Being Productive When Splitting Time Between Working at Home and in the Office


New technologies and changing lifestyles have now made remote working an excellent choice for many workplaces. While a 9-to-5 job used to be inevitable, employees today have the option to work some days in the comfort of their homes. However, working at home is not as easy as it sounds. At worst, unprepared employees risk becoming inefficient and unproductive.

How do you become productive when working both at home and in the office? First, understand how the environment plays a role in encouraging or limiting productivity. Acquire the traits that will help you succeed in remote working. Good remote workers are motivated people who can always maintain focus. They are also flexible in working in different environments.

Employees should also prepare for the common problems that make remote working difficult. They should know how to set up their work environment to maximize productivityOpens in a new tab.. Finally, they should take advantage of the best software for remote jobs.

This article is a comprehensive productivity guide for remote workers. People can easily get overwhelmed by the massive information available online. Also, not everyone can read ten stories in one sitting. This guide, hence, summarizes all this information into easily readable lists. It covers everything mentioned above in an organized manner.

The Three Personality Traits of Good Remote Working

Remote working is a dream for many people. The idea of working in a warm bed or cozy couch appeals to many people. However, that remote working can be demanding is what many people fail to realize. The lack of rigidity can quickly bring out the laziness in people. This problem becomes worse when your work repeatedly shifts between the office and the home.

Work ethics are what distinguishes those who succeed and those who fail in remote working. Most articles on being good at remote working deal with three valuable skills: motivation, focus, and flexibility. These core personality traits are essential for anyone who wants to split work time between the office and the home.

1. Motivation

Many people want to work at home because they hate confinement to an office. With irritable bosses and the prying eyes of coworkers, who can blame them? However, the office environment naturally motivates people to do their best. Underperforming employees risk earning the ire of their bosses and being judged by their peers.

These social pressures are not as visible when employees stay at home. They are still accountable to their bosses and their peers. However, the lack of physical presence can lull them to a false sense of security. Without discipline, comfort can lead to laziness.

Hence, people who want to do remote working will have to find new ways to motivateOpens in a new tab. themselves.  They should focus on becoming more disciplined, even when it seems that no one is looking. Better yet, they should develop habits that naturally lead to productivity, with little effort. For example, some employees set strict time management for working at home. Over time, sticking to these rules becomes easier until it becomes automatic.

2. Focus

Any workplace will have potential distractions, no matter what you do. Chattery coworkers are the main distraction that employees encounter in the office workplace. Persistent clients and urgent messages from superiors are other common distractions. Left unguided, employees can quickly lose track of time. They can waste hours while accomplishing nothing of significance.

However distracting offices may be, it becomes even harder to focus at home. Employees working remotely might suddenly feel the urge to sleep or to watch TV. Family members may request urgent errands, while children might play and cause a ruckus. It can be hard to decline friends who might invite you for drinking sessions. Checking your social media or binge-watching your favorites shows are also temptations.

Hence, workers who want to be productive in the office and at home will need to learn how to focus. Again, discipline and preparation are critical. Employees should stay away from potential distracting scenarios. An adequate way to do this is to prepare good workspaces that can help them focus single-mindedly on the tasks at hand. Tips on creating good workspaces will be presented later in this article.

3. Flexibility

Work is a complex phenomenon. Employees are like jugglers who must allocate their time and resource among different tasks. For these people, the typical day might be a jumble of meetings, phone calls, emails, documents, and presentations. Traditional workers who only have to work at a single office already have a lot of responsibilities. Hence, remote workers have it worse.

People who work both in and out of the office will have to be flexible. Not all of the tools they need will be available at any time. For instance, employees in an office can ask for help from a coworker in minutes. In contrast, it can take hours for a remote worker to receive assistance through email.

Learning how to make the most of the tools you currently have is a vital skill for remote workers. Luckily, there are software toolsOpens in a new tab. that people can use in order to become more flexible employees.

Common Difficulties in Remote Work

Knowing what makes successful remote workers tick is not enough. To become better at remote working, employees must be ready. There’s no better way to equip yourself than to scrutinize the obstacles that lie ahead.

Simply put, remote working is not for everyone. Many people report difficultiesOpens in a new tab. when it comes to working in settings outside of a typical office. However, these struggles are something that anyone interested in working remotely will have to overcome.

Lack of Community

When shifting from the office to working at home, employees will lose some of the face-to-face interaction with people. There will always be open communication channels that will help them continue interacting with teammates. However, nothing beats physical presence. Many remote workers feel a strong sense of isolation whenever they work at home.

The apparent lack of community can wreak havoc on motivation. The problem worsens when employees are unable to meet acquaintances and friends at work. Teams may also lose cohesion as their team members feel isolated from each other. Nothing encapsulated this phenomenon further than the term “digital nomad,” an alternative name for remote workers.

