8 Tips on how to be productive in a remote work environment

Ana Erkic

Last updated on: January 20, 2022

Remote work is all fun and games until you hit that first productivity block. With no one around to make you feel accountable and your work acknowledged, you just go deeper into your daily struggle with notification and distraction overload. 

Sure, you welcomed the opportunity to have a flexible work schedule, but somehow, you ended up putting in more hours than ever just to accomplish the bare minimum. And still, you can’t seem to be able to unplug at the end of the day. It makes you wonder where all that motivation you had on your first day as a remote worker went. 

Remote work productivity statistics tell another story, however. A staggering 83% of employees report experiencing higher productivity while working remotely even during COVID-19. Moreover, 68% of hiring managers report an increase in employee productivity from the beginning of remote work.

Is everyone else just great at managing remote workplace distractions? Or, is there a secret to experiencing steady productivity while working remotely you’re not in on? 

Well, there might be one, or several of them, actually.  

If we take a closer look at other data around higher productivity in a remote workplace we might begin to see a pattern — it might not be all that incidental, after all. There is an actual strategy to being more productive when working remotely — and we’re breaking it all down in this blog post. 

How to be productive in a remote work environment - cover

Rethinking productivity in a remote work environment

Before we get into actionable steps, let’s first make sure we understand the why of productivity challenges in a remote work environment. 

Remote work was a matter of discussion in many organizations even before they were forced to make a sudden shift due to the pandemic. However, many were skeptical about switching to remote work due to a potential employee productivity drop.

Although the recent data speak in favor of a remote model, there are still insufficient guidelines and procedures on how to track productivity in a remote work environment. A survey shows 29% of managers are not taking any measures to track employee productivity remotely. 

This is not surprising, given that a remote work structure brings a complete shift from traditional workplace conditions. In the traditional in-office setting, employee productivity was measured by the amount of time spent in the office where the majority of their productive work took place.

These factors, however, can hardly provide a full picture in a remote work environment.

With family roles and other responsibilities heavily affecting the ability of remote workers to attend all meetings, there seems to be a need for a different approach when measuring productivity. The general opinion suggests shifting to a results-focused approach rather than solely tracking employee availability during traditional business hours.   

Nevertheless, remote workers are still tasked with achieving any productivity objectives due to a number of challenges a remote work environment poses. 

8 Tips for improving remote work productivity 

Despite flexible work hours and location, no commute, and plenty of other benefits, remote work still comes with an equal amount of challenges — some of which might seriously affect your productivity. 

In fact, 12% of respondents in a recent survey on remote work report struggling to stay motivated, whereas 15% mention the distractions at home as one of their biggest challenges when working remotely. 

Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate these challenges and achieve maximum and steady productivity levels. Let’s break down all the best remote work productivity tips to help you thrive in a remote work environment. 

1. Set the stage 🏠

Your immediate surroundings play a major role in your productivity. And it only becomes more transparent when working remotely. 

It’s one thing to sit at a desk in a traditional office with everyone around you working on their tasks in silence, and an entirely different scenario if you’re in a home setting with your toothing one-year-old, a messy desk, and an endless notification buzzing coming from all devices. 

Although there are plenty of arbitrary factors you don’t have much control over, there are still some things you can optimize regarding your general remote office environment. 

  • First things first, make sure your desk or office space is organized and clutter-free. An unorganized workspace only adds unnecessary stress and distraction. After all, a clear space really means a clear mind.
  • Next up, make sure to communicate clear boundaries with the people you live with. For parents, this can mean organizing parenting shifts with their partner or a babysitter. People living with roommates can notify them about their work schedules and ask not to be disturbed during those hours.

2. Manage notifications 🔕

Another important point you’ll need to address is preventing business chat distractions. 

Naturally, as humans, we crave connection and a feeling of belonging to a community. And this is especially pronounced in remote teams where people rarely get a chance to chat or spend some quality time with their coworkers. 

Although technology has helped us bridge this connection gap, at the same time it is ruining our ability to focus. Research shows that consistent interruptions can significantly hinder our focus and productivity. As much as it’s important to stay in the loop of all conversations in the company, the consistent pings coming from your company team chat app can prevent you from doing any focused work. 

