While employees working from home can be more productive and focused than those always in an office, distractions can creep into their workday. Follow these tips for working from home to stay productive, motivated, and balanced.
The research is in, and early signs are good for remote workers: A 2-year study from Stanford has shown that employees randomly chosen to work from home had 13% more output compared to their coworkers who stayed in the office. They were also more likely to work a full shift, have more concentration during their workday, and were less likely to quit.
Despite these encouraging results, it doesn’t mean that working remotely always comes easily. If your workspace is at home, distractions can creep in and rob you of your focus. You may also experience the opposite problem: If the separation between work and home isn’t significant enough, you might not take sufficient time away. One of the benefits of a career in telemedicine is the ability to achieve greater balance in your life, so don’t let yourself get overworked. Follow these tips for working from home to stay productive, focused, accountable, and yes, balanced.
How to Effectively Work Remotely
1. Set a schedule to keep yourself on track.
You’ve given yourself more flexibility by working from home, but it doesn’t mean you should operate without a schedule. Use a journal to track what you have to do during the day, blocked out by 15- or 30-minute increments to keep you focused. The SELF Journal is good for blocking out big plans in incremental steps, as well as keeping your daily schedule regimented. Is getting started the hard part for you? Commit to a morning ritual. To inject some creativity into your day, start working on morning pages. Or, subscribe to Daily Burn or another workout app and exercise every morning to energize.
2. With a schedule, give yourself breaks.
The Stanford research indicated that employees working from home worked fuller shifts on average. Don’t go overboard and let a home workspace lead to burnout. Give yourself breaks. Whether it’s a walk break, lunch break, or 5-minute social media break, make sure you take a little time during the day to refresh and rejuvenate. When your day is supposed to be over, walk away. Don’t take your work “home” with you into other spaces. If you’re having trouble taking time away, add breaks to your SELF Journal schedule, and stick to them.
3. Make your workspace inviting.
You now have greater flexibility over your schedule and your space, so why would you work somewhere that didn’t feel comfortable and inviting? Decorate your home office with things that make you happy: Use a color scheme you enjoy, add a few items that bring beauty to your space, and personalize where it makes sense. Comfort is key. You may even want to consult with an occupational therapist to make sure your home office is set up to be ergonomic. If you can, position your workspace to have lots of natural light and few distractions. Make it the haven in your home and clear things away from your line of vision that would keep you from being focused on the tasks at hand.
Get more tips on setting up your telemedicine home office.
4. Form healthy habits.
This tip for successfully working from home can also extend into your everyday life. Track healthy habits you want to bring into your remote practice electronically - use an app like Habitbull to hold yourself accountable. Keep a big bottle of water at your workspace to encourage hydration throughout the day. Meal prep on weekends to make breakfast and lunch easy while minimizing your desire to order takeout or take too much time away from work.
5. Set financial goals.
Saving money by eating food at home is only the beginning. It’s key to set financial goals for yourself. Whether your goals are all about “Financial Independence and Retiring Early” (FIRE) or you’re just looking to save up for something bigger, there are a few things you can do to ensure success.
Get your spending in order by consulting a resource like The Worth Project or The Fiscal Femme. Find advice from other clinicians looking for financial independence on Physician on FIRE. When it comes to squirreling away money, automatic savings and investments are your best friend. Apps like Stash will automatically withdraw money from your savings account and invest it in stocks, bonds, or an IRA. Some banking companies, like Ally, will allow automatic transfers as well. Open a money market account and commit to depositing a given amount every week that you don’t touch. Thinking about reaching your financial goals will be the push you need on days when you’re not feeling motivated and will help you determine how many telemedicine shifts you want to take on.
6. Get accountability buddies, real or virtual.
When you don’t have enough willpower of your own, you might want to call in reinforcements. Focus may be harder for you to come by some days more than others; luckily, there are apps like Forest that can help keep you on track. The app requires you to stay off your phone for a prescribed amount of time. If you pick it up and peruse Facebook, for example, the tree currently growing in your forest will die. If virtual accountability isn’t enough, partner with a friend who has a similar schedule and is looking to stay on-task. Check in on each other during the week and reflect on your productivity.
With a space that feels like yours, a schedule to maintain control, and a healthy handle on your body and finances, you’ve gotten that much closer to figuring out how to successfully work from home.
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