To remedy this problem, employees must maximize the time that they have with each other. For example, they can hold team building activities or invite each other to lunch during the times they work in the office. Team leaders should ensure that everyone in the team keeps the vision alive. Having a common purpose is a powerful way to unite people.

Confusing Communication Channels

One of the best ways to communicate is by holding offline conversations, despite the prevalence of chat video conferencing technology.  However, remote workers have no choice but to rely on alternative media, such as emails and phone calls.

There are many options for communicating like this, and sometimes that is precisely the problem. The multiplicity of communication channels can be confusing. When something happens, should workers email their superiors, send a text message, or use Skype?

The best way to avert confusion is to set ground rules. In this case, establishing communication protocols can help workers decide when and how to communicate unambiguously with others. Rules can simplify matters by removing the need to decide on the spot, helping workers reserve mental power for more important decisions. By cutting back on the confusion, employees can focus more on the stuff that matters.  

Logistics

Working in more than one place can be challenging, especially if your work involves the use of different computers. Making sure that your work stays in sync among different devices should be a priority. Otherwise, you waste precious minutes as you sift through disorganized files.

Fortunately, there are many software options with seamless syncing functions. Many even work offline, perfect for employees working at home who decide to cut distractions by disconnecting from the Internet. This article discusses some of the leading programs with sync functionality. Check them out and see what works for you.

Distractions

As mentioned before, one’s focus is one of the three significant traits that a good remote worker should possess. Without it, workers are in the clutches of myriad sources of distractions. A home setting, where managers and peers are not physically present, is the perfect breeding ground for constant interruptions. Many workers find that it takes them a couple more hours to finish tasks at home than at the office.

Employees who are serious about remote working should eliminate as many distractions as possible, even if it means investing in equipment and other specialized tools. Distraction-free workplacesOpens in a new tab. will help you become more productive and will ultimately lead to more earnings. Hence, any time and money spent trying to steer clear of distractions will pay dividends over time.

Security

We usually take for granted the security of our workplace. Office setups generally have built-in security features; monitoring systems ensure that employees cannot steal or alter data without being detected. The same is not the case for home workspaces, which are far away from the protection of security staff.

Unsecure data is a prime target for saboteurs and thieves. Nothing saps productivity more than having your work stolen and destroyed! It follows that good security is a prerequisite for high productivity, as it lets you work without constant fear of a data breach.

Common sense practices abound in security, such as limiting who gets to access your home workplace. Antimalware and user control tools are also helpful. Just be careful not to carry this too far, as worrying too much about security can also be hazardous to your productivity. Remove any worries by striking the perfect balance between safety and efficiency.

Setting Up Your Home Workspace

As emphasized in earlier sections, the workspace is one of the most significant factors affecting the productivity of remote workers. Remote workers can do their jobs in an office and their homes, but they have greater control in the latter than the former. Hence, it is worth it for employees to devote an appropriate amount of time in setting up their home workplace.

Ideal workplaces follow the three characteristics associated with good remote working: motivation, focus, and flexibility. To simplify matters, employees can follow these step-by-step instructions.

List Down Your Needs

Your workspace should be able to cover the basicsOpens in a new tab.. For instance, your space should have a phone and should be able to accommodate a laptop. However, other needs will vary depending on the details of your particular job. Hence, it is essential to take a couple of minutes to think about what exactly you would need for your workplace.

Does your work include a lot of paperwork? If so, consider installing a large filing cabinet. Do you have to work during nighttime? If so, invest in a good desk lamp. Make sure that your workplace will be able to accommodate your activities.

Note that if you have a poorly designed workspace, that will only add friction to your workflow. Workspaces not conducive to productivity will only demotivate you to work. You might even end up resenting your work at home. This possibility is why it is essential to think of your needs first before proceeding with the rest of planning.

Choose an Appropriate Place to Put Your Workplace

Once you have your needs sorted out, start thinking about where you will work within your home. In the spur of the moment, it might seem like a good idea to pick a comfortable place, such as your bed.

However, such setups will quickly lead to a loss of motivation. The brain associates certain locations, such as your bedroom, with specific functions, such as sleep and relaxation. Working in an area that does not promote productivity will only lead to laziness, no matter your level of discipline.

Instead, choose a quiet location where you can work for hours in reasonable comfort. Choose a room where you can get some privacy, as friends and family members can quickly become sources of distraction. Your workplace should be comfortably bright, well ventilated, and spacious enough to accommodate your equipment. Finally, your workplace should be close to electric outlets and other utilities, such as a strong WiFi signal.

Pick a Good Chair

A chair might not be on the top of your mind when you think about productivity tools. However, uncomfortable chairs can make work dreadful, sapping your motivation. Employees are regularly expected to work for several hours at a time.

