How to survive remote work

Your guide to commuting from the couch

You’re still on mute, Brad.
Please, turn on your cameras,
but put on clothes first.

During the pandemic, waves of companies switched to remote work as pressures mounted for employers to focus on employee health and safety over profits. And, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, they quickly discovered that enabling people to work from home actually increased productivity and job satisfaction. Who would’ve thought?

That said, working from home isn’t always full of intense focus blocks where you’re banging out A+ work from 8am to 5pm. Staying focused for 8-10 straight hours a day is impossible. It’s a myth with roots in the idea that being present (in an office) means being productive. The fact is, you can’t expect to punish your brain or your body like that every day without incurring burnout. It’s why, two years “post-pandemic,” many people are still struggling to survive remote work. They’re trying to attain a mythic level of productivity, while succumbing to the allure of distractions as a form of escapism. 

We’ve all fallen victim to playing with the dog instead of answering emails, and even against our best judgements, we’ve binge-watched Netflix instead of getting a jump on a big project. If you’re holding yourself to a superhuman standard of productivity while simultaneously trying to avoid the allure of your couch, I implore you to read on for a few tips that can help bring balance to your WFH experience. 

Write it down

Having a list of work assignments is one thing, but I make a lot of lists to keep myself on track. That’s right: the first incredible tip for surviving remote work is—gasp—to get organized. It’s one of those foundational habits that pays big dividends for setting expectations about my productivity. 

I get up in the morning, take the dog for a long walk, then come home and make my list. Here’s what’s on it:

1. Today’s goals. What I want to accomplish today, before the day ends. These are time-sensitive, ordered by importance, 

2. Daily goals. Different from today’s goals, these are the mini-goals and benchmarks that are part of a larger, long-term project or vision I’m working on.

The key here isn’t to write the next great American novel in listicle format. Keep daily to-dos simple and limit them to 3-5 items that are relatively time-bound. Focus is the name of the game. 

Walk it off

Being productive means taking breaks. Humans weren’t meant to sit at desks making micro-movements in front of glowing screens all day. We need to get up, stretch our legs, decouple from our computers, take deep breaths, and shake out the kinks. Sitting is the new smoking, am I right?

Here are a couple of ways to sever the bond with your workstation long enough to remain a functional person:

  • Schedule breaks throughout the day and stick to the schedule you create.
  • Use a timer or set a reminder to alert you to take your breaks (and take them).
  • Step away from your work area during breaks. Seriously, get up.
  • Use your breaks to do something enjoyable and stress-relieving.
  • Unplug for a bit. Go for a walk or do something to help you detach. 

Breaks shouldn’t derail your day—they should just be that: breaks. According to author Dan Pink, a 20-30-minute break can have profoundly positive effects when observed accordingly. 

Eat it up

Ever just forget to eat for 18 hours? Or, are you someone who’s prone to emptying the fridge in a single day through their relentless snacking habits? Regardless of which side of the coin you represent, mindful nourishment needs to be a WFH priority. 

How do you eat when you’re logged in at home and there’s no coworker asking what’s for lunch at 10am? Skip the granola bar and quad macchiato at 3pm, and do this instead:

  • Set time aside for lunch each day and set your chat to “away” while you eat. 
  • Plan ahead so you’re less prone to making snap lunchtime decisions.
  • Find a quiet place to eat away from your work area (see: “take breaks” above).

How you treat your body has a direct impact on how it functions. If you expect to make it through the day feeling productive and engaged, nourish with purpose!

Make it work… for you

While the commute from bed to living room/dining room/home office may take seconds, adjusting to WFH can take much longer. Many people are still figuring out what works for them. While the above tips can serve to help solve some of the most common struggles, the underlying takeaway is to form healthy habits. 

Don’t hold yourself to a herculean standard of productivity each and every day. At the same time, don’t fall victim to the siren song of unlimited distractions. Good habits create balance, and that balance leads to productivity. A 30-minute walk or a healthy lunch will give you the mental stamina to make it through the day and do your best work along the way. 

Don’t just survive remote work: use it as your opportunity to thrive. If you’re looking for additional insight on how to get by from your humble abode, hit up the JXM team for more tips.