Productivity-Boosting Tips for Working From Home in 2021
At accesso, we care deeply about our community, our client partners and our teams. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been rapid and significant for both our communities and our industries, yet our commitment to supporting our valued partners is as strong as ever. In an effort to help you prepare for when you welcome guests back to your venue, we will continue to share insights and guidance to help you strengthen your business and serve your valued customers.
In early 2020, prior to COVID-19, nearly 7 million people in the U.S. alone were working remotely, representing approximately 2% of the country’s population. And, as the pandemic quickly forced most businesses to close their physical doors, that statistic skyrocketed. In a recent Gallup report, research showed that nearly half of all U.S. employees were working remotely in some capacity throughout the year.
We may have “rounded the corner” on a new year, but many things remain the same, including COVID-related restrictions and enforcements that affect the way we work. Bottom line: our temporary remote-work setups might be sticking around for a bit longer.
Of course, we know that this situation does not apply to everyone; millions of passionate, dedicated industry team members have lost their jobs due to COVID this year. To those that continue to navigate the unprecedented challenge of seeking new employment amid the pandemic, you are on the minds and hearts of our team members each and every day.
For those continuing to work from home, chances are, over the course of this year, you’ve learned a little more about what works for you … and what doesn’t. And, if you’re entering 2021 feeling anxious about accomplishing your goals without going stir-crazy at home – you are not alone! The majority of our accesso Sales and Marketing team has been fully remote for a number of years and were eager to share some tried-and-true insights and tips for maintaining productivity, sanity and work-life balance while working remotely.
- Amp up your team communication, making the most of the digital tools at your disposal.
- Determine a schedule and routine that works for you … and stick with it.
- Design your work-from-home space with intention, setting yourself up for successful maintenance of a work-life balance.
Jennifer Roth, Proposal Specialist, 9+ years of working remotely
1. Wear comfy clothes! Wearing what you’d wear to an office or your venue is silly when you’re sitting at home. Being comfortable adds to your productivity, allowing you to relax and just flow.
2. When I first started working from home, one of my biggest challenges to overcome related to productivity. Am I getting enough done? Do I take too many breaks? Am I too distracted? If this sounds familiar to you, consider the Pomodoro technique, designed to help you work in short, 25-minute bursts, and keep track of your time. This is just one of the plethora of similar apps and timers available.
3. Especially now, don’t just assume people are “OK.” Make sure you are checking in on your co-worker “circle.” Checking in can be simple; maybe you share a meme via email, schedule a quick (or long) call, or start a conversation on your team’s messaging platform. Working from home can be extremely isolating, so let’s make the most of the digital tools available to us to stay connected.
4. Don’t lose your work-life balance! Working from home, it’s easy to forget about the clock and find yourself working 10+ hour days. In the long run, this will more likely than not lead to burnout and reduced quality of work. Setting a time to end your day is essential to mentally separating yourself from pressing work issues and allowing yourself the time and space to decompress.
5. Think about a good routine to get the day started. It is so tempting to sleep in right until the moment it’s time to start work, but allowing yourself an extra hour of time to wake up and read, meditate, journal, do a workout – whatever will help set a positive tone for the day – is essential to productivity. One caution – don’t fall into the trap of spending time on social media or reading online articles in the morning. Leave that for later in your day on a break. (This blog does a great job at explaining the importance of starting the day with “healthy brain food”!)
Justin Moore, Sales Director, 3 years of working remotely
- Be intentional about setting time to connect with your co-workers! It could be as simple as a virtual coffee chat, but setting a small amount of time (10-20 minutes) to catch up and really enjoy social interaction will go a long way in helping with feelings of isolation, especially if working remotely is new for you.
- For people not on my direct team, I have started scheduling quick, 10-minute chats. But, if it’s someone with whom I work more closely, I’ll go out of my way to spontaneously catch up. These types of conversations cover such a wide range of topics, which is always interesting, and engaging in this way is immensely helpful in building our company’s culture as many of us only see each other a couple of times a year. Plus, while many of the chats end up being more casual, more often than not I’ll learn something helpful related to our work.
Valery Gooch, Marketing Coordinator, 2+ years of working remotely once a week
- Amp up your communication: Check-in more frequently than you normally would. It’s always nice to start your day by saying “good morning” to your team. (Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that can make a difference!) Make sure to share scheduling requirements or offline times – use your update status on Slack, Teams, or your company’s messaging platform. Scheduled video calls with your team are also vital to staying connected.
- Set boundaries and balance: It’s so important to set effective daily routines when working remotely. We all have to work extra hours from time to time, but when your home becomes your office, there’s nothing really stopping you from working extended hours. Make sure to take care of yourself by not overworking. Something that can be helpful is setting timers or blocking space on your calendar to remind you it’s time for a break.
- If you work in a traditional office, you can see it’s getting close to the end of the day by noticing when people start leaving. In a virtual environment, we lack those visual cues, so do your best to make sure you and your team are able to maintain healthy boundaries when it comes to scheduling and taking breaks throughout the day.
Audrey Child, Sales Administrator, 6+ years of working remotely
Trying to master self-discipline using the tips below helps me focus on what makes me happy, healthy, motivated and a better remote worker with an ideal work-life balance.
- Time management is a huge one for me. Not only for tasks, meetings and projects, but also for breaks and stretching. I find that if I don’t have a set time scheduled for my lunch or a quick “get up and walk away from my desk” moment, then it doesn’t happen. Nobody wants to be stuck at a desk all day, whether it’s in an office setting or remotely from home. It’s just not healthy.
