How the 'most successful' people work from home and get things done, according to a career coach


More people than ever are working outside of a traditional office setting. Over the past five years, remote work has increased 44%, according to a 2020 FlexJobs analysis. Fully 84% of remote workers say they primarily do so from home, according to a 2019 report from Buffer, as opposed to, say, a coffee shop or library.

If you're among the rising number of people logging hours from their living rooms, kitchens, or garages, either permanently or as a temporary measure due to the coronavirus pandemic, making the switch to working from home can be a challenge. Your house might be full of distractions, and it's easy to get restless when you're pounding away at your keyboard all alone.

There are tricks, though, to being more productive and having a more satisfying experience. "The people who are most successful and get the most done," says career coach Becca Camp, "have literally everything on their calendar," for example.

Here are five ways to ensure that your transition to remote work goes smoothly.

1. Create and maintain a dedicated work space

When selecting where to work at home, consider which rooms have the fewest tempting distractions or the least traffic. Leadership coach Thuy Sindell gives the example of electing not to work in her kitchen, where her daughter is wont to wander in and "start making herself lunch."

"Having a dedicated space in your home," she says, "is really helpful in terms of minimizing distractions." This could be an extra bedroom, a corner in the garage, or anywhere else that might be quieter than the rest of the house. Before you hunker down to work, make sure your space is equipped with all of the tech elements you may need. That includes necessary equipment, outlets, and access to the internet.  

A designated space also helps set a boundary between work and life, which can get murky when your laundry needs to get done and it's sitting in the room next door. Your own space helps create not just a physical separation, but a mental one.

And if you don't have a separate space to devote to work, consider buying a desk divider that could create one for you.

2. Give yourself clear tasks and goals

When you start your work day, take a few minutes to make a list of your to-dos and objectives. "That could be a good way to steer your focus," says leadership coach Milo Sindell. Making a list can really help you stay on track when you've switched locations, and help you "keep yourself accountable to yourself in terms of what you want to deliver." 

Another organizational tip to try: Use a detailed calendar.

Camp suggests turning items on your to-do lists into tasks, putting those tasks into your calendar, then throwing away that to-do list altogether.   

The people who are most successful and get the most done have literally everything on their calendar.
Becca Camp
Career coach

3. Find a way to socialize

Working from home can be an insular experience, and you may find yourself spending many hours of the day alone. For some people, this can prove challenging. You may like working in your pajamas, but interacting with peers also has its advantages.

A 2008 study from MIT found that people with more social connections and social interaction during the workday were ultimately more productive. And a 2018 study of 1,200 Germans found that people who engaged in more social activity also found more satisfaction in life.

Figure out some workarounds that put you in contact with other people, even briefly. "For people who are not used to working from home," says Milo, "scheduling maybe a 5 or 10 minute chat with a co-worker, just to create that social connection" can boost both productivity and general well-being.

4. Take a walk

You may feel a bit restless sitting at home, especially if you're accustomed to physical activity throughout the day, even if it's just running out of the office to grab lunch. Stepping away from your desk for 20-to-30 minutes of exercise like walking "can help if you need to stay focused on a task and solve problems more efficiently," according to an article by Harvard Medical School.

Even a short walk can help you shake that restlessness and clear your head. A study at Stanford University found that walking improved the creativity of 81% of participants.

5. Over-communicate 

One drawback of working from home is that it can be harder to hold yourself accountable and to make sure your managers, who aren't there with you, see what you're contributing. Staying in touch helps to demonstrate that you can work and maintain the same level of productivity you have in the office. 

When you're working remotely, there's no such thing as over-communication. Keep your team and your manager up-to-date on your workflow, even though you're not able to interface directly. Check in with your boss one to two times a day to ensure they know how hard you're working and what you're working on.

"I would proactively do a check-in in the morning for the plan for the day," says Milo, "and do a wrap-up as you're wrapping up your day just to make sure that [your] manager feels good about what's going on [and knows] you're taking care of business."

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