Without proper support, discomfort can discourage even the most determined of workers. Even worse, chairs that offer poor support can contribute to poor posture and lifestyle diseases.

Ergonomics should be a priority for any employee, whether working at the office or home. Choose a chair that offers firm support and encourages proper posture. In particular, your chairOpens in a new tab. should be stable enough to provide resistance to movement. The seat should be at the right height to let your feet rest flat on the ground. Finally, your chair should have some cushion to prevent sore spots from forming on your body.

Consider Storage for Office Supplies

Despite the availability of word processing software, employees still have to tackle a lot of paperwork. Remote workers are not exempt from this. They have it worse since they need to have office supplies available at their home workplaces.

In addition, they need to have enough space for their laptops and other peripherals, such as chargers and printers. These objects can quickly clutter your workspace, making it more difficult to work efficiently.

Having enough storage space for all of these objects is necessary for remote workers. Folders and envelopes are simple tools you can use to manage your paperwork. For bulkier work, you can invest in bins, boxes, or an appropriate filing cabinet.

A personal safe is an excellent choice for items of a sensitive nature. You can even use recycled cans to store small items such as pins and pens.

Adjust Lighting

When choosing the perfect location for your workspace, consider the lighting. No one wants to file paperwork or scrutinize reports in low-light conditions. Many employees prefer to place their workstations near the windows. This arrangement allows large amounts of light to enter your room, creating an ambiance that encourages productivity.

You should also consider artificial lighting, especially when your work requires you to function at night. Relying on backlit screens alone can easily cause eyestrain and headaches. Choose overhead lights that can illuminate the entire room. A desk lamp that shines some light on your work table is also essential. Finally, make sure to control the lighting emitted by your gadgets to maintain a healthy workplace.

Set Boundaries

Home workspaces are naturally less rigid than offices. While this arrangement can be beneficial to many people, the lack of structure can easily cause lethargy. To remedy this, remote workers should still establish some ground rulesOpens in a new tab. when working at home. It would be better if they follow some of the same habits they develop when they work at the office. For example, many employees wear business attire even when working at home. That gives a message to their brains that it is time to work, resulting in more excellent performance.

Another way to add structure is to block out times for work, similar to how many companies impose strict time schedules on employees. Set times when you will start and end your job, and make sure to adhere to this schedule as much as possible. Enforce deadlines and note milestones while you work. When working, visualize that you are still in an office to help you maintain discipline.

7 Productivity Tips for Working at Home and in the Office

Once you have suitably set up your workspace, it becomes easier to remain at peak performance even at home. However, the workspace is only one factor that affects your productivity. To bring out the super-worker in you, take note of these tips and tricks for squeezing as much productivityOpens in a new tab. as possible from your day.

1. Start Work Early When at Home

When people procrastinate by doing the easy tasks first, it makes it harder to be productive. Employees only have so much energy they can allocate to assignments, so the more they delay doing the hard ones, the harder it becomes to complete them. People who decide to delay hard work until evening have a lower chance of accomplishing them.

To remedy this, employees are urged to start work early, while they are still well rested. In addition, they should do the hardest tasks first, if possible. This technique ensures that people maximize the use of their energy.

As a bonus, completing tasks early gives a sense of satisfaction to workers, giving them additional motivation. This extra mood boost may be the one thing that turns your day into a productive one.

2. Shut Off Distractions

As mentioned multiple times in this guide, there are many more distractions present at home than in the office. It is the employee’s responsibility to filter out these distractions in order to retain focus.

Remote workers who chose good workplaces have an advantage, as they now have an enclave where they can concentrate. However, they could remove even more distractions from their work by setting some rules. Even veteran multitaskers suffer a drop in efficiency whenever diversions disrupt their work.

Blocking social media access, either by using software or simply hiding unnecessary gadgets, is necessary for disruption-free work. Some employees take it further by limiting the times that they can answer phones or check their emails. They do this even for business correspondences so that they can finish their current tasks first. Employees who easily get distracted can try this method if their employers allow them.

3. Avoid Social Media

Working at home is not child’s play. Despite you being inside your own house, your company still pays you to set some time to finish tasks assigned to you. Spending this time on unnecessary activities such as browsing social media is a sure way to get demoted or worse. Respect the contract that you signed with your employer: you get paid to do actual work.

With that said, employees should avoid social media exposure during work. Even if your job description involves social media, unregulated usage can still wreck your workflow.

Fortunately, several software solutionsOpens in a new tab. ban you from social media sites at certain times. Consider trying these out if you find it hard to stay away from Facebook.

4. Plan Your Work in Advance

Making decisions is mentally exhausting, and it becomes easy to lose motivation when you grow tired. To prevent this, great remote workers try to plan what they will be doing in advance.

