The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are your strategies for staying effective while working remotely?” is written by Kira Makagon, executive vice president of innovation at RingCentral.
A mobile, flexible, and distributed workforce is no longer our future; it’s our present-day reality. As my company’s executive vice president of innovation, I spearhead the ongoing expansion and improvement of communications and collaborations tools that facilitate remote work. Gone are the days when 9 to 5 hours and daily in-person interactions are necessary or even desirable for employees and their companies. Staying connected while working remotely is not only possible, it’s easy. Staying efficient, on the other hand, may take some planning. Here are my three practical tips for staying effective from your remote worksite:
Maintain a set schedule
Look ahead at least a couple of weeks to plan your workdays. I try to keep the same general schedule regardless of my work location. Keeping the same hours helps my coworkers and staff know when I’m accessible. Scheduling helps me put boundaries around my work day too. I make an effort to power down when I’m off for the day to turn my attention to the other important stuff of life: family, exercise, food, and relaxation. Working remotely doesn’t mean “always on.” It just means you have some flexibility. That flexibility can be a good thing when you want to see your kid’s soccer game, but it can be a bad thing if you fail at keeping a schedule and setting boundaries.
Find a dedicated office or workspace
In addition to time boundaries, space boundaries matter. It is hard to stay focused on work if you are within sight of the rest of your to-do list at home. I have a dedicated home office. When I’m working, I can shut the door and leave the rest of the house behind. When I’m finished, I can close the office door behind me and leave work for the day. If you don’t have the space to dedicate to a home office, consider where you might make some, and protect it. More and more coworking spaces are cropping up too, so perhaps your flexible office is somewhere outside your home. Consider things like noise-canceling headphones, which might help you maintain focus in those environments. In my experience, if you’re working from your couch in your pajamas, chances are that you’re not in work-mode and won’t accomplish what you need to that day.
Find ways to connect professionally offline
When working remotely, it is important to have some face-to-face time with your colleagues if possible. You and your team will work out whatever balance of face-time and remote work-time is appropriate. These days, some offices are solely remote, and face-to-face meetings are hard to organize. No matter how much you love working remotely, being an island won’t feel good in the long run. If you can’t connect with local colleagues, consider joining professional networks in your field. The ones in my area have monthly speakers and social time. These gatherings are a good idea regardless of whether or not you have a local office, as they are a good way to find mentors or even your next job.
Working remotely can be even more productive than working in an office. There are likely to be fewer interruptions and happier employees, who reap the benefits of shorter or no commute times and greater work-life balance. If you’re going to undertake mobile, flexible, and remote work, I urge you to consider these tips to set yourself up for success.