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  1. Blog
  2. Work from Home
  3. August 24, 2023

Work Remotely? Experts Share Tips for Staying Motivated & Connected When Working From Home

Plus, how long-term remote work affects wellbeing and job satisfaction

woman working from home
Photo courtesy of Arina Krasnikova

There's no denying remote work is beneficial. Not only is work-from-home the desired work style for 79 percent of women post-pandemic, but we’ve also seen how widespread remote work offerings drive equity and inclusivity. 

“Remote work has exposed work cultures that were lacking the support needed for their employees to succeed in their roles, especially for [BIPOC] employees navigating discrimination in the workplace, and it removed barriers for people unable to travel to work or struggling to find consistent transportation to work,” says workplace equity expert Jasmine Williams-Jacobs. “People are empowered to find roles with companies aligning with their values, preferred work location, and professional goals instead of settling with companies unwilling to make changes to accommodate employee wellness, flexibility, inclusivity, and equity.”

Williams-Jacobs is the founder and managing director of Black Remote She, a community-driven job platform connecting Black LGBTQ+ and allied job seekers with inclusive work cultures. They applaud how mass remote work has shifted perspectives, allowing workers to explore freedom in their careers and find roles that offer the flexibility and autonomy they want and need to navigate their lives. 

However, even with such clear benefits, remote work can still be fraught. Spikes in isolation and distraction are common among remote workers, and many working from home now log more hours and are more burnt out than ever after doing so for over three years. 

“Remote work can mean you have to be much more intentional about your social life and seeking out human to human engagement,” says Dana Hundley, head of coaching and content at Allspring. She’s been having more and more conversations lately about employees feeling isolated in a way that’s different from the loneliness felt during the pandemic lockdowns “There is a sense of, okay, now we can be around other people safely, but we have to be much more active in making that happen. 

“Remote work can make people feel a lack of connection to their work because they don’t feel connected to their colleagues or managers. And when employees don’t feel connected, they’re not going to feel fulfilled in their job. Leaders, managers, and employees have to take more initiative in creating connection to their work and to each other. I think this will be a constant work in progress and something organizations and individuals have to get better at.”

Remote work isn’t going away any time soon (an estimated 32.6 million Americans—22 percent of the workforce—will be working remotely by 2025), so we have to learn how to celebrate the good (equity! flexibility!) while also problem-solving the challenges. That means striving to provide more and more remote offerings while also learning how to channel the same drive, motivation, and connection experienced in-person while working from home. 

You can find remote jobs here. Now, this is how you do the latter.

Read more: Return to Office, Maybe? How to Reduce Stress & Maintain Flexibility Amid Changing Routines

12 tips for staying motivated and connected when working from home

Remote work has blurred the lines between personal and professional responsibilities, so if you feel distracted, unmotivated, or unproductive sometimes while working from home, you might need to adapt your working style to fit your remote reality. 

“It’s really easy to slip into unhealthy habits when you’re working in your personal space without clear boundaries or anchors like a dedicated workspace, clear hours of operation, or rituals and personal best practices around how you plan for your day or week,” Hundley says.

To combat unhealthy habits and get you in a motivated mindset, Williams-Jacobs recommends designing your personalized work-from-home routine using these fundamental elements:

  • Envision your ideal work schedule and find a role that offers the flexibility you need.

  • Schedule your work time and your breaks.

  • Create boundaries around your work routine.

  • Make room for empty space in your schedule.

  • Allow grace in altering your routine as needed. Leave room for the unexpected—it’s inevitable that personal commitments will come up without warning.

Once you’re ready to create a routine, follow these specific tips to feel your best while doing your best work.

1. Wake up as if you were going into an office

Working from home makes many things way more accessible, even things that aren’t so beneficial (like lazily stretching over your bed at 8:59 a.m. to pick up your laptop from your bedside table). If you feel like your productivity has been slipping, try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than you normally do. Give yourself more time to really wake up, eat a good breakfast, and get in some exercise—even if it’s just simple stretching or a stroll around your neighborhood. Hundley says, “I’ve personally tried to start every day with a walk around the block that helps my mind and body understand, ‘okay, now it’s time to transition to work and do so with a clearer head.’”

2. Get dressed and ready every day

According to psychology professor Dr. Karen Pine, dressing too casually can make you less productive and focused. She says, "When we put on an item of clothing, it’s common for the wearer to adopt the characteristics associated with that garment. A lot of clothing has symbolic meaning for us, whether it's 'professional work attire' or 'relaxing weekend wear,' so when we put it on, we prime the brain to behave in ways consistent with that meaning." The message being: don't work from home in your pajamas. You can still be comfortable, but change into something that signals to your brain that it's time to work.

3. Make a daily to-do list of priority items 

“Create a schedule,” says Hundley. “I know this can feel counterintuitive to the flexibility of remote work, but routine can be really important to your mental health and help avoid burnout.” As soon as you start your work day, you should be organizing your workflow to inform your schedule for the day. What three tasks do you absolutely have to get done today? Are there ongoing projects you need to check in on? Are there any roadblocks to your workflow right now? Traditional paper and pen will do just fine, but you can also utilize free project management software (Trello, Asana, Notion, etc.) to organize all of your tasks in one place. 

4. Create a dedicated workspace

Working from home offers variability in where you work. You can start at the kitchen table, move to your desk, and end in a comfy chair in the living room. Where shouldn’t you work from? Your bed. Working from the space where you sleep only further blurs the boundaries between work and home and can disrupt your sleep cycle later on. After you’ve picked a dedicated workspace, try to minimize clutter around you and ensure you have plenty of light so you’re not straining your eyes. 

