7 Ways to Make Your Remote Work Environment Work For You

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Alexis Schrader139
April 19, 2024 at 5:40PM UTC

As more employers offer work-from-home arrangements, an increasing number of us are navigating how to enjoy the flexibility remote work offers while maintaining appropriate boundaries between work and other parts of life. During a decade of working from home, the following strategies have kept me productive while allowing me to take advantage of remote work’s many perks. 

1. Create a designated workspace. 

It’s easy to get distracted when you work next to all your looming household tasks. Avoid this by creating a distinct environment, which signals to your brain that it’s time to work. Your work environment could be anything from a home office to a coffee shop. When I lived in a small apartment, I kept a tray of my work materials in a closet. I would bring it out each morning to create a temporary work area at my kitchen table. The point is to create a space you associate with work that you can step away from when it’s time to switch gears.

2. “Commute” to and from your workspace. 

Ditching the commute is a huge benefit of remote work. But losing that drive or subway ride means we also lose our transition time between home and work. Creating routines to transition in and out of work is another way to signal your brain that it’s time to switch gears. Your “commute” can be as simple as a walk around the block or a cup of coffee to start your day and tea to end it. The point is to signal that our work day is beginning and ending, so choose any ritual that works for you.  

3. Make sure everything you need is within arm’s reach. 

Once you get up to get something, it’s easy to get distracted by pets, housemates, or looming chores. Make sure everything you need is nearby before you start work for the day. Doing so can also help you appear more professional; I once interviewed a potential new hire who spent several minutes trying to find a power cord before her laptop died (she didn’t get the job).

4. Ask your employer for what you need.

Some companies will provide everything from a desktop with a second monitor to an ergonomic chair for your home office. Others have fewer resources. See what your company offers, and don’t be shy about asking!

5. Look behind you, and in front of you.

By now, most of us know to have a professional-looking Zoom background. Another important consideration for video meetings is lighting. If your only light source is behind or above you, it can cast shadows that make it difficult to read facial expressions. A light source in front of you avoids this, plus it’s just more flattering. Try to position your computer in front of a lamp or sunny window, or get a ring light that clips onto your screen.  

6. Create a schedule that works for you and stick to it.

Sticking to a daily schedule for work and home tasks is my key to maintaining productivity while taking advantage of the opportunity remote work provides to design a day that works for me. 

The first step in creating your schedule is to think about when and how long you work best. I start my day with a two-hour block of deep work in the early morning, when I’m most focused. If you are naturally most productive from 10:00 pm to midnight, plan a work block thenI also schedule two twenty-minute blocks daily to do household chores while I get a break from more intellectually taxing work tasks. This helps with the urge to procrastinate on work by taking care of personal to-dos because I know when everything is getting done. 

Meetings and collaborative projects usually still happen during regular business hours, but getting independent work done at the time of day you work best can boost your performance while giving you more flexibility. Because I get a couple of hours of work in before the day starts, I usually finish what I need to do by the time I pick up my kids from school and can spend the afternoon with them. 

7. Set boundaries.

When creating your schedule, be sure to clarify expectations with your employer. Do they expect you to be on call and logged in at certain times, or are you free to set your own hours as long as you finish your work and make it to meetings? It’s easy to let work tasks bleed into your personal time when you work where you live. Once you know what your employer expects, set reasonable boundaries around your work hours. 

You should also set explicit expectations with people who share your space around when you are available and what that means. This can vary between industries, so don’t assume they know what’s appropriate. It’s common for my co-workers and me to see each other’s kids run in and out in the background, but that would be far less appropriate if you’re Zooming into a court hearing. 

Remote work offers a unique opportunity for flexibility and work-life balance. Using these strategies to keep you focused and create boundaries can help you successfully navigate the challenges of working from home while taking advantage of its benefits.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Alexis is a freelance writer, attorney, and activist, currently writing for the upcoming podcast, Everyday Climate Champions. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, daughters, and too many dogs.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for excelling in a remote role? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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