It's likely that you've been working remotely (and from home) for more than a year. It’s also likely that, for more than a year, you’ve been reading article after article telling you how to work more effectively and productively while working remotely. Most of these articles list the same handful of tips (or rules). And perhaps the most ubiquitous of these are the three below. Which, from here on out, you have permission to break.
1. Dress each day just like you would if you were going into an office.
The advice goes: If you dress for so-called success each morning before you begin working remotely—you put on dress pants, a nice top or collared shirt, a belt, maybe even shoes that are neither sneakers nor flip-flops—you’ll trigger a shift from lazy-pajama-sweatpant-you into serious-highly-productive-worker-you. Although this trick might work for some people—and if it does for you, feel free to stay all dressed up and continue on—but for those of you who find that you’re just as productive in attire that you wouldn’t even Zoom your parents in, then you should also feel free to stay dressed down and continue on.
Here’s the thing about remote work rules: Unlike certain drawstring sweatpants, there are no one-size-fits-all rules. So, determine what works for you and stick to it. Don’t follow rules if they don’t fit your work style or personality. With respect to what you wear, what’s wrong with a little comfort? The way we work is changing fast. Consider that the open plan office is pretty much obsolete. The in-office Monday through Friday 9 to 5 (or 9 to 9 for certain professions) is also just about dead. So, why wouldn’t other rules you’ve been told were prudent and practical—including putting on a costume each day that supposedly turns you into a professional—also soon be history?
You might be thinking: But what about all those Zooms? Yes, for those virtual work meetings, it’s a good idea to put on something over your T-shirt that makes you look like you didn’t just get off your Peloton (even if you did). But feel free to keep on the sweats. You’re an experienced remote worker now. You can be trusted to know how and when to use “stop camera” if needed.
2. Keep to the same schedule every day.
You’ve probably read that if you clock in and out at the same times each day—just like you might’ve done when you got all dressed up and went into the office each day—that you’ll be more productive, you’ll find it easier to separate your personal life from work, and your mental health will benefit. Again, while perhaps true for some remote workers, this is unlikely true for all.
One of the great benefits of remote work is flexibility. Pre-Covid remote workers are well aware of this. They know that one of the beauties of working remotely is the ability to get more done, not less. You’re able to make personal appointments, therapy sessions, exercise classes, your kids’ softball games, happy hours. To do this likely means shifting your work hours from day to day. Things come up, so use your time management skills wisely. Don’t be afraid to make each day a new one. Start your day two hours earlier if you have something you need to do in the afternoon or early evening. Start your day two hours later if you were up late working (or job searching) and need the sleep. Take charge of your schedule. Don’t let your schedule take charge of you.
3. Keep a designated space for work and only work from there.
It’s a good idea to have a separate space in your home dedicated to work and only work in that space. Or is it? Yet again, here’s a rule that might work for some people but likely not for all. What’s wrong with working from the kitchen table for an hour in the morning, then working from your bed until noon, then working on the stoop when the midday sun hits its high point, then sitting on the living room couch as the sun sets and catching up on emails? Nothing! The point is: find out what works for you. Some people like to move around during their workdays—sit a little (at a desk), stand a little (at a standing desk), even walk a little (respond to emails while strolling through the park).
Also, hopefully soon, when the pandemic is a thing of the past, coffee shops and co-working spaces will reopen en masse. So, in the near future, maybe you’ll be in the mood to work among others on some days, but alone on other days. Take advantage of all the possibilities that remote work offers you. Get creative, test out different locations, inside and outside your home. See what works best for you.
Remote work has opened minds to possibilities not thought of before. Don’t let old rules rule you. Instead, feel free to break them.
The pandemic has taught us many things, not the least of which is remote work can be more productive and provide a better work/life balance than in-office work. So, what will happen when employers reopen their offices and employees don’t want to return? How should employers engage with employees who want to keep working remotely? And how should employees who want to keep working remotely engage with employers who want them to return to the office?
To find out the answers to these and other questions on the minds of professionals, managers, and executives across the country, we spoke with Rhiannon Staples, the chief marketing officer of Hibob.
Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and the chief medical correspondent for CNN. He is also the author of Keep Sharp: Build A Better Brain At Any Age, a new book that dispels common myths about the brain, offers advice to boost the brain’s processing speed, and includes a 12-week program (with tips on diet, exercise, and sleep) for sharpening your brain.
As the Covid-19 delta variant gives rise to new hotspots, it's understandable that workers nationwide are wondering how it will affect the return to offices. John Macomber is a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, veteran of the real estate industry, and co-author of Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity (Harvard University Press; April 21, 2020).
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