While many businesses are inviting employees back to the office, a large segment of the professional population is still working remotely, with no immediate plans to return.
But despite having many months to perfect their work-from-home routines, many are still struggling with common problems like distractions, scheduling issues, and work-life balance.
We asked entrepreneurs for their best work-from-home tips and how to avoid the problems that remote workers still face.
If your day is nothing but virtual meetings and refilling cups of coffee, that’s going to take a toll on your health sooner than later. Create a schedule that balances healthy habits with all the work you need to get done.
“Build a work routine around things that you need to do for your health and for yourself,” said Dr. Livingood, Founder, and CEO of Livingood Daily. “Good habits are key to starting your day on the right foot. Movement, proper nutrition, and a quick dose of positive thinking help to maintain high levels of productivity throughout your busy days.”
With remote work, the traditional 9-to-5 work routine has been turned on its head. You might prefer to stick with that schedule (or be required to), but some jobs allow for more flexibility.
“If we have learned anything in the last year regarding remote work, it is that a daily schedule is going to look different for everyone,” said Lo Bosworth, CEO and Founder of Love Wellness. “Getting myself up in the morning and completing a full morning routine puts me in my working mindset. Listing out exactly what needs to get done for work is a helpful tip for staying on track. I use this list to plan the hours around my daily meetings and responsibilities.”
Your routine doesn’t need to be identical each day, just be sure to set aside those hours necessary for productive work.
That couch starts to look mighty comfortable when you’ve got a long session of work ahead of you, but when you lounge, you’re not doing your body (or mind) any favors.
“Since there is no requirement to sit at a desk to work at home, remote employees can easily work on their laptops while lying on the couch or even in bed,” said Chris Caouette, Co-Founder of Gorilla Bow. “Working for long hours in positions of poor posture is not good for people’s backs and can even end up causing back pain. Avoid this issue by making a point to sit up straight while working from home, preferably at a desk or a table when working.”
When you position your body for productivity and high energy, your mind will follow.
Stay Looped In
The best work-from-homers are always tuned into the conversation at work, which keeps them motivated and engaged throughout the day.
“One main challenge to overcome when working remotely is the feeling of isolation – especially if some of your team members are back working in the office again,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Because Market. “However, to overcome this, keep yourself in the loop. Attend all of the Zoom or Skype meetings, and stay active on Slack and your project-management app. If you check in with team members a few times during the day, you may feel as if they’re still in the office next door!”
Even if you jump in a chat for a few minutes here and there, this can bring you back into the game and ready to work.
Time to Get Organized
Many first-time remote workers learned the hard way that they can only get away with “winging it” for so long if they want to stay productive.
An organized schedule is so valuable for getting things done each day.
“Organization is key in a work-from-home environment,” said Tyler Boyd, Co-Founder, and CEO of Squeeze. “First start with your major schedule; these are responsibilities that have been scheduled in advance like appointments, meetings, and deadlines. Keeping a record of the near future’s major schedule will help you organize your other tasks around these responsibilities.”
Nobody is always perfectly organized, but simply putting in the effort can take you far.
Just think about all the disruptions in your immediate environment that threaten to throw you off the track of productivity. Identify these time traps and create ways to navigate around them.
“A common work-from-home problem is staying focused and avoiding disruptions whenever possible,” said Travis Killian, Owner, and CEO of Everlasting Comfort. “Studies show that it takes approximately 23 minutes to get back into the zone after an interruption. Can you imagine how that adds up after every phone call, knock on the door, or taking the dog out for a walk? That’s why it’s imperative to actually schedule in your breaks for the day, so that you can take the time to return calls or keep your pets happy – but not while you’re in the middle of an important project!”
When you conquer distractions, working from home becomes so much easier and more enjoyable.
Stay on Top of Tasks
Your daily to-do list can be daunting if you don’t have a smart plan of attack for the entire day. Use techniques like time-blocking and personal deadlines to keep things moving.