5. Build in time for human interaction

As Hundley pointed out, one of the main struggles of working from home every day is the feeling of isolation. Sure, working next to your partner, roommate, or pet counts as interaction, but it’s important to build relationships with your coworkers in a professional setting as well. Check in with your team periodically throughout the day—send an open coffee meeting link to your team, have a 1:1, or simply pose a fun question to a group in Slack. 

6. Limit technology distractions

As much as we all try to deny it, we’re addicted to Instagram and TikTok. If you were working in an office, you know you wouldn’t be doom scrolling in between tasks. At home, Williams-Jacobs says to be mindful of your screen time. Try not to keep your phone within arm’s length for the entire day and be cognizant of how much time you’re spending on social media. There are even apps that let you know how many times you’ve opened a specific app throughout the day, and seeing that number alone can shock you into being more productive.  

7. Pick up a hobby

It’s inevitable that you’ll feel distracted at times throughout the day when working from home. There are ways to use this time to still be productive, though. Find a hobby or task to focus on for a few minutes when you get distracted. Read a chapter of your book club book, browse recipes you could make for dinner, knit the next section of your scarf, or empty the dishwasher. That being said, toxic productivity, the need to feel productive at all times, is real. Your worth as a human is not measured by your productivity, and sometimes, you might need a few minutes to simply sit, be still, let your mind wander, and rest. 

Read more: Why We Should All Resolve to Ditch Hustle Culture

8. Switch up your environment

It can be difficult to maintain motivation when you work from the same spot every day. Simply moving locations and switching up your environment can spark new ideas and inspiration. And while coffee shops are wonderful, they aren’t your only remote work option. Try working from a public library, bookstore, coworking space, hotel lobby, or higher education campus. 

9. Gift yourself time for self-care 

Take advantage of the flexibility you have being at home, and make time for self-care, whatever it means to you. When you work from home, you can cook yourself a nutritious breakfast instead of running out the door with a coffee and granola bar for the commute. You can organize your excel sheets with under eye masks on, make yourself a refreshing smoothie in the middle of the day, work to your favorite podcast out loud, or take a 15-minute reading break. 

10. Take breaks and get outside

Get outside at some point in your day and stay active! At home, you might not have to walk as far to the kitchen or bathroom as you would in an office space, so be your own Apple Watch or FitBit. Remind yourself to stand up and stretch every hour and try to get your steps in. If you can, make one of your standing meetings a walking meeting each week. Hundley suggests taking your lunch away from your desk or getting outside for an errand, stretch break, or workout to break up your day.

11. Experiment and check-in with yourself

When you’re working from home, you have to hold yourself accountable. Your manager isn’t right next to you making sure you’re staying on track. “Being intentional and self-aware of what’s working and what’s not lets you be nimble about making the changes you need,” says Hundley. “Experiment with routines, work settings, transitions, and schedules while you find what works for you, and then check in with yourself about what is working and where things need to change.” Set your own boundaries and really unplug at the end of the day.

12. Talk to your manager if you’re burnt out

Sixty percent of workers feel increased burnout as a result of communicating digitally. “Regularly check-in on your capacity and energy levels for both your work-related and non-work-related tasks. When you’re at capacity, avoid accepting new work responsibilities and projects,” says Williams-Jacobs.

If you’re feeling drained, dedicate a 1:1 with your manager to discussing your working environment, what fuels or hinders your success, what you need in order to work at your best level, and if you need any accommodations to help improve your mental health. “If you’re feeling unbalanced and overwhelmed, advocate for your wellbeing in your workplace, and if your employer isn’t making space for you to feel heard, consider other remote working options elsewhere,” says Williams-Jacobs.

Read more: Is Your Work Mentally Draining? Learn How to Protect Your Inner Peace

How long-term remote work will impact employee mental health and job fulfillment

As the novelty of remote work wears off, what are the long-term implications of sustained remote work on employee mental well-being and overall job fulfillment? 

Williams-Jacobs says companies will need to ensure wellness remains a top priority and offer resources and tools to help their employees feel supported. “Without the proper support to address employee wellness, employees will experience burnout and resentment. Regularly check-in with employees about how they’re feeling about navigating their work-life balance and be willing to adjust to how employees define flexibility based on their personal needs.” 

They add that establishing tangible diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives will also remain imperative: “For Black employees, remote work has proven to offer relief for our mental wellbeing, but it’s crucial to mention that offering the flexibility of remote work isn’t enough to sustain us in the workplace. Workplaces centering the wellbeing of their employees with inclusivity and equity at the forefront are more likely to retain diverse talent and aid in overall job fulfillment.”

Hundley believes remote work will have long-term implications on the way people learn, engage with new information, and grow in general. “Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is social learning and how remote work puts people at a disadvantage for informal learning opportunities,” she says. “There is a lot of value in hearing the way other people communicate, or interface with clients, or just the simple act of stopping by someone’s desk to ask a quick question or verbally work through a problem. You have to be more prescribed in a remote setting when asking questions or learning something new, and I think that takes aways from the natural rhythms of growth and career exploration that happens in-person.” A solution? More intentionality around encouraging learning, providing spaces to ask questions, and making time for informal virtual conversations.

Finally, checking in with friends and colleagues who also work from home will be of utmost importance. Hundley says, “I have found it really helpful to talk to colleagues and peers about how they manage remote work for inspiration and to gut check what I am doing. A lot of times what works for other people won’t necessarily work for me, because we have different personal life needs, wants, responsibilities, but just that shared connection of trying to figure out how to best work remotely is really valuable to avoid burnout.”

Read more: We Asked 2 Experts: How Do You Practice Resilience at Work When Things Are Falling Apart?

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