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Guide to working remotely: Staying focused, remote jobs, and more

According to a Pew Research Center survey, a full 71% of people who can do their jobs remotely say they are now doing most or all of their work from home. Working remotely has become the go-to option for millions of people worldwide, and jobs in the technical professions lend themselves nicely to remote working. But what are the different types of remote work, and how can you stay focused while working from home? Read on to learn more about the kind of work you can do outside the bounds of the office and how to get the most out of a remote work arrangement.

What is working remotely?

Working remotely means working outside of your employer's office. There are several options for working remotely, and each comes with its advantages. Choosing the best one for you will likely depend on your personal and family circumstances. Read on to learn about some of the different ways people work remotely.

Working from home

Many workers got a taste of working from home starting in 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic. But although many offices are beginning to reopen, many employees are choosing to continue working from home.

Working from the comfort of your home is a convenient way to say goodbye to the daily commute and say hello to a comfortable working environment. In addition to saving on travel expenses, working from home provides you with a more stress-free productivity environment.

Or, if someone has to come by to repair something, do an installation, or make a delivery, you can be there to let them in, sign for an important package, or just be present for the sake of the security of your home.

However, it’s important to stay focused while working from home because there are many potential distractions. Here are some tips to help you keep your productivity high and your stress low while working from home.

Working in a co-working space

Co-working spaces allow you to set up your own productivity center that’s away from both your employer’s office and your home. In a co-working space, you share one or more floors of a building with other professionals, and they typically hail from a variety of business backgrounds. There are several advantages to using a co-working space as your solution for working remotely:

  • Distance from the distractions of home: At home, there's often something unrelated to work that's vying for your attention or time. In a co-working space, you get a healthy physical separation from those distractions.
  • Access to office materials: Just like when working in a company’s office, while in a co-working space, you don’t have to worry about getting ink for your printer, paper, staples, and the like because everything is typically there for you.
  • Spaces for events and meeting rooms: Many co-working spaces offer spaces to conduct professional meetings with others — often in a private, discreet setting.
  • Snacks, tea, and coffee: If you get the munchies or need a little pick-me-up, your co-working space may offer a few goodies and beverages to help you stay productive.

Working while traveling

One of the primary benefits of working remotely is you’re not tethered to a central location. If you like to travel, you can use this to your advantage, taking your work with you on the road. Working while traveling comes with a few unique advantages:

  • Work in a relaxing setting: For some folks, sitting on a beach with their laptop is a lot better than being hunched over a desk — even at home. The same can be said for working while in the woods or a comfortable hotel room or business center.
  • Remain productive while on the road: Remote workers who do their work while on the go can stay productive while on a bus, plane, or in the passenger seat while a friend or family member takes the wheel. You can check off several items on your to-do list and have time to chill when you reach your destination.

Tips for staying focused while working from home

Figure out when you are most productive

Some people do their best work in the morning, soon after getting out of bed or having breakfast. If that’s you, you may want to schedule your most important tasks for the earlier hours, such as between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

On the other hand, you may need a little time to get your brain and body going. If you feel like you’re not firing on all cylinders until a few hours after you get up, you may want to spend the mornings replying to emails, making your schedule for the next week, or performing other, more mundane tasks. In this way, you can stay focused and productive even when your brain may not be up to tackling more difficult tasks.

Set up a home office

An effective home office doesn’t have to have all the trimmings of a typical space provided by an employer, but even a modest setup can help you maintain your focus. Home office space can make it so:

  • All of your essential tools are in a central location, such as your computer, extra screens, mobile devices, device chargers, backup hard drives, pens, pencils, notebooks, your printer, and even an office phone if you need one.
  • Extra tools and equipment are in place for occasional use. This may include extra USB cables, Ethernet cables, extension cords, headphones, and other things that enhance your productivity.
  • You can get privacy away from family members or roommates. You may have space to designate an entire room as your home office. Even if that’s not feasible, you may be able to set up a modular cubicle wall to separate yourself from others. And for many at-home workers, a computer facing a corner provides adequate distance from the rest of the home.

Make a list of what you have to do

Lists help keep things in order, prioritize the most important tasks, and give you a tangible way of measuring progress. Using lists instead of merely keeping what you have to do in your head can make it easier to set up your day, stay focused, and accomplish everything on time. When making lists, you should keep a few things in mind:

  • Write your list when what you need to do is set firmly in your mind. For many people, it may be best to compose their list for the following day as the current day ends. This is particularly helpful if you had to stop working before you finished an important task or two. You can include these items at the top of your list for the next day.
  • Prioritize time-sensitive tasks. All items in a list are not created equal. You should put the most time-sensitive tasks — even if they’re relatively easy — higher in your list, so you address them first.
  • Don’t cheat. If you’re working from home and sometimes find yourself procrastinating a little, you should view your list as your boss. Every time you look at it, your “boss” is politely reminding you what has to get done for the day.
  • Set reasonable expectations for yourself. You may have some flexibility as to which tasks you have to complete each day, and if so, you should avoid the temptation to cram ten things into your list when you may only have time for seven. To avoid this, you may want to make lists for several days in a row — or even the entire week. This way, you can allow adequate time for each task instead of front-loading many into one day.

Set boundaries

In addition to the physical boundaries that come with a home office space, social boundaries can go a long way toward promoting productivity at home. This may involve a few strategic conversations with family members or roommates. Here are a few tips.

