Working Remotely: Virtual Employees Share Key Productivity Tips

Concerns and new policies surrounding the COVID-19 virus are driving countless teams into the world of working remotely, many for the first time. Transitioning from an office environment to working from home comes with a mixed bag of benefits and challenges, as our team understands well.

Content4Demand is a virtual workplace, so we’ve had plenty of time to discover what helps and hinders our productivity in a home office. I polled our team this week for tips that can help you adjust quickly if you’re working remotely for the first time.

Turn to Technology

You may have different needs than others when it comes to social interaction or even a change of scenery. When you find yourself craving something you took for granted in an office, technology frequently offers a pretty good stand-in for it.

As a virtual content agency, we’ve uncovered a host of tech tools that help us communicate and collaborate. We couldn’t live without a high-speed Internet connection or live chat platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

We connect regularly with colleagues and clients on video Zoom meetings to maintain a sense of connection while working remotely. Before you run wild with a slew of new meetings, be sure to read  Senior Content Strategist Alicia Esposito’s post from this week about “How Your Approach to Meetings Can Make or Break Creative Performance.”

 “I can’t imagine working without having a way to ‘chat’ with people quickly,” says Teresa Ciulla, Client Services Manager. “Slack and Teams make me more efficient and also give me a stronger sense of working in a group, even though I’m physically working alone.”

Alicia Esposito has found lots of ways to stay productive without the structure of an office schedule.

“Know what drives your or inhibits you creatively,” Alicia says. “When I’m hunkered down, I sometimes crave some sort of outside element to jumpstart my brain and help me get out of my own head. Sometimes that means listening to a podcast, taking a walk or listening to music. It can feel a bit isolating to be on your own, but having those little dynamic spurts to break up the day helps me keep things interesting.”

You can find help with specific challenges in the 16 LinkedIn Learning courses that are being offered for free right now with tips on how to stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face to face, use virtual meeting tools and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way while you’re working remotely. 

Reroute Your Commute

You’re probably thrilled to say goodbye to cars, trains and traffic and the extra time that not traveling to and from the office will add to your schedule. But it can help to maintain some version of that “commute” to give you a clear transition between personal time and professional time.

 “I take a walk each morning to mark the beginning of the day and get in the workday frame of mind,” says Client Services Manager Patrice Galvin,. “You could walk ‘home’ as well, but I say that’s for overachievers. I’d rather just start making dinner.”

Lori Culliton, also a Client Services Manager, endorses the “mental commute” strategy for working remotely.

“I have a dedicated office space on the third floor,” she says. “When I’m done with work in the evening, I clean up my desk space, turn off the lights to my office and walk down the stairs.  Thats my commute home.”

Define Your Space and Set Boundaries

Let’s just say this isn’t my forte. My bedroom is my office, and I’m generally at my laptop within seconds of waking up and brushing my teeth. Like right now.

I would argue that there are advantages to the blurred lines of a more organic schedule. I pay attention to my natural rhythms and take advantage of my most productive hours. If I hit a spot in a project where I’m spinning my wheels, I might take a walk or switch to a different kind of task and return to a challenging project when the inspiration is flowing again. Or I may take an hour to go grocery shopping while the stores are emptier, knowing I’ll be at my desk long after others are deep into their Hulu watch lists. Some of my colleagues take a much different approach.

“Keep regular work hours as much as possible,” says Senior Content Strategist Brenda Caine. “Once the day is over, turn everything off, have dinner, go to the gym. And don’t work on weekends except in emergencies. (And no, everything is not an emergency.)”

Director of Client Services Wendy Geister couldn’t agree more.

“If you’re able, dedicate a space outside your bedroom to work,” she says. “Years ago, when I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, I made the dining room my office. Now I use an extra bedroom. It just helps me get in the mindset that ‘this is my workspace.’”

“Bonus if it’s someplace where you can shut the door at the end of the day!” says Content Strategist Toni Boger.

Some of us need to eliminate distractions to keep our focus. But if you’re like Client Services Manager Laura Tiffany, you may be more inclined to be out in the world.

“I work at a coffeehouse when I have three or four hours with no meetings,” she says. “I need to see other humans, and it gives me a reason to dress nicely. I use a VPN to keep work files secure.”

Coffeehouses may not remain a valid option, but you might still consider a quiet corner of the library or another public space that doesn’t draw crowds of the potentially contagious.

Get the Blood Pumping

It’s easy to get too cozy in your chair and forget there’s still a world out there when you work remotely. Incorporate the active habits that help you feel better and keep your brain engaged.

“I work out every morning before work,” says Wendy. “That helps get me out of the house, socializing with others, and it gives me a boost of energy.”

Formal exercise isn’t the only way to do that. (Whew.) Lori says she makes it a priority to walk her kids to school each morning.

“I appreciate stepping out of the and talking with parents, teachers and the crossing guard,” she says. “The physical activity helps me get prepared, focused and ready to conquer the day.”

What Are You Wearing?

I’ve worked from home since about 2003, when I often sported my comfiest pajamas for the first half of the day. But I personally find that I carry myself more professionally when I dress like an adult human, whether anyone can see me or not, so I’ve retired the office PJs.

“I keep my shoes on all day long,” says Lori. “I feel more professional, and it gives me energy.”

Whatever happens next, we’re all in this together (virtually, anyway). So for now, keep calm and stay home. And for goodness sake, wash your hands.

Do you have tips we missed? We’d love to hear different perspectives on how to remain positive and productive in a remote working environment. Please share your own experiences in the comments section below. Or if you want a comprehensive dive into the work-from-home landscape, check out Working from home: A guide to creating a healthy and productive workspace at home, from Cotswold Co.

Holly Celeste Fisk is an accomplished marketing pro with 20+ years of experience in B2B and B2C. She’s responsible for Content4Demand’s internal marketing efforts, managing everything from content creation and email marketing to events and sponsorships, blog publishing, website management and social media presence. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sliding into third at softball, buried in a book or practicing her Italian. 

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