“Working from home can be problematic when you’re not staying organized,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “At the office, it’s much easier for your boss to see if you’re keeping on top of things and sticking to a schedule. But, when working remotely, your team leader has to trust that you’ll stay organized and productive on your own. Being disorganized is the quickest way to start underperforming and missing deadlines, so ensure that you stay organized at all times.”
Being organized is a skill like any other, so keep practicing and improve incrementally over time.
Switch Things Up
Feeling stuck in the same old routine is a common problem for the work-from-home crowd, so don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. Some minor tweaks to your routine here and there can work wonders.
“The trick to working remotely is to switch up your daily routines,” said Joe Parenteau, CEO, and Co-Founder of Fable. “It is very easy to slip into a schedule that you are comfortable with. When you do this there is a possibility that your productivity will go down because your brain isn’t being stimulated in different ways. Changing your routine can be as simple as having iced coffee one day and hot coffee the next. As long as you are comfortable in the choices you make in your routine, your day will be productive.”
No matter what your profession, it’s important to keep things fresh and take a new approach to problem-solving each day.
How many times have you put off a project until the last minute, then suffered the consequences of burnout or poor performance? Some of us have still not learned this lesson and need to practice jumping into action without hesitation.
“Procrastination can be one of the biggest dangers when working from home,” said Rachel Jones, Head of PR at Hope Health. “At the start of the week, it feels as if you have unlimited time. Then, Wednesday rolls around, and finally Friday. That’s when panic usually sets in. Even though you may be setting your own schedule, it’s important to finish your tasks for the day – just as if you were in the office. Procrastination has no place in any productive work environment.”
Everyone has the tendency to procrastinate, but top performers are able to outsmart the urge and push forward.
Build the Skill
What skills are you most proud of in your arsenal? You’ve spent years earning those credentials and making a living from your skills, so treat remote work like another skill that needs sharpening.
“Successfully working from home is a skill, just like programming, designing or writing,” said Alex Turnbull, Founder, and CEO of Groove. “It takes time and commitment to developing that skill, and the traditional office culture doesn’t give us any reason to do that.”
Whether you need work on organization, beating procrastination, or routine structure, treat it like any other goal and do what it takes to succeed.
To dial in your focus, you first need to identify what’s holding you back. Make a list of your focus-killers and set strict boundaries with yourself to avoid the same old pitfalls.
“Use every tool and technique to your advantage to stay focused when working from home,” said Kelli Lane, CMO of Genexa. “Cut out social media, texting, web surfing – these things seem innocuous at the moment, but the wasted time adds up quickly and hurts your performance.”
Once your work is done, you’ll have the chance to unwind, so you won’t miss anything.
Many young professionals pride themselves on their ability to multitask, but we all know the truth deep down – multitasking doesn’t work, no matter who you are!
“If you’re working remotely, there are a few pitfalls you’ll need to try to avoid,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO, and Founder of 6 Ice. “One of those is working in the living room with the TV on, and only half paying attention to the task at hand. Instead, create a space that is set up ONLY for your remote work. Keep it clear of distractions, and fill it with things that motivate you to be productive.”
Vow to avoid multitasking and embrace 100% focus, even if it means struggling at first.
A remote employee is only as good as the technology they’re given, and it took many companies a while to realize this truth. If you’re struggling with remote work, consider upgrading tech for you and your team.
“At Nori, we’ve found that like many other companies who have switched to working from home, we’ve run into problems such as connectivity issues, which turn into other problems like communication and productivity issues,” said Annabel Love, Co-Founder, and COO of Nori. “We have found that the best way to solve them has been to turn to apps like Slack, Google Meet, Zoom, and Google Calendar, all of which can usually be accessed from the phones of our team members, which can come in handy when internet may cut out for their computers and laptops!”
With so many remote work options available, you should have no issue making the necessary upgrades and getting up to speed.
