Be the Remote Worker That Sets the Standard: 14 Unexpected Tricks

Reading time: 10min

In the era of digital nomadism and telecommuting, remote workers face unique challenges impacting their productivity and well-being. Creating an environment that fosters focus, efficiency, and comfort is essential to navigate these challenges effectively. This article outlines practical strategies for remote workers to enhance their work-from-home experience.

A serene, well-lit home office setup with a standing desk, laptop, headphones, desk lamp, and an indoor plant, highlighting an efficient and comfortable remote work environment.
A serene, well-lit home office setup with a standing desk, laptop, headphones, desk lamp, and an indoor plant, highlighting an efficient and comfortable remote work environment.

1. Optimal Communication: The Role of Headphones

Using headphones during virtual meetings is more than a convenience; it's a necessity for clear communication. Without headphones, computers and software must constantly adjust input volumes to minimize background noise, often causing interruptions and challenging conversations. Headphones eliminate this issue by ensuring your microphone only picks up your voice, thus preventing the awkward overlaps of people talking over each other.

Investment: $30-300

Tools: Any headphones. Bonus for Active Noise Canceling (ANC).

2. Lighting: A Key to Clarity and Comfort

Good lighting transcends essential utility in the remote work setup; it is pivotal for video calls and personal workspace illumination. The proper lighting setup ensures you are visible during virtual meetings, avoiding the common problem of a shadowed face, which can detract from engagement and communication effectiveness. It’s not just about being seen; it’s about ensuring that others can read your non-verbal cues as clearly as if you were in the same room.

For video calls, consider investing in personal lighting solutions such as a ring light or a simple desk lamp positioned to cast even light across your face. This setup helps eliminate shadows and improves the overall video quality, making interactions more personal and engaging.

Moreover, the choice of lighting in your workspace can significantly impact your comfort and productivity. While direct lighting can be harsh for many, opting for softer, natural light sources can help maintain alertness and reduce eye strain without causing discomfort. For those times when natural light is insufficient, LED lamps with adjustable brightness and color temperature can mimic natural light, offering a balanced environment that supports sustained focus and well-being.

Investment: $20-$275

Tools: clip-on light for laptop, dedicated lights for workstation.

3. Visual Engagement: The Importance of an External Camera

An external camera can dramatically enhance your presence in virtual meetings. When participants use their laptop's camera while looking at an external monitor, it can appear as if they're disengaged. An external camera at eye level fosters a more direct and engaging interaction.

Investment: $30-$250

Tools: Webcam, camera, conference call solution

4. Time Management: The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro timer, a tool for managing work intervals with short breaks, can significantly boost productivity. Workers can maintain high concentration levels by breaking work into focused segments while ensuring regular rest.

Investment: free-$35

Tools: Digital or physical timer

5. Boundaries at Home: The On-Call Light

Maintaining a clear boundary between personal and professional life can be difficult when working from home. In this regard, the on-call light can be a game-changer. This device serves as a visual signal, indicating to your family members when you are on an important call or engrossed in work. It can help reduce interruptions and convey your availability without verbal communication.

By incorporating an on-call light into your home office setup, you can send a clear message to your family that when you work from home, you are still in a professional environment and require the same respect as you would in a physical office. It is a simple yet powerful tool that can help bridge the gap between flexible remote work and the need for uninterrupted focus.

Investment: $20-$50

Tools: Luxafor, Busylight

6. Rituals for Mindset Transition

Starting your day with intention can transform how you approach work from home. Imagine brewing an exceptional coffee or tea as a meaningful transition into your professional self rather than just a morning treat. This simple act serves as a psychological threshold, bridging the gap between personal leisure and work time and preparing you mentally for the day ahead. It's about setting a tone of mindfulness and purpose from the moment you wake up, signaling your brain that it's time to focus and engage with your tasks.

To add depth to this routine, consider the practice of writing Morning Pages or taking a short walk before work. Picture yourself sitting quietly in the early hours, pen in hand, letting your thoughts flow freely onto paper. Writing declutters your mind and sharpens your focus, readying you for creative and critical thinking. Alternatively, envision stepping outside for a brisk walk, where the fresh air and gentle movement invigorate your body and clear your mind, replicating the psychological transition of commuting to an office.

These rituals are more than mere routines, whether enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, engaging in reflective writing, or embracing the morning air on a walk. They are acts of self-care that set the stage for a productive, focused, and fulfilling workday. By deliberately starting your day with such practices, you cultivate a workspace that respects the balance between personal well-being and professional excellence, inspiring productivity and a more profound sense of satisfaction and achievement in your remote work journey.

Investment: free (unless your morning ritual requires equipment)

7. Incorporating Nature

Introducing nature into your workspace can significantly impact your concentration and well-being. Adding indoor plants or arranging your desk to face an outdoor view can do wonders for your mood, purify the air, and reduce stress. Even if you don't have a window view, incorporating elements like landscape photos or a small desktop fountain can still provide a calming effect. This approach transforms your work area into a haven that promotes health, creativity, and efficiency. It's a simple yet inspiring way to enhance your daily work experience and create a healthier, more enjoyable, and productive environment.

