Fewer than one-third of employees (30%) say they're more productive working remotely than in an office setting, according to a new survey from The Manifest.
Nearly half of employees (45%) are more productive working in an office, and 24% say they're equally productive working from home as in an office.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many companies are still having employees work remotely, even as states begin to reopen. Some companies, such as Twitter, have even announced that employees can work from home permanently.
With such a large percentage of the U.S. workforce working from home for the foreseeable future, The Manifest found the top six ways employees are staying productive while working remotely:
A dedicated office space at home helps people separate work from personal time.
Using a designated workspace is the number one way people stay productive working remotely — 43% of employees say they do this.
Bethan Vincent, marketing director of app and web developer Netsells, converted a spare bedroom into an office.
"This ensures I have a dedicated space to work from and 'commute' to each morning," Vincent says. "I do believe it's important to have a dedicated space you work in and leave at the end of the day, even if it's just clearing away your laptop from a kitchen table."
People who don't have space to use a whole room as an office are creating work areas in their living spaces.
Tony Mastri, digital marketing manager of marketing agency Marion, uses a small desk for his work that includes a laptop, second monitor, and notepad.
"This does help me stay productive by separating work from personal time," Mastri says. "Even if I need to get on my personal laptop after hours, I don't do it at the computer desk because that is emotionally and physically designated for my working hours."
Many people say working the same schedule and hours as they did in an office helps them stay productive while working remotely.
Nearly one-third of employees are structuring their day to resemble normal work hours (36%), and 26% are setting a schedule each workday to increase their productivity.
"It's important to me to replicate a 'normal' working day so I know how much work I can get done and what I can achieve," says Jenna Carson, HR director at Music Grotto, an educational site for aspiring musicians. "A routine helps me organize my day more efficiently and be more productive."
Creating a regular routine that is similar to the office helps Carson maintain a work-life balance.
Working typical work hours is also important for communication with co-workers and clients.
"Similar hours is critical to keeping things running smoothly," says Adam Sanders, director of Successful Release, a company that helps former felons find jobs. "It would be very difficult to operate effectively if we all worked at different times and could never sync up for meetings or discussions."
Businesses shouldn't discourage employees from stepping away from work for a few minutes several times each day. This actually increases productivity.
One-third of surveyed workers (34%) say taking breaks is important for staying productive when working remotely.
One technique is the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks work up into 25-minute increments with short, 3-to-5-minute breaks in between.
"This not only helps me stay productive, but it increases the quality of my work as well. This helps me laser-focus," says Tom De Spiegelaere, founder of digital marketing agency Tom Spicky.
People working remotely may experience time famine — the feeling of having too much to do but not enough time to accomplish it. Planning the workday ahead of time can help a worker feel more productive.
More than one-quarter of employees (26%) currently set a schedule to stay productive while working from home.
Some find it helpful to set a weekly work schedule, while others benefit from a daily one.
De Spiegelaere plans his work for the following day every evening.
"This ensures I know exactly what my priorities are and what I will be working on," he says. "This approach really keeps me motivated and on track, as there's nothing more satisfying than ticking something off the list."
Setting a schedule for non-work activities also helps some workers stay productive.
"I make sure to have an optimal regimen and routines that help me stay disciplined and energized," says Kateryna Reshetilo, marketing and business development manager of Greenice, a web development agency. "Whenever I go off track with my regimen, it always negatively reflects on my productivity."
Resheltilo goes to sleep and wakes up at the same time as when she worked in an office, and she also maintains a regular workout schedule. Keeping a daily schedule helps her get into the right mindset when it is time to work.
It's easy to become distracted when working from home, whether by children, a pet, a roommate, or noise outside the home.
Twenty-four percent (24%) of remote workers say they actively try to reduce distractions to increase productivity while working from home.
Communication is essential to reducing distractions within the home, such as putting a sign on the office door stating you're working or on a call.
"Getting everyone in the house on the same page that I'm at work has been critical," Sanders says. "It's a lot easier to work uninterrupted if everyone treats you like you're in the office."
While setting boundaries with housemates is important, it's impossible to eliminate distractions from outside the home. A simple investment in noise-cancelling headphones can reduce loud distractions.
"I currently have some very loud neighbors, and [noise-cancelling headphones have] been a godsend in shutting them out and allowing me to focus," Vincent says.
Though face-to-face communication may not be possible, workers should be communicating with co-workers regularly. Around one-quarter of employees (23%) say frequent communication with colleagues is important to staying productive.
Technology makes it easy to keep in touch. Platforms such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype allow for seamless video and instant messaging discussions.
"When in the office, it was so easy just to ask a co-worker to show me how to do something or to get an answer," says Elandas Miller, CEO and founder of Kicking It Sports, a recreational sports league in Atlanta. "I have been using our chat platform and video sharing to get the answers that I need to complete my everyday tasks."
Public relations firm Rebellious PR & Consulting starts every workday with a 30-minute remote meeting.
"This helps my team update each other on what we've done for the previous day and what we plan to do for the current day," says Rebellious Account Associate Kaulana Dilliner. "This also helps my team check on each other, see how we're doing, and see if any of us need help on anything."
The Manifest surveyed 365 stay-at-home workers across the United States. Forty-three percent of respondents are female; 35% are male; and 22% declined to share their gender.
By age, 8% of respondents are 18-to-24; 14% are 25-to-34; 15% are 35-to-44; 13% are 45-to-54; 11% are 55-to-64; and 11% are 65 and older. Age is unknown for 27% of respondents.
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