To better optimize your productivity consider pausing notifications in your business messaging app when you need to concentrate on your work or set a notification schedule based on your regular work plan. Or, go a step further and completely mute specific channels or DMs and read them during breaks or outside your office hours.

An example of a notification schedule in the team chat app Pumble
An example of a notification schedule in the team chat app Pumble

3. Capitalize on your most productive hours ⏳

As much as we wish, we can’t all be morning larks. Some of us simply operate on an entirely different schedule and often need a couple of hours after we wake up before we can even begin to get into work mode. 

Most often, remote organizations allow a flexible work schedule where employees can craft their own work plan, usually with some required overlap with the team. This structure allows a perfect opportunity to tap into your own productivity cycle and achieve better time management. 

The trick is to get really granular about your peak productivity time. Once you’ve identified your daily peak productive hours for the week, you’ll start noticing patterns in your work. 

This will help you make better use of your productive time. You can organize your workday to fit your peak productivity hours and reserve the rest for less cognitively demanding tasks. Optimizing your workday around your most productive hours generates long-term benefits to your work productivity as well as your general lifestyle and wellness.

When you follow your natural productivity cycle, you’re significantly reducing the stress that can occur when you struggle to finish a task and your brain simply won’t cooperate.    

4. Keep your priorities in check ✔️

Do you usually start your workday with the easiest tasks, convincing yourself you’ll build up gradually until you’re able to tackle the most demanding ones later on in the day?

Welcome to the club. 

But before we start patting ourselves on the back, we might want to rethink the whole process. 

It turns out we are wasting our most focused hours on low-priority tasks, and by the time we get to the really important, and time-consuming ones, we’re already losing our focus and energy which heavily impacts our performance. 

So, what is the time management hack we’re missing here?” you may ask. 

Well, there’s the famous Eat the frog principle suggesting you should tackle the most challenging task first thing in the morning, or the afternoon, depending on your work schedule. It makes sense if you think about how liberating it is to not have to spend a good portion of your day in constant angst of that scary huge task at the back of your mind.

Still, this can be entirely counterproductive for people prone to procrastination, as they would probably try to put it off as much as possible and end up reverting to the old principle.  

Or, you can take it a step further and get really scientific about the whole process. As you’ve learned earlier, you can have pretty precise data on your productivity levels throughout the day. You can apply those findings here as well. Instead of wasting your time procrastinating and dreading the moment you have to tackle the scariest task, you can schedule it for that time of day you’re most productive. 

5. Do something 💪

Feeling particularly unmotivated to start a task? You understand the importance and impact it carries but you just can’t seem to conjure up any inspiration to get started?

As it turns out, the solution might be more straightforward than we thought. 

All you have to do is – Do something. 

The Do something principle, championed by a NewYorkTimes best-selling author Mark Manson, brings a fresh perspective to how we previously observed the connection between inspiration, motivation, and action. 

Most of us thought it was a rather linear process, that goes like this:


INSPIRATION → MOTIVATION → ACTION 

Naturally, this mindset had caused much frustration, missed deadlines, and sleepless nights as we couldn’t figure out the magic formula to keep our inspiration and motivation high at all times. 

However, the Do something principle suggests taking a second look at the entire structure. It considers this process as a circle, a continuous loop, to be more precise, meaning that action causes inspiration as much as the other way around. 

Action is both the cause and the effect of motivation
Action is both the cause and the effect of motivation

What this actually means is that you can affect your motivation and productivity just by taking action. When faced with a productivity block, you can push through and start working even though it may not be your best work. The main goal is to stop the procrastination and the analysis paralysis loop you might be in. As you stay consistent, you’ll notice the shift in your motivation, and the flow will resume over time making you more open to new ideas and creative solutions. 

6. Gamify the process 🎮

Sometimes you just need a healthy dose of peer pressure to put you in the right work mindset. As flexible and spontaneous a remote work can be, it often lacks that social part where you can exchange ideas with your teammates, discuss your work progress, or engage in informal watercooler chat. 

