employees working from Zoom, for example. However, more and more schools and jobs are turning to hybrid or remote models, requiring students and employees to complete at least some of their tasks virtually.
Working from home might sound like living the dream, but the day-to-day reality of staying organized and productive isn't always as easy as you'd imagine.
If you're a distance learning student or a remote employee who's struggling to stay on top of things, you're not alone. I've been in your shoes before, but here I am still alive to tell my story!
Consider this list of remote work productivity tips my gift to you, in honor of World Distance Learning Day on August 31st.
Keep reading to learn how to maximize your productivity during remote learning and working from home!
My Remote Work and Distance Learning Story
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced many of us into remote work in the spring of 2020, I’d already been juggling my freelance writing work with my full-time teaching job for 5 years.
Teaching virtual school, however, was an entirely new challenge. My colleagues and I were largely unprepared for the new challenges of remote teaching, as were our students. The first few months weren’t easy, but we all helped each other out to finish the school year successfully.
Now I’m a linguistics graduate student who’s still juggling my remote writing work duties with a mix of blended in-person and online teaching and learning. I’m loving every minute of it, but it’s taken me some time to build a routine that works for me and enables me to get all my jobs done.
I get it—distance learning can be daunting, and remote work feels overwhelming at times. What’s a work-life balance when you’re living and working from home?
That’s why I put together this list of my top 5 tips for working from home effectively! Whether you’re working on school or working a job (or doing both, like me), these tips are guaranteed to help bring a bit of sanity back into your life.
Top 5 Remote Work Productivity Tips from a Freelance Writer & Virtual Teacher
I learned these tips for working from home effectively after spending hours and hours working ineffectively for several years.
Don't be like me! Save yourself time and money by implementing these five tips today:
1. Communicate regularly.
Whether you’re a student or an employee, communication is crucial when you’re working online.
In the classroom, teachers are trained to spot students who are struggling to understand. When your brow crinkles up and you stare at your paper in frustration, your body language tells us loud and clear that you need some help with understanding the task at hand.
However, teachers can’t see those things happening when their students are on the other side of a screen (usually with their webcams turned off). Additionally, virtual school teachers usually have hundreds of students on their roster, which makes it difficult to stay in regular contact with every single student.
In an office setting, your supervisors can easily mill around and see what you’re working on and where you might need help. It’s easy to pop across the room to your coworker and check in with each other.
When you’re working remotely, however, no one can see what you’re doing. Staying in touch with your team will help boost productivity for the whole company, ensuring that everyone is getting the support they need to get their work done.
2. Build in "brain breaks" for yourself.
If you’re thinking that a “brain break” sounds like something you would do in elementary school, you are absolutely right.
Anyone who’s ever worked with young kids knows how quickly they lose focus if you ask them to sit at a desk with a piece of paper in front of them. Children need to move around and play and release all that pent up energy, or else they’ll go insane and drive their teacher crazy with them.
Enter brain breaks.
When I teach elementary students, our “brain breaks” usually look like a few minutes of singing silly songs and breaking out in funny dance moves. With high school students, it often looks more like standing up, stretching, and taking a walk around the room.
No matter how old you are, you still need brain breaks.
Maybe you take a 10-minute dance break. Maybe it’s a walk around the block. Maybe you just need to stand up and stretch. The only rule for brain breaks is that you need to move your body and rest your brain.
3. Create boundaries around your working time and space.
This is an absolute must-do if you hope to get anything accomplished while working and learning remotely. Otherwise, your brain (and the brain of your partner, kids, parents, roommates, or whoever else you may live with) will see you at home and will automatically assume that you are free to chill and do whatever.
Shut that attitude down immediately by placing boundaries around your work time!
Here are some ways to set boundaries around your remote work (with yourself and with others):
Block off a designated space in your home that is just for working
Explicitly tell the people you live with what times you will be working and let them know that you will be unavailable during those times
Move your cell phone away from you while you’re working (turn it upside down, at the very least, so that you don’t see the notifications distracting you!)
Set aside a designated time for eating—away from your computer
Create an environment for yourself that is conducive to focus and concentration
Your own boundaries will look a bit different depending on your situation and circumstances. Take the time to learn what rules you need to set for yourself and others so that you can get your tasks done.
4. Create a schedule for yourself.
In a traditional work environment and school setting, our schedules are usually made for us. The bell rings and signals us to go to the next classroom. The workday ends and signals us to leave the office.
When you’re working remotely, however, you often have to build your own schedule.
I recommend blocking off chunks of time for specific tasks, then following your time schedule regardless of how much you get done within those chunks. Resist the temptation to keep working on a particular task after your allotted time for that task is finished.
Think about how the typical school day or work schedule is structured. When the bell rings, the students leave whether the teacher made it through all the planned material for that day or not. Employees go home at the end of their shift whether they got everything done for the day or not.
The way you chunk your time out will depend on your own duties and responsibilities.
If you’re a student, you’ll want to plan your schedule based around your classes, ensuring that you dedicate enough time for each subject. If you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur, you might want to block out your time by setting aside certain hours for client work and other hours for business maintenance. If you’re an employee, you can build your schedule around the different tasks you have to do each day.
5. Take care of your health.
Distance learning and remote work can take a toll on your health in more ways than you may realize. If you’re not mindful about building a healthy routine for yourself, before you know it you’ll find that the days have slipped by while you’ve been seated indoors and staring at a screen all week.
If you feel like garbage, your work (for school or otherwise) will also likely be garbage.
Staying healthy doesn’t mean that you need to be pumping iron at the gym at 5am every day (if it does, I for one would never be “healthy”). If you can make it to the gym every day, that’s excellent.
For the rest of us “lazy” folks, here are a few simple remote work tips and tricks for staying healthy and fit:
Stay hydrated. Keep your water on your desk!
Protect your eyes—invest in some blue light blocking glasses and make a point of regularly blinking and looking away from your screen.
Incorporate physical activity and exercise into your routine.
Don’t forget to eat well! Plan ahead so you’ll know exactly what you’re eating and when you’re eating it.
Leave the house from time to time. No matter how much you love your house/apartment, you’ll go stir crazy if you don’t go outside or take a ride somewhere every now and then. (Trust me on this. I’m absolutely obsessed with my home but I go nuts if I don’t leave every couple days.)
If you don’t already have a healthy routine in place for yourself, I encourage you to choose just one tiny thing that you can add into your daily life right now. Maybe you drink a full glass of water before you drink your morning coffee. Maybe you add 15 minutes of yoga into your evening before you go to bed.
However you decide to prioritize your health, I promise you that the benefits will show up in your work, school, life, relationships, and more.
Bonus Tip: Get Help
If this list of remote work productivity tips feels overwhelming for you, take a deep breath and choose just one or two things that you can focus on today. As you incorporate these tips into your life as a remote worker or a distance learning student, you will quickly see the payoffs.
Need some help with staying on top of your remote work responsibilities? Millennial Assistants can help. Check out our service packages today to get the support you need!