While it may not seem important to take a coffee break or have a quick chat with a coworker, these daily workplace routines have a purpose. The human brain needs rest and variety. Working with others is easier when there is camaraderie. You can make remote work better by creating at-home versions of your favorite workplace routines.
Make remote work better with workplace routines
When you lose the workplace routines that gave structure to your day, your work efficiency may plummet. You may feel demotivated when you’re not physically around coworkers. It may seem like easy tasks become more difficult when everything is done virtually.
You can improve your work efficiency and regain enjoyment by transforming those workplace routines to at-home remote work routines:
- Look at the routines which were part of your normal workday.
- Think about the purpose each routine served.
- Create a new version of the routines that are important.
Workplace routine: breaktime
Breaks are important. At work, you might have walked to the kitchen or break room. Maybe you visited a nearby cafe. You would greet coworkers and perhaps stop for a chat. At home, a coffee break is no more than going into the kitchen for a refill.
Those moments of a “real break” are important. Your brain needs time to rest and to reset between tasks. It also needs time to absorb and process information.
And a real break needs to be different than the work you’re doing. Going from the Zoom meeting on your laptop to the social media feed on your phone does not provide the variety and relief your brain needs.
How can you give yourself a real break with some variety and a chance to reset and refresh at home?
- You could take a short walk outside.
- Make and enjoy a fresh, healthy snack before you get back to work, rather than grabbing a bag of chips to eat while you check email.
- Complete a couple of easy chores.
- Sit in the sunshine and listen to a song or two.
- Play with your pet.
These things will provide variety from the work you’re doing, give your brain a chance to rest and reset, and help you feel refreshed.
Workplace routine: socializing
We may lose productive time to small talk in the workplace, but the casual social interactions serve a purpose. We’re forming connections with each other. It’s a way of checking in, and, over time, we build understanding and trust.
It’s difficult to replace casual hallway chats and chance interactions when you’re working remotely. While you may feel (and be) more efficient, as the sense of teamwork erodes, the motivation to work also lessens.
How can you maintain connections and a sense of belonging when working remotely?
- You could open up a channel just for chat or off-topic conversations: share a photo of your garden or an interesting read.
- Share a question or quote of the day.
- Follow up on what coworkers have shared with your thoughts.
You don’t have to get deep or detailed. Think in terms of the hallway chat: a few thoughts, a moment of interaction. Steer clear of gossip or controversy. Focus on what you’re learning and doing in daily life; these details help us relate to each other and weave threads of personal connection into our work relationships.
Workplace routine: wrapping up
If your workday ended at a set time, you probably had a routine that began just before that time. Perhaps it took an hour or perhaps only 15 minutes. You may have answered a few final emails, saved files, made notes, updated your calendar, checked in with others, had a last conversation about a project, or tidied your desk.
This type of routine provides a sense of completion for the day. You don’t feel at loose ends, and you know how you will get started the next day.
How can you give yourself a sense of completion to your remote work day?
- You could go through many of the same activities: final email check and messages, making notes, updating calendar, saving files.
- Tidy up the area you use for work.
- Put away your computer, or shut down all the work tabs and apps.
- Make a note of what you’ll begin with the following day.
- If you have an early meeting scheduled, review the agenda and note your main points.
Use something as simple as a notes on paper or an entry in your calendar for the ideas, follow-ups, questions, and other items you want to pick up the next day.
An end-of-day routines gives your brain a sense of relief from keeping all the mental tabs open. You can trust that things are ready for the next day and that you’re not forgetting anything important.
What other workplace routines did you rely on? Consider that, even if they seemed trivial, those routines may have served an important purpose for you. It might be worthwhile to create a new remote work version.