What keeps remote workers from being more productive?

Many people dream of working from home. What could be better than starting your workday comfortably relaxing on the patio in your pajamas or gym clothes with your laptop while drinking a fresh cup of coffee?

But reality is completely different. The quarantine limitations associated with the world-wide coronavirus pandemic has clearly shown this. Working from home isn't for everyone. Office workers who impressed with their capabilities and productivity, broke sales records or successfully led teams are now turning into unproductive cogs in a broken machine at home. The worker's work suffers and therefore the company loses too. Why does this happen and what can you do about it?

Nowhere near all workers have experience working on their own and don't have enough self-discipline.

The multi-year accumulated habits of waking up at six, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, drinking coffee, and eating an omelet are broken in a moment. "Why should I get up so early? The meeting is scheduled at 9 after all. That means I can lay in bed for awhile. I've got the whole day ahead of me and since I don't have to get ready and drive, I'll have an extra 2 or 3 hours today."

The result is a problem in separating work and personal time. The 8-hour workday might become 12-13 and the time designated for work may be wasted on social media, YouTube, and video games.

It creates an endless cycle. First, due to the huge amount of temptations, it's hard to make yourself start working. Then, getting up from the computer is equally difficult because not much work was done in the end. There isn't a signal that frees your brain and conscious from work problems and transitions to solving home problems. Everything's always a mess. Working late at night makes you wake up later. This destroys your routine and decreases your productivity.

If you're looking for a way to return to your previous routine, set up a system like, "I drank my morning coffee so the workday has begun. The alarm went off, the workday is over." However, in the end, this turns out to be ineffective since the system assumes, you're responsible, disciplined, and have self-organization for it to work. A person that doesn't have the qualities, or lacks the sufficient amount, will eventually return to their previous habits.

Remote workers don't interact with people much.

Since our early childhoods, we're taught to live social lives. You've got your parents and grandparents first, then playgroups, school, college, a dorm, or apartment with friends. Next, you'll have your own family and work at an office or factory where you'll make friends. This way, a person interacts, directly or indirectly, with tens or hundreds of people from management and coworkers, to salespeople in shops and neighbors.

It's worth staying inside. You don't have to be completely alone. But your image of the world and your family will dramatically change.

No one sees you at home which means you can work in whatever you want. Gym shorts, a t-shirt and unbrushed teeth... It may not come to this, but the fact remains. The lack of direct contact with coworkers leads to a significant decrease in care about your appearance. 

People who are socially active and communicative may even fall into a depression due to the lack of social contact. Quality and productivity, naturally, will suffer from this.

It's difficult to combine work with family in one place.

Many remote workers are family people. You often will find it difficult to explain to your partner or children who are also at home during the workday that despite you being at home, you're working and shouldn't be disturbed. Many people still think the way they did at home. If you're at home, you're relaxing, not working. And if you're not working, that means it's fine to distract you as much as desired.

Even if your family understands, organizing your workspace can be fairly difficult. Not everyone can have access to a separate room. However, if you have "personal" space, then it's unlikely it'll be completely isolated.

You'll have to work, but it could be torture working with a crying child who fell off the couch in the next room or if your child can't share their toys with their brother or sister!

It's significantly harder to climb the corporate ladder without seeing the office's "inner workings".

In many cases, your career growth will be limited.

Long distance communication is more complicated.

Management can't always work with remote workers since they don't have experience doing so.

When a worker is in front of you, you can control what he's doing at any time. If he's far away, you need to relearn new management methods and study and use new software. 

Remote workers must clearly create work rules and standards.

In practice, many managers find obtaining a requalification impossible, to the extent that they seriously change their management approach, despite the huge bonus it could bring in the future.

As a result, both the company and workers are in the red.

The portrait of a highly productive remote worker

An effective remote worker is:

  • Disciplined
  • Has large ambitions
  • Doesn't look for excuses and provides strong solutions
  • A high level of competency and thinks constructively
  • Has a clear understand of what's expected from them at work and knows where to go
  • Highly motivated
  • Can work independently and make decisions
  • Familiar with self growth

Above mentioned statements prove why remote work is a benefit to businesses.

How can I become an effective remote worker?

It's true that skills are important, but discipline is the key.

  • Recently, experts in the field of self-growth don't split people into early birds and night owls and recommend that everyone wake up as early as possible. If "getting up at 5 am" sounds too harsh, you can move that mark up an hour or two at most.
  • It's a good habit to not use computers or phones after 9 pm.
  • Your personal hygiene, and mental (consumption of unneeded news) and physical health should never suffer. Brush your teeth, take a shower, and not "getting absorbed" in the news just because no one is watching, are necessary for every remote worker.
  • Planning is the key to a successful workday. If you know your workload in advance (100 phone calls, 300 lines of code or 3 articles, for example) a to-do list or the service Trello is a big help. The Pomodoro technique (work for 25 minutes, 5-minute break) is good to learn.
  • A morning workout, a contrast shower, and an evening walk in the fresh air help maintain and grow your productivity.
  • Never work in your bedroom since this room is primarily associated with relax and sleep.
  • Reading about organizing an effective and productive workday could be a good idea. For example, you can look up the following books:
  1. ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
  2. The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management by Tom DeMarco
  3. Remote: Office Not Required by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
  4. The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
  5. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman