Making remote working work for you

One of my favourite parts of working from home is that the time and energy I used to spend on my work commute (25-35 minutes each way) can now be spent doing things that put me in a happy and productive headspace. This includes eating a balanced breakfast (rather than a protein shake as I dash out the door) and/or taking my dog for a leisurely walk around my local park with a coffee. That way, when the clock strikes 9 am, I’m at my desk ready to tackle my day, rather than shaking off the stress of traffic. It has lessened my “settling in” time considerably. 

That being said, I’ve always thrived more in an office environment, working collaboratively in a group rather than from home. I had always struggled with my attention span when it came to virtual learning, etc. Over the past 6-7 months however I’ve come up with some tips and tricks that have helped me be the best employee I can be from home.

Avoid “productive” procrastination
Isn’t it funny how it’s always when you have a looming deadline that you suddenly notice you haven’t scrubbed your shower grout in what feels like forever? I think it’s my brain’s way of trying not to feel guilty about not wanting to work, since I’d be “slacking off” doing something that isn’t exactly fun and does need to be done. However, try to avoid that impulse as much as possible. You can suck yourself into make work projects that take far, far longer than writing that press release ever will. 

Can’t concentrate for hours on end? Build in set breaks.
Something I started doing in my undergrad degree was building in set breaks to my study sessions. I would put headphones in for 55 minutes and resist the urge to talk to my study mates/friends/partner etcetera. Then, after that 55 minutes is up, I could take them out for 5 minutes and chat about what I was working on and bounce around any ideas/questions I had come up with. Now that my partner and I are both working from home, this allows us to both concentrate as well as be active listeners when the time comes.

Keep your space tidy
Not only will it make it easier to find what you need — a pen, your notes — but it will help ward off that pesky productive procrastination.

Differentiate “Work Time” from “Play Time”
Make a set plan for what you want to do after work, even if it’s in the same space you’ve been working in all day. Whether it’s cooking dinner, doing a workout, watching a movie, or going to a park, put it on your calendar. I find if I don’t carve out that time for myself, my work day can stretch on endlessly, which helps me accomplish a lot in the short term, but burns me out before the end of the week. 

This might also include having a set work space, if you have room for it. I’ve noticed a marked difference in my productivity since I set up a proper home office, rather than working from my couch.

Be extra diligent about keeping track of deadlines
Remember that you won’t be having casual office conversations that may serve as reminders. I keep track of deadlines both in Trello and on my Google calendar, just to make sure nothing gets missed.

If Zoom meetings cause you anxiety, consider “Hiding” yourself
Others in the meeting will still be able to see you, but you won’t see yourself on video. That way you can actively listen without worrying about what you look like.

If your partner or roommate is also working from home, invest in decent earphones
That way, their pen tapping or humming won’t drive you crazy. 

Make a good work playlist
A good mellow, mostly instrumental playlist gets me in a meditative headspace that I find perfect for working. If you have Spotify, feel free to check mine out here. (I originally designed it for participants of the 2020 3-Day Novel Contest, which I’m the Senior Editor of). 

Take time to appreciate your fuzzy coworkers
When I run into a mental block while working on something, taking a 5-minute break to walk Abbey around the block, or even just tussle with her and her stuffed koala can sometimes be all it takes for me to move past what I’m stuck on.

About the Author

Jessica Key has a Master of Publishing degree from Simon Fraser University, and works for subTerrain Magazine, Anvil Press, Iceland Writers Retreat, and the International 3-Day Novel Contest. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Vancouver Island University, where she was the Managing Editor of the school’s literary magazine, Portal, and an Editorial Assistant for the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet Lecture Series. She is currently the President of the Magazine Association of British Columbia.