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How to Increase Productivity in a Work from Home, Virtual World

Working from home is now the reality for most of us. Staying productive while working from your couch or kitchen table isn’t always easy because of the numerous distractions of remote work. Family members, barking dogs, ringing doorbells, and spotty WIFI can derail even the most prolific workers. To stay productive as a remote worker it’s vital to understand how to overcome these challenges and elevate your productivity.

Here’s how to boost your remote work productivity.
Plan Your Workday
To stay productive during virtual work, plan your entire workday to work smarter, not harder. Focus on high-priority tasks at the beginning of your day to ensure these assignments get done. When you complete these tasks, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to tackle the next project on your to-do list. Include breaks throughout your day to stay fresh and avoid burnout.

Create a Home Office
When working remotely it’s easy to work on the couch or in your favorite chair. However, one way to increase remote work productivity is to create a home office or a dedicated workspace. This space will allow you to focus on getting tasks done without the distraction of the TV or the fridge. If possible, set up your home office away from the distractions of family, children, or roommates. A quiet place will increase your focus and make it much easier to complete virtual work without constant interruptions.

Establish Regular Work Hours
Create a schedule for yourself so you can complete your work and avoid the black hole of procrastination. Depending on your job, you may have the flexibility to choose your schedule, or you may need to be available during certain times of the day.  Establish regular work hours that support and enable you to optimize your energy, motivation, and attention.

Dress for Work
As a remote worker it’s tempting to hang out at home all day in your favorite sweatpants and t-shirt. However, to boost your productivity dress as if you are headed to work. Why? It will help you stay motivated and avoid feeling sluggish throughout the day. And the daily routine of getting dressed prepares your mind for work and supports your productivity. Dressing for work and staying professional is especially important if you are on a Zoom call with co-workers or if you need to reach out to a customer.

Limit Distractions and Implement the “Stoplight” System
One of the biggest challenges of virtual work is dealing with distractions. Constant interruptions from your “co-workers” who share your home or a loud TV in the background can make it hard to focus while working remotely. Reestablish working agreements with your family or roommates to halt interruptions and restore sanity to everyone’s workday. Implement the “stoplight” system.

Here’s how it works. Each person places a colored square of paper on the edge of their workspace indicating their current level of focus and availability for interruptions. A red square signals that the only reason to be interrupted is if there is an emergency. It is critical that you define an emergency. In our household there are two emergencies – fire and bleeding that cannot be stopped with band aids. A yellow card means you are working on a project that requires a significant amount of focus and concentration, so proceed with caution when interrupting. A green card means you are open and available. And, if you leave your card on red all day every day the system will fail. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Stay Organized
Organization is an essential virtual work productivity strategy. A messy office makes it difficult to focus and makes it easier to lose important documents. One way to avoid this problem is to set a weekly cleaning schedule to ensure everything stays organized and you don’t waste your precious hours searching for misplaced documents.

Take Breaks
Working non-stop may sound productive, but it’s not sustainable over the long-term. To ensure a high level of productivity while working remotely schedule short breaks throughout your day. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine or talk to a family member. This is a great way to get your mind off work and help you relax. Work for 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. You’ll stay energized, engaged, and motivated throughout your workday.  Experiment with different types and lengths of breaks to find what works best for you.

Keep Socializing
One of the most significant drawbacks of remote work is the lack of socialization. Sitting at home behind a computer screen without human interaction can undermine your mental health. Make time to socialize with others throughout your workday, whether it’s a phone call or a video chat with friends or family members. This will break up the monotony of a day and these small social interactions can positively impact your mental health and help you better focus on your job throughout the day.

The Bottom Line
A remote work environment can be a challenge. Dealing with constant distractions and trying to maintain a schedule is often difficult while working remotely. Keeping up with tight deadlines and collaborating with co-workers outside of the office is stressful. However, following a few of these simple tips can help you increase your productivity while working from home.

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