Working Remotely: How to Increase Productivity Outside the Office
What are the biggest reasons to work remotely? And how can you increase your productivity while away from the office? Some tried and true tips.
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With the advent of coffee shops, wifi, and laptops, the 21st century has presented us a beautiful gift: the advantage of working remotely.

Remote work offers plenty of positive benefits for both employers or employees, whether daily or occasionally. At Justworks, I’m lucky to have a flexible work schedule that enhances my productivity. In fact, I’m writing this piece in a coffee shop right now; it’s arguably the most productive I’ve been all week.

Here are the many reasons why it’s helps to switch up your working environment — and how to get the most out of your time in a fresh spot.

 

Benefits of Remote Work

Why It’s Important to Step Away From the Office

Reduce Stress

Lower stress levels help employees accomplish more. Telecommuters experienced 25% less stress when working from home, due to a better work-life balance and less commuting time, according to a Staples survey. And as we’ve talked about before on Justworks’ blog, stressed employees are less productive and engaged across the board. Even if employees can work remotely from time to time, it allows focus in a less stressful environment than would be available otherwise.

Limit Distractions

If you’ve ever worked in an office before, you know how easy it is to get distracted. Participating in back-to-back meetings, answering questions for a fellow co-worker, or taking lunch breaks with teammates are all important in their own right, but sometimes alone time and focus is needed as well. Removing yourself physically from the space on occasion offers unintentional benefits. I’ve noticed that I receive fewer Slack messages, emails, and questions when I’m working out of the office.

Save Commuting Time

Waking up early and getting home late to commute can really take its toll. According to the same Staples survey, 76% of telecommuters are more loyal to their company and more willing to work extra because they get to skip the commute. The benefit of skipping a commute makes sense — I start earlier in the morning the days I work from home, since I don’t take the 45 minutes trip to the office. That time spent not commuting saves both time and energy, which means more work productivity.

Build Employer/Employee Trust

Working remotely can be a wonderful opportunity to increase trust between an employer and employee. It’s an opportunity for the employee to prove she can work outside of the office independently while maintaining open communication with team members. And as we’ve written before, improving team morale starts with trust.

 

How to Increase Productivity

Now that you have science on your side to prove the benefits of remote work, use it to your fullest advantage. Here are the best ways to stay productive while working remotely, and keep the trust and communication between you and everyone else open.

 

Get Your Ducks in a Row

It should go without saying, but get the greenlight first. If you’re choosing a day to work outside of the office, check your calendar and make sure you don’t have any important events or meetings. Block out the time so people know not to book anything that day. Get approval from your manager, and inform your team by Slack or email to set expectations accordingly.

Set the Scene

Give some thought to where you want to work. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Home - Always an option, but a comfy bed that invites naps or kids who want to play may provide just as much distraction as an office workspace.
  2. A coffeeshop - Cliche but popular for a reason. Make sure your spot has a healthy wifi connection and allows laptops for sustained periods of time.
  3. Shared working spaces - Increasingly popular, places like GrindSpaces offer flexible working arrangements in a posh environment.
  4. The library - Quiet, serene, and free. The smell of old books is a bonus.
  5. Outside - If the weather permits, restaurant and bar rooftop terraces make for a scenic workspace.

Dress the Part

It may sound silly, but if you decide to work at home, dress like you’re going to work anyway. I learned this lesson the hard way when I used to freelance write from home. Then, I ran into this post by a woman who has made a living of writing remotely. As she put it, "It doesn’t take much to set a day right.” Brush your hair and put some pants on. It will make you feel more like getting down to work.

Find Your Groove

The space you choose is just as important as the decibel level within it. According to a study by the Journal of Consumer Research, a moderate level of ambient noise (around 70 decibels) increases productivity more than low and high ambient levels (50 and 85 decibels, respectively). If you’re in a quiet place, find the music that really makes you tick. Or check out websites like Noisli, which let you mix background sounds like coffee shops, railroads, or a crackling fire. It will make your workday both more enjoyable and more productive.

Keep a Schedule

Working from home doesn’t mean chaos must ensue. Block out your day ahead of time. When are you going to answer emails? What time is that conference call? When will you allow yourself to block out breaks and eat some lunch? Use an online Pomodoro timer to help yourself stay on track. If you lay the groundwork ahead of time, you’re more likely to adhere to it.

Track Your Time

Once you’ve set a schedule, track how well you’ve actually stuck to it. Did you spend 45 minutes writing reports or did that actually take an hour and a half? If an employer is still having a hard time trusting you working remotely, this is also the perfect opportunity to show them how you spent your time and prove you can deliver results.

Take Smart Breaks

Nobody is built to concentrate for eight hours straight (or more) a day. Take strategic breaks to boost your productivity. Social scientists suggest a range of times — work for 52 minutes and break for 17work for 90 then rest a bit. I use my lunch break to work out a few times a week, and I always have more concentration than I would if I had sat at my desk. Experiment what works best for you and go from there.

Keep Communication Lines Open

Working remotely comes with great power and great responsibility. Keep your communication lines open with your coworkers, boss, and clients. Stay on top of emails, keep Slack open, and let people know when you’re stepping away from the computer for lunch or a break. It will help prevent misunderstandings and establish your credibility as someone who can work independently.

 

by Kristin Hoppe | May 23, 2016

Jane Gonzalez
Associate Editor