The average full-time American employee spends one third of their day working, five days a week, according to the Center for Disease Control. That means your coworkers, your daily tasks, and the work culture you surround yourself with can be just as important as the relationship, activity, and environmental decisions you make with the other two thirds of your life.
Think of yourself when you were younger – when a child goes to school each day, is it just a place where they spend a third of their day, being watched after, or is school a fundamental building block in their social and intellectual development? This concept doesn’t disappear in adulthood. The better curated our environment is to our needs, the better we learn, the more we grow, and the happier we feel.
So how do we create work that feels “right for me” when we are working remotely? The key is to develop relationships, tasks, and an environment that suits your values. In a traditional office-based job, those factors are laid out for you already. It’s on you to select a company that suits all your needs. But with remote work, the flexibility is much greater. On the flip side, it takes a lot of responsibility and self-discipline to create the situation that will most support you and your work.
But it is worth the investment. Here’s five tips for shaping your remote job to be your best, and happiest, work self:
1. Tune into your surroundings: Do you work better with some noise in the background, or in complete silence? Does the humming of birds distract you, or put you at ease? Especially in cities, it is difficult to find the kind of space you need when you need it. Consider noise-cancelling headphones, nature music, or renting a small office space to give you more control and regularity over your surroundings.
2. Don’t multitask: It’s a common misconception that multitasking equals higher productivity. In fact, humans are not able to do several things at once – rather, we waste time shifting rapidly between tasks, never engaging on a deeper level with any one task. Practice focusing on one thing at a time, even if it feels slow at first. Training your attention will actually boost engagement, allowing you to complete tasks more quickly and more effectively so you can move onto the next thing.
3. Take a full lunch: Sure, you might be on deadline and have to prepare for a conference call at 2pm, but studies show that taking breaks throughout the day allows for reflection, which in turn can lead to greater clarity and creativity when returning to work. Without breaks, you may suffer exhaustion – which will show in your work.
4. Touch base: While working remotely has it’s benefits. it’s important for our mental hygiene to engage in regular collaboration with co-workers. Schedule in time here and there for in-person meetings: human contact is conducive to better communication when presenting new ideas, as we can pick up on emotional responses and cues better face-to-face.
5. Consider your ideal situation: Not all remote-workers are people who enjoy working by themselves. If you prefer a busy environment, consider a shared office space for professionals in your field, where you can develop social relationships during coffee breaks and lunch. Knowing your personality can go a long way.
While many people consider their work “just jobs,” tailoring your remote working situation to suit your needs can do a lot for your mental hygiene, which in turn can improve performance and strengthen work relationships