Grind don’t stop! Find Balance in Working Remotely Over the Summer

Working remotely is a good way to get back some control over your life and schedule and the benefits are immense.

You can work while in your pajamas, there is no more commuting, and that translates to saving you tons of resources in terms of time, energy and money especially if there was a colossal distance between your home and workplace. While you are still reveling at the perks of working from home, marinate on the idea of no longer having to kick your heels at the end of a long, strenuous day. On matters productivity, according to one study conducted by Pitt-Catsouphes, Marchetta, productivity was seen to increase to 30% from 10% for those working from home offices. Doherty et al, Pratt has shown that remote staff work 50-75 hours per week, averaging consistently longer than their coworkers at headquarters.

Whether you are on remote work or daily commute, we can all sing from the same hymn sheet that the line between personal life and work life is getting thinner and thinner by the day. However, working remotely can be a quick escape down the rabbit hole in terms of taking over your personal territory and time.

The biggest culprits of that quick trip down the burn-out track are lack of boundaries and self-management skills. Your computer and files are always on sight, the cozy feel that a home brings is also a heavy temptation to procrastinate and chances of you getting distracted are immense given the familiar sights, smells and sounds of your abode. The situation worsens when guilt enters the equation, whereby one feels the need to prove their worth by overcompensating for the lack of face time. In summary, there is a foggy contrast to separate your work and personal life.

There are five habits that one can embrace so as to enhance their productivity during work time and still turn remote work into what it was designed for, an aid to a more flexible life and a better work-life fit.

Designate Your Work Space

Do you know what this means? Do not work from your bed.

You should be comfortable, not cozy. This is crucial because, before anything else, you might want to set the mood for working. Set firm work-home boundaries and don’t mix your “work environment” and “home environment”. Having a home office is obviously the best idea, the big desk with all the supplies on it, the executive office chair you name it, just the right items to set the grinding mood running. What happens when you don’t have a home office? One of the must-have-items for working remotely is a desk chair, at least one thing or place thing that is sacred where work gets done. This is not only good for your work ethic but also your back. The punch line is to have a specific space and item(s) in your home that indicates your area and tools of work.

Create a morning routine

Strict boundaries, check. Designated working area? Check. Next is to create a morning routine that will help your brain transition from “home environment to “work environment”. Do not just hop over to your computer the minute you wake up and sign on. I mean the temptation to quickly fire off one pending thing is great, but the risk of experiencing a burn-out by the end of the week is even greater. You might think that you will send a very brief email to that hot lead but what you end up doing is getting sucked in the vortex of starting off the day whilst not mentally prepared. Next thing you know, you have clocked in 7 to 10 hours by 3 PM but have not really maximized as far as your output goes. Create a distinction, a sort of seamless transition from bed to your desktop without much thought. You can start by getting a quick shower, step outside to buy coffee and catch a breather, head over to the gym for a 30-minute workout and at 8 AM, start with your grind.

Bottom line is taking the time to the ready.

Set Boundaries on Technology

To avoid the temptation having the outside world bombarding you with communication interruptions and visual notifications, turn off visual notifications on your screen, manually check all your devices at set times and basically have a strategy of dealing with unbounded technology.

Keep Track

Take at least 15 minutes at the start of your day to prioritize and organize your work according to their urgency and create a next physical action for items on the to-do-list. Write down a list of the things that you have accomplished and stuff that needs some work. It’s good for your output when you know how to account for your tasks in a given day. Account for every single thing you do in a day’s work. The responsibility is on you to delegate the chief productivity tool in remote work structure – attention, on the more pressing stuff. At 5, leave your workspace, and transition into your personal life activities like preparing for dinner, laundry, taking a walk around your block, anything that creates the mental detachment necessary at the end of office hours. This signifies the end of your work day and beginning of a more chilled out evening with less or even nil demands from your job. If you are to work in the evening, let there be a clear boundary in your mind about “obligatory work” during day time and “supplemental work” in the evening.

All Work and No Play…

Be intentional about having meaningful social interactions for healthy mental function. Create a schedule which allows your brain and body to regroup and get the daily recharging they need. It is a bad idea to be holed up in your studio apartment all day with no breaks in between. Researchers say that we need to give the brain a break every 90 minutes to two hours. Therefore, give yourself periodic breaks the same way you would if you’d be working in an office setting. At lunchtime, head over to your kitchen, grab something to eat, catch up on social media or make a quick call to a friend or loved one. In fact, do some stretching, take a walk, build on your muscle because studies have shown that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at lunchtime increases productivity.

Alternatively, refocus your productivity by changing views, shifting your body and moving from one place after a while. For example, in the morning, you can work from home in the morning and after midday, you head to your local coffee shop to work from there till late afternoon. The best option, in my opinion, is to sign up for a local co-working space every few days in a week and enjoy the company of strangers as you work away. It is very easy for one to put the head down and barrel ahead for 8 hours straight especially when you are alone in the house. There are no distracting co-workers, no one to invite over for a quick coffee/bite over lunch hour and this is a sure-fire way to experience a negative result in your health and output.

The adjustment form corporate office to the remote office can be tough for anybody and we are never 100% prepared for it.  Yet the dividends are powerful for those who strike the balance, like the autonomy of taking care of personal and family matters and increased freedom.

Written by Emmah Mwaura

Emmah Mwaura is a technology for development enthusiast and an unrelenting learner and professional who believes that getting together with real people in real life makes powerful things happen. Side hustles become careers, ideas become movements and chance encounters become lifelong connections.
 
As an avid speaker and budding writer, Emmah has enjoyed wearing various hats in a variety of roles and industries. She’s the current creative ambassador for the Young African Thinkers and has spoken in diverse workshops including the just concluded Tech for Big 4 Design Thinking Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a degree in Project Planning and Management from Moi University.
 
When not working, she’s usually pacing around while trying to keep up with her vivacious and adorable young daughter who can speak approximately 20,000 words by breakfast every morning.