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Developing habits for remote work

It can be challenging to maintain focus and productivity while working from home, but developing good habits can help you stay on track. From establishing a regular routine to eliminating distractions, and connecting with your colleagues, these habits can help you be much more effective and efficient at your job. Developing good habits takes time and effort, but the rewards of increased productivity and a better work-life balance are worth it.

This article looks at why developing habits is so important for remote workers and lists different habits that you can adapt to increase your productivity. 

Why developing habits is important for remote work efficiency 

One question you may be wondering is how do you successfully work from home? While there isn’t a straight answer to this, however, creating habits is a great place to start. 

Habits can help us create behavioural patterns, which can help contribute to our job performance, and ‘can help boost productivity, reliability, teamwork and job satisfactions’. If we go from an office setting to remote work, generally we can end up losing the routines and structure that we are used to having. 

When we develop good workplace habits, we are creating an automatic response to certain tasks that are expected of us. This means less time wasted on deciding what to do next, and more time spent on completing tasks in a timely and efficient manner. Additionally, by creating habits such as being ready and prepared for team meetings, better work to deadlines and being punctual, we can build trust and respect within the workplace.

So, how do we form these good habits?

How to develop habits

Repeat, repeat, repeat

One of the most important parts of forming a habit is repetition, by performing an action, again and again. Research has found that almost 50% of our daily actions are driven by repetition, such as waking up at a specific time.

This repetition helps ingrain the action/habit into your subconscious. When trying to get your team to adopt a new habit, you need to enforce this repetition to the point where it seems redundant.

Develop a routine

Developing a routine is a staple part of life, both externally to and in work. Routines help us establish a sense of structure and consistency. When working in any setting our days should have structure to ensure we avoid becoming disorganised. One study found that an ‘effective routine can help reduce stress, which can lead to better mental health.

Having routines can help us to utilise our time in the most efficient way while avoiding any burnout. We should ensure that we establish a start and end time for work, breaks, meal times, and other activities, doing so can improve your work-life balance.

Use cues and prompts

Habits don’t simply happen out of thin air, they can take some time to build up and get used to.

Employees aren’t going to suddenly start using/doing something that they are not accustomed to, they won’t open an app they don’t normally use, they aren’t going to create a to-do list at the beginning of each day at the drop of a hat.

They have other responsibilities to consider and something newly introduced isn’t necessarily going to stick straight away.

The habit needs to be triggered. A study found that to form a habit, there needs to be:

  • Context — By performing a task within the same circumstances, can help it become a habit.

  • Reward — It’s important to understand why/what your team is (trying) to become a habit is important. How it helps, the benefits it brings.

  • Sequences — habits can be part of a sequence that triggers other habits, helping to build a chain of habits.

It’s not enough to tell your team to start doing something, they need to be trained to respond with the new habit in a specific context. When trying to introduce a new tool for example, it’s important to understand why and how it’s important and helps.

Then, you want to introduce a trigger, so for your team to write their to-do list, have them set 10 minutes aside first thing in the morning to write it.

You can tie it into an existing habit, for example, if you have a new video conferencing tool, get them to use the new video calling app (new habit), for your weekly team catch ups (existing habit).

Outside of that, you might need to provide a little reminder from time to time. This could be something as simple as pinging a quick reminder via Slack to mention it to everyone at the end of your weekly meetings.

Which brings us to our next point…

Make the change small

It’s about taking baby steps, putting something too big to your team, you may overwhelm them and fail to maintain uptake. It takes motivation to get your employees into the new habit and the more it takes, the more difficult it is.

As a manager, you have limited control over your team’s motivation, much of that comes internally, from their own desire to from the habit. So, the change needs to be small enough so it’s easy to incorporate into their routine.

You see, smaller habits are stored in a different part of the brain than other habits. They are stored in the basal ganglia, which is directly linked to muscle control, posture, and, oddly enough, cursing.

Some examples of keeping the habit small might be:

  • Rather than having employees create a multi-point to-do list for their workday, have them set a singular goal to complete that day.

  • If you’re getting them to use a new app or system, instead of introducing them to everything it can do, try teaching them to use one feature. They can then be taught by others at a later time, or even from exploring the app on their own.

Habits you should develop

So what habits can we develop to work more efficiently? 

Create Daily/Weekly plans

One habit we recommend you get into is creating either weekly or daily schedules. This way, we can plan our day or week more efficiently, helping us stay on top of our tasks and projects.

Some things to note when creating your schedules are: 

  • We don’t want to spread too thin, or sell ourselves too short. Consider what work needs to be completed and set realistic goals.

  • Be sure to include time for important and/or essential tasks. 

  • Cater for unexpected tasks that might come in during your work week. We could do this by leaving some extra time free.

  • Ensure we include a bit of downtime, this includes taking regular breaks. 

Outside of creating a schedule we can set external goals for ourselves, these might be separating our working space from home space, this would mean setting up your office space and ensuring it is kept tidy and professional, as it would be in an office.

Waking up at a regular time each day, which can actually help us to sleep better at night. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day when working remotely will not only help you sleep better, but as you will be well rested you will probably be more productive as a result.

Collaborating with your team

Collaboration ‘leads to more innovation, efficient processes, increased success, and improved communication’. With this in mind, getting into the habit of collaborating with our team is essential for remote workers. 

Some ways you can collaborate include:

Remote workers should get into the habit of sharing ideas. This can be done by setting aside a specific time each week for scheduling calls, with colleagues. Catching up each day with team members in group chats is also a great habit to ensure that projects remain on track. 

Socialising with our colleagues, whether this is during lunch breaks, or outside of work. Connecting with teammates will enable us to build trust and create a more enjoyable work environment. 

Set aside time for busy work

It is easy to get distracted by multiple different emails from clients or messages from colleagues, but this is a sure way to lose focus. One habit we recommend is, unless the request is urgent, do not tackle these tasks as they come up, but instead get into the habit of setting aside some time each day to go through your correspondence.

This will stop us breaking concentration on our current task, allowing us to better work through them and be more productive.

Final thoughts

Generally speaking, it can be hard to stay productive and efficient when you don’t have the structure of an office environment. Developing habits is one way to combat this, as they will help to increase your remote work efficiency.

Habits can help you focus on tasks, boost productivity, and keep distractions at bay. They also help you stay motivated and collaborate with others more effectively. By establishing routines and setting goals, you can create a sense of structure that will help you stay productive even when there’s a loss of routine due to remote work.