Making the Most of Working Remotely

Incorporate activities you enjoy into your work and breaks

As a University student completing a ‘work placement from home’ since June 2020, I have experienced many benefits and challenges as a result of working remotely. Although I am saving time and money from the lack of travel costs, it can get quite distracting and lonely at times. Working from home poses many challenges for some people, whether you’re studying for college or employed in a business. This short post will give you an insight to how I stay motivated, productive and happy while working from home.

Routine! Routine! Routine!

People often misunderstand the concept of a routine; they believe it requires a strict time schedule and order that you must follow as if your life depends on it. This is most certainly not the case. A routine can be as simple as “a sequence of actions regularly followed”. New research has shown that having a routine will not only increase your productivity but will also improve general well-being through actions such as regulating sleeping patterns, increasing happiness and decreasing psychological distress (Schneider & Harknett, 2019). For me, having a structured routine works best. I would consider myself as an organised individual, so having a routine has always suited me. On the other hand, I have a sibling who is quite (!) different, but who, since lockdown, has started following a very basic routine and as a result feels more content and productive. A basic routine, at the minimum, could involve getting up at the same time every morning and going to bed around the same time on weeknights. 

It’s ok to take breaks!

A major disadvantage of working remotely is that there are no set break points for many workers and students. Many people struggle to find a balance between too many and too few breaks. Taking regular, short breaks is important and essential for health and productivity. I once read a quote that said, “Taking breaks can lead to breakthroughs”, and I couldn’t agree with it more! Without breaks we can begin to feel tired, burnt out, and overwhelmed. Sometimes even five minutes away from your work, preferably outside, will do the trick. The benefits of self-initiated short breaks on work engagement have been highlighted in empirical research (Kühnel, Zacher, De Bloom & Bledow, 2017) – it is worth setting a timer (e.g., using a Pomodoro timer app) or regular calendar reminders. Incorporating activities you enjoy into your breaks can also be beneficial and a good coping strategy. Personally, I use exercise or listening to music, and go for a short walks in the fresh air. The type and frequency of breaks will vary from person to person, but the evidence suggests that it will help you to stay happy and productive.

Goal Setting

Regardless of whether you’re working remotely or not; goal setting is a very handy skill to have. It is possibly one of the best ways to keep motivated, which can be hard to do under the current circumstances. Goal setting involves creating both short- and long-term aims for you to work towards. For the purpose of this post, I am going to talk specifically about work- or university-related goals, such as completing a project by a certain date or having a chapter revised by the end of the week. Setting such goals will not only keep you more motivated and interested in your work, but will also increase your productivity and relieve stress (Lunenburg, 2011). There are many different ways to go about goal setting, the one I use myself is writing out checklists for my day/week/month and ticking things off once they are completed. Other common methods include using (online or more traditional paper versions) sticky notes as reminders, using a diary/calendar (e.g., https://passionplanner.com/ or https://www.getupandgodiary.com/) or having a pin board in your workspace.

On the whole, these three strategies have helped me to stay motivated, productive and happy while working from home. Everyone has good days and bad days, experiencing the full range of human emotions (positive and negative), and that is to be expected. A key thing is to become aware of your own mood through the day. Be curious – I’m feeling really tired/excited/unmotivated now, I wonder why I’m feeling this way today? Then consider what actions are within your control, work or non-work related, to make positive changes on that particular day.

For more information click on some of the resources below:

  1. https://www.randstad.ca/job-seeker/career-resources/workplace-culture/how-to-start-a-morning-routine-when-you-work-from-home/
  2. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-create-a-daily-routine-2648007
  3. https://www.appvoc.com/study-goals/#:~:text=Research%20supports%20the%20value%20of,necessary%20action%20to%20accomplish%20it.

References

Kühnel, J., Zacher, H., De Bloom, J., & Bledow, R. (2017). Take a break! Benefits of sleep and short breaks for daily work engagement. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology26(4), 481-491.

Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Goal-setting theory of motivation. International journal of management, business, and administration15(1), 1-6.

Schneider, D., & Harknett, K. (2019). Consequences of routine work-schedule instability for worker health and well-being. American Sociological Review84(1), 82-114.

About the Author

Alanna Heraty (@AlannaHeraty) is a 3rd year undergraduate student on the BSc. Psychology programme at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She is currently on research placement (via the Cooperative Education programme) in the Department of Psychology and RISE lab (@risetoresearch), supervised by Dr. Elaine Kinsella (@elainekinsella). Alanna is particularly interested in the psychology of group dynamics and human development.

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