Establish Your Zone
Some remote workers are able to work in the middle of a crowded city park or a busy café. That’s not the majority, however. Designate a space for max productivity and focus if that’s what you need.
“When working from home, it is important to try to remove as many distractions as possible,” said Dennis Hegstad, Co-Founder of LiveRecover. “Try to choose an isolated area of your house, if you can, where there is less noise. If you’re tempted to scroll through Instagram or Facebook or any other social media, try putting your cell phone out of reach. Another easy way to be more productive is to set a timer. During that time, focus on doing one work assignment that you need to finish. This can definitely help you stay on task and get the job done.”
If you keep getting distracted by something in your space, make adjustments and regain your focus.
Get it Done
With most things in work and life, there is more than one way to get the job done. What matters most is creating a product that checks all the boxes and gets delivered on time.
“Trying to do it all and expecting it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
There’s a reason why “ship it” is such a popular term in the business world. Don’t let perfectionism hold you back.
Connect to Culture
There’s no question that company culture took a hit this past year, but remote workers are doing a good job of recreating that atmosphere in a digital environment.
“Working from home involves less room for quick and easy communication among employees,” said Ben Teicher, CEO of Healthy Directions. “While email, Slack messages, and Zoom meetings certainly help, using these tools does not compare to the ability to walk up to a co-worker working in the same office and speaking to them whenever an issue or question arises. Basically, with the communication limitations of working remotely, employees have to work a little bit harder to create a friendly workplace environment, but it’s worth it.”
Remember that culture comes from every employee involved, so do your part each day to keep things professional and productive.
Be honest – were you more productive before or after the shift to remote work? It’s a question worth asking, and the answer will tell you a lot about your work habits and strengths.
“As the world opens back up, many companies are continuing their work from home initiatives because they have proven to be incredibly beneficial to productivity,” said Michael Waxman, CEO and Co-Founder of Sundays for Dogs. “Getting to this place of optimum productivity has been a journey. First off, everyone’s work-from-home tips and tricks are going to be different. The key to having a successful workflow is through trial and error; think of it like this- what has worked for you in the past? How would you set up your workflow if you were in the office? Simulate that environment and ensure you are properly set up for a full day in your makeshift office.”
Maybe you’re eagerly awaiting a return to the office, or you’re happy with the remote work lifestyle. Whatever the case, do what works best for you.
You won’t know what your ideal work environment is until you experience it for yourself. Try a few different settings in your home to see where you get the most done and enjoy the process.
“A common work from home problem can be getting distracted within your own home,” said Lauren Picasso, CEO of Cure Hydration. “The kitchen, tv, dog, kids, etc can all be distractions from the work you are trying to do. I recommend having a quiet secluded place to work where you are free from distractions. This can be an office, a room, or any quiet space in your home. Try not to turn on the tv or allow for any distractions to divert your attention from work.”
Just follow a simple rule: if it breaks your focus, it must go.
Snap Back to Action
Now and then, distractions will be unavoidable – that’s just how life goes. Be ready to get right back into the game as soon as you deal with the situation and clear your mind.
“The moment you find yourself delaying work or wandering off, make a habit of getting back into the zone fast, whatever that takes,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “It takes some willpower, but it’s discipline you can improve and strengthen over time.”
If your willpower and mindset are getting stronger each day, you’re on the right path.
Some people like to work in three-hour blocks with 30-minute breaks, while others work better in hour-long chunks throughout the day. Figure out your own optimal flow and embrace the process of experimentation.
“As an entrepreneur and mom of two, working from home definitely has its challenges,” said Divya Gugnani, CEO and Co-Founder of Wander Beauty. “While every day is different, it helps to have a basic core routine so the rest of your day can fall into place. I utilize time blocking so I can do deep work and give 100% to my priority tasks.”
Not everyone is a natural when it comes to remote work. In fact, it’s a tough thing to master for a lot of people. Take these tips from the best, and avoid common pitfalls whether you work remotely or in a hybrid office setup.