- Get (and stay!) organized. Use a system – any system that works for you – to keep track of tasks and stay on top of them. I keep a running to-do list in my OneNote. Every Monday, I schedule time to plan my week based on my to-do list, taking the time to schedule specific projects into my calendar. Each morning throughout the week, I have time reserved to respond to emails, do research, conduct follow ups, etc. Typically, my afternoons are reserved for focused work, which are the big projects on my to-do list. The only exception is Friday afternoon; during that time, I do a weekly review, cleaning up the to-do list and getting ready to tackle the week ahead.
- Communicate. Not only to have a clear understanding of projects I am working on, but also to build relationships with co-workers. Because I’m a scheduler, I reserve time in my calendar, wherever it fits, for “water cooler talk,” when I take five minutes to call a co-worker and catch up. This is super important to me to because I care about and want to really know the people, I spend eight hours a day with – to hear about their families, travels and what they’re working on.
- Shut the door. At the end of my day, I make myself walk away from my work, even if I’m not finished, and “shut the office down.” There will always be another day to complete the tasks at hand. Ensuring I’m taking time to spend with my family, friends – or, if I’m alone, simply not working and resting up – should take priority once the day has come to a close.
Katie Reilly, Digital Marketing Manager, 3+ years of working remotely once a week
- Insist on “face time”: Quick text chats can be a great way to stay in touch, but if you have something important to discuss, a call is absolutely the way to go. While nobody loves to be on camera, I’ve found that video calls can be crucial in keeping everyone focused on and engaged in the discussion; it’s a practice I’ve embraced more and more during this transition. It can be really tempting to multitask when you’re on a group conference call, but video holds you accountable! More importantly, it gives you great visual cues that can help advance the discussion. It’s the closest thing we have in this virtual environment to face-to-face conversations, so embrace them (and all of the hilarious pet or kid-related interruptions that come with them)!
- Start each day with at least 15 minutes dedicated to setting goals and reflecting. I have to program this time into my calendar; otherwise, it’s tempting to skip. My favorite goal-setting and project-tracking tool is my Productivity Planner. It’s based on the Pomodoro Method and really forces you to be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Simply taking the time to write out your goals for the week, and then for the day, can be illuminating after a long day of getting sidetracked by other unexpected or pressing tasks.
- Make your own water coolers: Just like you would greet your office mates when you walk through the door on-site, be diligent about connecting with your virtual teammates routinely. It’s so much easier to collaborate with others when you have a strong working relationship rooted in trust and honest communication.
- Don't feel guilty about taking breaks: There’s a strange phenomenon that often happens when working remote, where you start to feel tethered to your laptop and guilty every time you step away. And yet, in a traditional office environment, we can easily get swept into conversations with our colleagues that take us away from our work. Don’t fall victim to this double-standard! It’s OK to take five or 10 minutes in between your projects to take a quick walk around the block, cycle the laundry, whip up a batch of cookies or have a dance party with your children. As long as you are accountable, responsive and accessible to your team, they should understand. And if you’re concerned that your “me time” is running over, make up the time! It’s all about balance.
Lynette Williams, Digital Marketing Coordinator, newly remote worker
- So far, having an unlimited number of snacks available to me throughout the day is one of the most important logistical aspects of a work-from-home environment. Cheese is the only thing keeping me sane.
- Try to stick to your usual schedule. I am very much a routine person. I get to work at the same time, I eat snacks and meals at the same time; I even refill my water at the same time every day. Transitioning to working from home, I think it is important to keep that same routine so that the move doesn’t feel like such a massive adjustment.
- Having a clear space devoted to my work area has been a huge help in boosting my productivity. I made a temporary home office where I take all of my calls. I used to just set my laptop up wherever was comfortable in my house; it seemed like an easy solution at first, but it made things harder. My body is used to sitting on the couch to not do much, or lying in bed before sleep; these spaces are not conducive to a productive workday! Now I know that, when I’m in the dedicated workspace I’ve created in my home, work is getting done.
- Seeing as many smiling faces as possible has been so uplifting for me. All my calls have become video chats. Even my daily, five-minute calls or “good morning” messages to co-workers have moved to video. In this transition, one of the biggest changes for me has been going from always being around people – at the gym, the office, social gatherings after work – to nothing but interacting with my dog. It was a little jarring at first, but moving as many meetings as I could (as quickly as I could) to video format really helped ease that challenge.
Jeremy Gray, Sales Director, 2+ years of working remotely
- Invest in your workspace. When you first start working remotely, it may be tempting to “set up shop” at your dining table or sofa. Don’t fall into that trap! Get a good desk and chair; they don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but they should give you the space, support and infrastructure that you would have in a more traditional office environment. It’s also helpful to create a separate work area if your home allows; it’s much more challenging to truly “log off” at the end of the day if your workspace is stationed in your dining room, bedroom or another living area.
- Give lunch breaks the respect they deserve! Sure, in a traditional office environment, you’re bound to find at least one or two people taking a “working lunch” at their desks but, especially in a remote environment, taking the time to step away from your computer and truly enjoy your personal time is more important than ever. This also ties into the importance of, in a way, sectioning out your workspace within your home – your desk is meant for work, so do yourself the favor of disconnecting during your lunch break and step away from the technology to which you’re tied throughout the day.
- As many of my teammates have pointed out, leveraging video services and webcams for conference calls and meetings is so important. We may not be able to see each other in person (yet), but making the effort to virtually see each other can go a long way in helping everyone feel more connected.
- Move your body and boost your brain by treating yourself to coffee breaks outside. Personally, I try to take a brief walk to my favorite local coffee shop every day, which allows me break up the morning and get a bit of exercise.