When crunch time comes, they can focus on the actual tasks as they already finalized all the decisions beforehand. They end up having the extra energy to conquer complex tasks, and they also have more time to plan what to do for the next day.

Favorite planning tools include calendars, notebooks, and even simple Post-Its. Before you end your work session, take a few minutes to jot down what you will do for the next day.

Additionally, you can also use to-do apps and project management software. This method forces you to think ahead, which will work wonders for your productivity. Many people also feel a sense of satisfaction when they make plans, as they believe it gives them more control over the future.

5. Figure Out When You are Most Productive

Your moods and your corresponding productivity levels change throughout the day. Wise employees take the time to inspect themselves as they work. Like scientists, they then tweak their work schedules until they find the optimum time for them to work.

Some people work better during the day, while others prefer the calming darkness of night. You need to determine your prime times, then adjust your schedules accordingly.

6. Leverage Technology

Technology has enabled people to do feats once thought impossible. For example, scores of people, separated by miles, can now work simultaneously on a single document. Using their phones, people can set tasks, assign roles to teams, and monitor their progress. Technology has radically changed how people work, and remote working is no exception.

There are hundreds of software out on the Internet that can help you become more productive while alternating between home and office. Many of these software tools are free or only charge low fees. Leverage these software tools as much as possible to optimize your productivity.

7. Set Expectations with Family Members

Finally, it is essential for your family to realize that you are still working, even when you are in your home. Many people, especially those from older generations, are still unfamiliar with remote working. Hence, there is bound to be some confusion. Clarify matters and set rules so that you remain undisturbed and to prevent any further trouble.

These pieces of advice might seem hard at first, but keep on practicing them. Eventually, they will become ingrained into your routine.

The Best Software for Home and Office Work

As we live in the modern world, it would be a waste not to discuss some useful software for remote working. These software toolsOpens in a new tab. are popular worldwide for encouraging productive behavior. Many of these powerful tools also sync seamlessly, making them perfect for remote workers.

Google Drive

Cloud storage is indispensable for remote workers, as they might have to work on the same files using different devices. Fortunately, Google DriveOpens in a new tab. works with many devices, from laptops to smartphones. It acts as an extension of your desktop, allowing you unprecedented access to your files. Best of all, its free version provides 15 GB of storage. All you need is a Google account.

Google Docs, Sheets, Slides

Think of these tools as online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These software tools integrate seamlessly with Google Drive. They can also open Microsoft Office files. Perhaps most importantly, they have offline functionality, as any changes you make while offline will sync once you connect to the Internet.

Pages, Numbers, Keynote

If you are a zealous Apple user, you might also find these productsOpens in a new tab. to be useful. They integrate well with the Apple ecosystem and are powerful. Employees with Apple devices should consider adding these to their software arsenal.

Skype

SkypeOpens in a new tab. makes teleconferencing easy. Even novices at computing can easily set up a Skype account, allowing them to make audio calls or chat with people from around the world. The quality will depend on your internet connection, but for many cases Skype is sufficient.

Google+ Hangouts

If you are a fan of in Google products, Google+ HangoutsOpens in a new tab. may be a better alternative. It shows the same aesthetic and syncing abilities as other Google products.

Asana

Some people consider this as the gold standard for project management software, and it is easy to see why. AsanaOpens in a new tab. allows multiple people to collaborate over a shared workspace. There, they can assign work to each other, use categories and tags, and indicate deadlines. The software supports messaging and file attachment, perfect for distributed teams.

Trello

Another popular project management app is TrelloOpens in a new tab., which uses a Kanban style focusing on cards. Users add cards, which can represent tasks, ideas, or anything else, to a Trello board. Like Asana, there are also features to assign people to cards and to set deadlines.

RescueTime

It can become hard to track exactly where remote workers spend their digital time. RescueTimeOpens in a new tab. makes that easy by actively tracking the programs you open and the websites you visit. It then presents all that data in easily understandable summaries. It also gives progress reports and suggestions on how to improve.

With these tools, you can become a boss at remote working in no time. Use these tools, figure out what works, and integrate them into your work life.

Related Questions  

How do I start working some days at my home? That would depend on your employers. Some workplaces encourage employees to try remote working, as it helps cut down on costs. However, some companies are doubtful of the effectiveness of a remote job. You will have to coordinate with your employer to see if they would allow you to work remotely.

Is there a way to convince my employer that remote working would be useful for me? With discretion, you can always try to persuade your bossOpens in a new tab. to let you try remote working. Perhaps the office set up does not appeal to you. Maybe working at home will help you hone your focus and discipline. Make the case to your boss and present your evidence. You can also share this article with them and promise to abide by the productivity tips listed here.

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