The rise of work-from-home office culture has completely disrupted people’s perception of traditional office environments. Research shows that telecommuting has risen by 79% since 2005, now occupying 2.6% of the workforce. Remote workers tend to put in longer hours and experience increased levels of productivity. (Source: American Community Survey)
When presented with the idea of a work-from-home opportunity, most workers fall into one of two categories:
- (1) They jump at the opportunity with enthusiasm,
- or, (2) they express hesitation, worrying that they cannot trust themselves to stay on task.
While research around the relationship between remote work and productivity suggests that in most instances, remote work output is greater than office output, there is undoubtedly an adjustment period for those who have grown accustomed to the traditional office environment. This adjustment period requires workers to examine their environment, schedule, structure, work-life balance, collaboration tools, etc. to determine their ideal setup. Those who have never telecommuted before should experiment with their newfound freedom to identify the right formula.
Determining the Right Remote Work Environment
Work styles vary significantly: Some people prefer to work in silence, while others enjoy music while they work. Some people enjoy the solitude that a home office provides, while others prefer a co-working space or coffee shop that offers a more social dynamic.
One simple rule dominates remote work: Have a dedicated work space. Aside from that, the perfect work environment depends on personal preferences. When creating this space, consider these factors:
Lighting - Lighting that is too dark/too bright can impact people’s moods/ability to focus. Natural lighting is preferable, if possible.
Inventory (and elimination) of possible distractions - Whether working in a co-working space or a home office environment, it’s important to understand distractions and combat them appropriately.
Temperature - When people notice that their environment is too cold/too warm, it distracts them. Research has shown that drafty work environments correlate with typing errors, while warm rooms can make people drowsy.
Colors/Decor - Colors have different effects on brains. There is extensive research on the effects of colors in work environments.
Balancing personal preferences (location, temperature, colors, music, etc.) can lead to the ideal atmosphere for productivity.
Creating Structure in the Day When Working from Home
Every successful telecommuter knows that the benefit of work-life balance comes at a price: structure. Without established company processes, it takes organizational skills and self-awareness to create a realistic plan for each day and each week. Without a boss hovering, it takes discipline to stick to a schedule and avoid distractions.
Tips for Creating Structure when Working from Home:
Create a schedule for each day and a rough outline of tasks for the week. It helps minimize time wasted jumping from task to task.
Schedule blocks of time throughout the day for emails so that incoming requests don’t supercede the established plan for the day.
Set boundaries for friends and family members to ensure that the temptation to disengage from work is minimized.
Allow breaks throughout the day to prevent burnout. Set timers to help prevent a short break from turning into a long break.
Create to-do lists to provide a tangible record of completed tasks help to keep remote workers motivated and accountable to their progress.
Collaboration across Teams Working Remotely
Coordinating across time zones, creating a company culture, and collaborating across teams all serve as big challenges for remote workers. In a traditional office environment, workers can simply walk to their boss’ office to get their questions answered. With remote work, it’s important for telecommuters to write down questions as they arise and utilize conference calls/virtual meetings to get questions answered all at once.
Lack of face-to-face interaction can be a challenge for remote workers, but new technologies are emerging to help meet the increasing demand for collaboration across remote teams. Project management apps like Meistertask help organize the flow of work across teams, and messaging apps like Slack facilitate a more open dialog within remote teams. Undesirable effects of remote teams are minimized when these technologies are coupled with a conscious effort to interact with coworkers.
The Benefits of Working From Home
The challenges that remote workers face can understandably cast a shadow over the real benefits of working from home. 82% of telecommuters surveyed said they’ve lowered their stress level since they started working remotely… and 80% of telecommuters said their morale is higher. (Source: Baseline) These are tangible benefits! The flexibility and balance that telecommuters have gives a whole new meaning to work-life balance.