Investment: $10-$40

MacBook pro beside green plant on the table
MacBook pro beside green plant on the table

8. Connectivity Beyond Work

Maintaining social connections is essential for remote workers to feel a sense of community. Regular coffee chats with colleagues, even virtually, can help bridge the gap between physical and virtual workspaces. This straightforward routine fosters support, idea sharing, and workplace camaraderie, crucial for a balanced and fulfilling work experience.

Investment: free

9. Working with Your Body's Clock

Recognizing the natural ebbs and flows of your body's productivity is crucial to working smarter. If you, like me, experience a mental slump around 2 PM, taking a break is better than forcing yourself to be productive. This can be a game-changer. During this time, I usually step outside with my dog, which boosts my energy and refreshes my mind, making the rest of the day more productive and enjoyable. This approach respects your natural rhythms, leading to more effective and satisfying work habits.

Investment: free

10. Time Awareness

Embracing remote work often leads to blending personal and professional lives, making it challenging to distinguish between the two. Establishing clear boundaries and ensuring you take regular breaks is beneficial—it's essential for preventing burnout and sustaining high productivity levels. You create a more balanced and fulfilling work environment by consciously delineating work hours and leisure time and prioritizing moments of rest throughout the day. This deliberate structuring of your day safeguards your well-being, enhances your work quality, and ultimately contributes to a more satisfying and productive remote work experience.

11. Documentation is Key

In remote environments, where face-to-face interactions are replaced by digital communication, keeping detailed records of meetings and decisions becomes even more critical. The absence of physical presence can lead to misunderstandings or overlooked details, making it harder to ensure everyone is on the same page. Detailed records serve as a common ground for all team members, regardless of location. They help bridge the gap created by remote work, ensuring that every discussion, decision, and nuance is captured and accessible. This practice fosters transparency, accountability, and continuity, allowing teams to stay aligned, informed, and engaged. It's not just about preventing information loss but empowering a distributed team to collaborate effectively, maintain momentum, and drive forward with a unified vision, even when miles apart.

Investment: $10/mo-$45/mo

Tools: Notion, Obsidian, Notes, Sonix, Notta, Otter

12. Maintaining a Professional Routine

For many of us, getting ready for work involves more than just personal hygiene and dressing up—it's also a mental transition that helps us shift from rest mode to productivity and focus. By embracing this ritual, we can significantly enhance our work readiness, giving our day a sense of purpose and clarity. It's not just about the clothes we wear or the water that refreshes us, but the intentional switch we make that sets the tone for a day filled with accomplishments and professional satisfaction. Investment: free

13. Physical Well-being

Standing desks are essential for remote workers as they offer a healthier, more dynamic workspace. They allow for an easy transition between standing and sitting, which can reduce the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as musculoskeletal discomfort. Standing desks enhance productivity and focus by boosting circulation, vital for brain function and concentration. Users who opt for standing desks experience increased productivity due to the flexibility to change positions. Modern standing desks come with adjustable features that allow for personalized comfort, promoting proper posture and contributing to overall health by managing weight and reducing chronic disease risks. Adopting a standing desk is wise to improve your remote work setup and health. You can find affordable standing desks starting at around $120. You can also opt for a standing desk converter starting at $90.

Investment: $90-$3000

Incorporating a daily stretching routine into your remote work schedule can significantly reduce the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. Regular stretching helps relieve muscle tension and improves flexibility, circulation, and overall health, which decreases the risk of injuries from static postures. Taking a few minutes each hour to do targeted stretches boosts muscle activation, blood flow, energy levels, and mental clarity, enhancing work performance and productivity. It also provides a mental break, promoting relaxation, mindfulness, and a healthier work-life balance. When combined with a standing desk, these practices offer a comprehensive approach to ergonomic health, combating the sedentary lifestyle of remote work and fostering a dynamic, health-conscious work environment.

Investment: free

14. Creating Your Ideal Workspace

A clear understanding of what you need from your workspace is essential for succeeding in remote work. For me, it's all about keeping the area clutter-free, ensuring good lighting, and having enough whiteboard space. These essentials can transform a simple workspace into a productivity powerhouse. It's not just about finding a corner to work in; it's about creating a space that suits your unique work style. Whether you prefer a dedicated office that keeps the rest of your life separate or a flexible spot that blends work with comfort, the right environment can significantly impact your focus, creativity, and overall job satisfaction. Tailoring your workspace to your needs is not just a matter of preference; it's a strategic move toward sustainable success in the remote working world. It ensures you remain inspired, efficient, and on track with your goals.

Investment: Ongoing

14-B. Continuous Workspace Enhancement

Your workspace is a crucial aspect of your remote work life, and it deserves regular consideration and improvements to align with your evolving career. Whether you choose to refresh it annually or commemorate a new job milestone, small yet impactful upgrades can significantly enhance your work environment and, as a result, boost your productivity and job satisfaction.

Make it a habit to assess and enhance your workspace, using significant career moments as opportunities for meaningful upgrades. This can include ergonomic improvements, technology updates, or personalized decor that inspires and motivates you.

Investment: Ongoing

Remote work provides numerous advantages but necessitates a purposeful approach to establish a productive work atmosphere. By implementing these tactics, remote workers can increase their productivity, well-being, and job satisfaction. As the work environment evolves, adapting and refining your home office setup will remain crucial in achieving professional success.

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