  • Be specific about when you will be working instead of simply mentioning a time period, such as “six hours every day.”
  • Schedule breaks where you can talk about important things or help out with things around the house.
  • If you have to work longer or start earlier than normal, let your family members or roommates know as far ahead of time as possible.
  • Be specific regarding how they can help you maintain your focus by limiting music, TV, and other ambient noises.
  • Tell them exactly what kinds of things distract you.
  • Set aside quality time and stick to it. This is especially important when it comes to family. When you follow through on your time commitments, they may understand that work isn’t more important than they are.

Limit your exposure to media

The waterfall of media distractions while in your house is one of the most significant drawbacks to working from home. At the office, you may worry about someone walking by and seeing you watching home improvement videos on YouTube or checking your favorite news outlet, but while at home, there’s no watchful eye peering over your shoulder.

Therefore, you have to do it for yourself. Here are some ways to make it easier to say no to media distractions:

  • Turn off phone notifications. You can silence your alerts according to their individual categories, such as alarms, texts, instant messages, and emails. Take a few minutes to set these up just right, minimizing your chances of getting distracted.
  • Put your phone on do-not-disturb mode. For most people, even if their phone is completely silent, they can still get the alerts they need to do their jobs on their computers.
  • Turn your phone upside down and put it out of sight, such as behind your laptop screen. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Use a firewall or other web filter to cut off your access to YouTube and social media sites. In this way, you mimic what many companies do to limit distractions. This may seem extreme, but the time you save may be well worth it.
  • Dedicate specific times for media consumption. You may want to set aside a half hour to check and respond to texts or read the latest headlines or your favorite blogs. But when the time is done, you have to have the discipline you need to get back to work.

Make a work calendar

Whether you use a physical, paper calendar or dedicate space on an extra screen, you should use a calendar to schedule your work activities. If you opt to use a calendar app on your computer, you can often create a new calendar specifically for work. You can then customize the color of these events so they stand out from any other calendars you have.

Regardless of the kind of calendar you use, this will have to be the foundation of your schedule, and you will have to structure other activities around it.

Take frequent breaks

There’s nothing wrong with taking a breather every now and then. In fact, breaks may improve your productivity. Taking space away from a task can give your mind time to relax and refresh. It can also provide an opportunity for new ways of addressing a challenging problem to come to mind, saving you time and frustration.

Sometimes, getting completely out of your workspace makes your break even more fulfilling. You can take a quick walk, run an errand, or do some exercise for a little bit — all of which can create some healthy space between you and your work.

Jobs you can do remotely

Getting the tools needed for working remotely often begins — and ends — with a computer and the software you need to do your job. This means thousands of jobs can be done just as well out of the office as within it. Here are some of the top remote tech jobs.

Front-End Engineer

As a Front-End Engineer, you design the user interfaces and tools that end-users interact with within an app. This is an ideal remote job because you can do all of your work on a laptop. The software you use to develop user interfaces and connect them with the dependencies of apps is usually available online or within cloud-based development environments. To learn what you need to start your front-end engineer career from home, you can check out our Front-End Engineer Career Path.

Back-End Engineer

A Back-End Engineer designs the tools and systems that power the user’s experience within the app. These include databases, operating systems, and various libraries of tools that make for a seamless user experience. Similar to those used by Front-End Engineers, the tools back-end engineers depend on can either be downloaded or used within a cloud design ecosystem. To explore the possibilities of a career as a back-end engineer, you should look into our Back-End Engineer Career Path.

Data Scientist

A Data Scientist uses tools like Python and SQL to collect, query, analyze, and then visualize data. They often have the responsibility of both designing the databases people use and presenting their data-based discoveries to stakeholders. With online communication tools, all of this can be done remotely, including meetings with decision-makers and team members. To acquire the skills needed to be a Data Scientist, you can use our Data Scientist Career Path.

Full-Stack Engineer

A Full-Stack Engineer develops software solutions from top-to-bottom, handling both the front end and back end. They have to interface with decision-makers and other key stakeholders to ascertain the best solutions and how to use software to make them happen. One hundred percent of a Full-Stack Engineer’s job can be done remotely using software and presentation tools on their laptop or desktop. To dig into what it takes to be a Full-Stack Engineer, you can check out our Full-Stack Engineer Career Path.

Cybersecurity Engineer

A Cybersecurity Engineer develops ways to protect the networks and digital assets of an organization. They use a variety of tools, all of which can be either installed or configured remotely. Even though a lot of a cybersecurity professional’s job involves interfacing with the IT team and executives, these meetings can happen online and be just as — if not more — effective. Learn more about what it takes to be a Cybersecurity Engineer in our Introduction to Cybersecurity course.

Working remotely, whether from home, on the road, or in a co-working space, can be a comfortable and rewarding way to earn a living. Remember to cultivate self-discipline, communicate clearly with others in your home, and set up a controlled workspace to get the most from your remote environment. There are many jobs you can do remotely, especially in the tech fields. To learn more about the kinds of jobs suited for working remotely, you can check out our courses and get started for free today.

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Adam Carpenter

Adam Carpenter

Adam Carpenter is a tech, fintech, and business innovations writer. Passionate about user safety, Adam writes about cybersecurity solutions, software, and innovations.

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Guide to working remotely: Staying focused, remote jobs, and more
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