To recreate some of that in-office environment, you can ask your favorite coworker to join an accountability work buddy challenge with you. 

You can track each other’s progress and remind one another to take regular breaks. To make it more fun you can jump on a quick video call over your lunch breaks, for example. Consider using some tools that support the Pomodoro Technique to better manage your productive time and create a more reasonable work-to-rest ratio. You can even create a weekly or a monthly prize for the winner — i.e., the person who completes all their work intervals.

If you’re feeling extra competitive, you can invite your teammates to share a link to your group project in a public company channel in Pumble, and let other teams comment. In addition to encouraging some lively discussions, this practice can also inspire some creative ideas to boost your productivity. 

Pumble lets you share files, get real-time feedback, and collaborate more productively
Pumble lets you share files, get real-time feedback, and collaborate more productively

7. Stick to your schedule 🗓️

Have you ever felt like you’re underperforming while working from home simply because you are, well, at home, on your couch, in your casualwear? Did you try to overcompensate by putting in more hours up to the point of complete exhaustion? 

You’re not alone. 

One of the unexpected phenomena associated with remote work is the co-called work from home guilt. 

A 2020 research that surveyed 2,000 Americans who work from home found that:

  • 66% are concerned about their productivity
  • 29% are afraid to take any meal breaks during work hours
  • 6 in 10 feel guilty for taking any break throughout the workday

These feelings often cause people to overwork which can lead to burnout over time.  

To prevent these ugly scenarios, it’s paramount to set a clear work hours schedule and make sure to stick to it. Once you’ve defined your most productive hours in a day, and optimized your work schedule around that time, it’s important to have a strategy in place to help you unplug more easily. 

Moreover, consider keeping a to-do list with clear priorities and expectations for each day. As you cross off item after item, it will be easier to give yourself permission to leave your virtual office without feeling guilty. 

Additionally, you can schedule other activities right after your work hours. This could be anything from a dinner with your family, to a yoga class you wouldn’t want to miss. It’s best if it involves other people, as it would add to the accountability factor and help you unplug easier.  

8. Take care of your health 🍏

Finally, let’s not forget one of the key factors that affect our productivity — our mental and physical wellbeing. 

Working remotely, especially in a home setting, is a slippery slope to losing a healthy structure in your day-to-day life. When you have your fridge and snack drawer right in front of you, it’s easier to indulge in an unhealthy regimen. And we all know how drained and unmotivated a bad diet makes us feel. 

Moreover, when you’re in your sweats most of the time, it’s easier to let go and give in to bad habits such as binging your favorite Netflix show and losing a good night’s sleep. 

Although small, all of these habits quickly add up and can severely affect your overall health and productivity. Not getting enough sleep, or physical activity, for example, can increase your stress levels and leave you feeling unequipped to cope, or perform demanding tasks at work. 

On the other hand, it’s well known that productive people have developed better stress-management skills. As a 2020 Remote Work Wellness Survey finds, remote workers with a strong wellness plan experience a 27.88% increase in productivity.

To alleviate common health and wellness pitfalls to working remotely, try to create and implement a self-care plan. You don’t have to enroll in a bunch of classes and get overwhelmed up to a point of quitting.

Instead, start small and let the momentum build up.

A simple daily walk in nature, a meaningful conversation with a friend over a healthy meal, and a solid eight-hour sleep can do wonders for your overall well-being, and simultaneously, it can help you feel energized and more ready to tackle your busy day.

Wrapping up

Remote work is here to stay, and the faster you adjust your routine to better suit the model, the better your overall work experience and success will be. Still, let’s not forget that, although sometimes isolating, a remote work environment offers plenty of benefits and opportunities for a productive and engaging workflow and a solid work-life balance.

It’s important to be mindful of your specific needs and productivity boosters to create a routine that works for you. Use the tips provided in this article to inspire your ideal productive strategy when working remotely. 

Author: AnaErkic

Ana Erkic is a team communication and collaboration writer. When she is not researching the most productive collaboration techniques, she can usually be found trying out the latest team chat and collaboration tools and apps.

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