It’s tough to stay productive as a remote worker. Cut off from your team in an office on your own, it’s easy for your mind to wander. Two hours later, you snap back to reality, having accomplished nothing but an extended Facebook crawl.
Thankfully, there are some easy ways to keep your remote working product and I’m going to share them with you.
Here are my 5 favourite tips for keeping your remote working productive!
Set Yourself Rewards
People are generally pretty selfish so we don’t like working unless there’s something in it for us. Consider this study from Milkman, Minson and Volpp. (Sidenote: Those are some exceptional names!)
The researchers took a group of 226 students (all self confessed couch potatoes) and split them into three groups.
- Group One participants were given an iPod packed full of popular audiobooks but were only allowed to listen to it in the gym.
- Group Two participants were given audiobooks for free to load onto their personal iPods. They were encouraged to listen to the audiobooks in the gym but were allowed to listen anywhere.
- Group Three participants were the study’s control group. They were given a gift certificate and were encouraged to go to the gym.
So, what happened? Group One hit the gym more than the other two groups. Way more.
But why? Why were they so motivated to head to the gym when they had the exact same thing as Group Two?
It’s because the study rewarded them with free audiobooks. Yes, Group Two got the same prize but they didn’t have to earn it. And because it wasn’t a reward they didn’t feel the drive to go to the gym.
Rewards are really easy to integrate into your working life. Say you decide to go out for a nice lunch. Don’t just go out for that lunch. Instead, set it as a reward for completing a task.
If you get through this proposal, you can go for the lunch. If you sign up a new client, you can go for the lunch. If you organise your office, you can go for the lunch.
Limit Your Working Hours
People are increasingly correlating hours worked with productivity. I worked twelve hours today so I have been more productive than you because you only worked eight.
(I’ve found that remote workers are particularly bad for this. Since no one can actually see you working, you often resort to using recorded time as proof of your efforts.)
However, this correlation between hours worked and productivity is obviously nonsense. Working for longer doesn’t mean you’re more productive. All it shows is that you sat in an office chair until later in the day.
Oh, it gets worse.
New research shows that working extra hours can actually decrease your productivity. According to a study from Stanford economics professor, John Pencavel, employee output falls off a cliff after you hit 55 hours per week.
The decline is so bad that someone who works 70 hours per week produces nothing more than someone who works 55 hours per week.
Yes, you read that right. They produce nothing more despite being in the office for 15 extra hours.
So how do you keep the quality of your work up? It’s simple. You work less. So stop being a work martyr and limit your working hours to, at the very most, 55 hours per week. You’ll feel better and you’ll actually do more work!
Block Out Interruptions
Modern workplaces are filled with unnecessary productivity-sapping interruptions. Take pop-up email notifications.
Push and pop-up email notifications are really only essential for two professions. One, on-call heart surgeons. Two, Wall Street stock traders.
Most of us don’t fall into either of these categories.
For the vast majority of us, notifications just act as a massive distraction. You’ll be mid-way through a task and up pops a notification.
Who is it? What do they want? Is this urgent? Oh, that reminds me I had to email them back.
In less than a second your thought process is derailed and your work mojo is gone. And once you’re distracted, it takes a long time to get back on track.
According to a study from Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, it takes an astounding 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully return to a task after a distraction.
Next time an email notification pops up and you get distracted, take a moment and really think about it.
It’s going to take you 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to what you were doing. Was it worth it? Was it worth answering that email? Did they really need a reply right now?
The solution to disruptive interruptions is simple. Block them.
When you sit down at your desk, turn your phone to silent, turn off pop up and push notifications, block social media and so on.
Cut out all the interruptions and you’ll win back all of your lost time and get through tasks in a fraction of the time it took you before.
Prioritise Your Happiness
A happy worker is a productive worker. No, it’s just just a middle-management mantra. It turns out that happy workers actually are actually more productive.
Innovative companies like Google have been banging the happiness drum for years, claiming that increasing employee satisfaction once drove up productivity by 37 percent.
Well, now we’ve got the scientific to back it up.
According to a study from economists at the University of Warwick, happiness makes people around 12 percent more productive.
And how is this applicable to remote workers? Well, it starts by identifying the stuff you need from an employer to be happy. Employee support and rewards are two of the key drivers in employee happiness and are often overlooked when considering benefits for remote workers.
Once you know what you want, ask your employer for it and don’t let your status as a remote worker undermine your claim.
It’s not all down to your employer, though. There are thousands of simple ways you can boost your happiness.
Supporting others, two minutes of meditation, ten minutes of exercise and recording your successes can all have a demonstrable effect on your happiness, which, in turn, boosts your productivity.
Okay, let’s touch base for a moment, schedule some actionable blue sky thinking and peel the onion before the close of play.
Phew, I’m feeling a little lightheaded with all that hot air!
Jargon has someone established itself as a core part of the business world despite a very worrying fact.
In a survey run by American Express OPEN, a mind boggling 88 percent of respondents said they pretended to understand jargon despite having no idea what was going on.
Yes, you read that right. Almost nine in every ten people have pretend to understand jargon when they don’t.
Imagine someone was speaking French and you just nodded along saying Oui every few seconds. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
With remote workers, clarity of communication is key as you’re physically removed from your team members. You simply don’t have the leeway for coworkers to not understand you.
To improve comprehension, cut all the jargon from your vocabulary and replace the buzzwords with plain English alternatives.