How to Stay Productive When Working Remote

Working from home (or your nearest coffee shop) sounds amazing, and it is. It can also be a fast track to the unemployment line. Here’s how to stay productive when working from home.

You don’t have to look far for proof that it’s possible to be productive from your home office (or “office,” if you work from the couch). Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom recently conducted a study wherein 500 employees were split equally between working from home and working from the office. Those who worked from home were found to be more productive, less tardy and more willing to stay their full shift rather than duck out early for one reason or another.

Employees doing their jobs from home also took less sick time, fewer PTO days, shorter breaks, and saw their attrition levels drop 50 percent. The company participating in this study also saved about $2,000 per employee because it didn’t have to maintain office space for them.

But how did they do it? In this study, remote employees had a room in their home dedicated to work, which is key. If you muddle work and life in your home, things can get blended too quickly. Even if it’s just an out-of-the-way corner of your living room, a space for “only work” is always the best choice.

You should also act like someone is watching, or at least holding you accountable. More to the point, you should hold yourself accountable at all times. Often that translates to being self-sufficient. OpenVPN CEO Francis Dinha tells Dice: “We’re not a manufacturing-type environment where employees just write code; instead, they must be able to look at their project requirements on a higher level and understand how they relate to the company’s mission.”

As Dinha also notes, remote workers are best when they are “responsible, self-motivated and able to work with autonomy.”

Staying connected is key. A good internet connection is obviously critical, but so is staying active and available via your company’s chat channels. It shows you’re engaged even when working from home, but can also be good for your mental health. Working from home can be lonely, especially when you first start. Going from an office full of coworkers to a quiet space can be intimidating. Trello CEO Michael Pryor says having someone in charge of social events for remote employees might also be beneficial.

Finally, eliminating distractions is important. Faced with nobody to get up and talk to (and a television just waiting to be turned on) can lead you down the rabbit’s hole of getting nothing done. If you find white noise or something happening in the background helps you focus, make it happen (which could include turning the television on!). Just be realistic about what helps, and what doesn’t.

Working remotely is a perk many tech pros are eagerly seeking in 2018. They want to work from home, and Stanford’s study dovetails with GitLab’s findings that remote crews are more collaborative and productive. And you don’t have to commute, which can even help you save a lot of cash annually.

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