Recent polls show that 53 percent of people around the world work remotely for at least half of the week and 70 percent work remotely at least once a week, clearly indicating this practice is becoming the new way of doing business.
But what if you’re an in-office employee who takes a laptop on business travel but doesn’t work outside the office frequently enough to know good productivity habits? It’s one thing to work from home twice a week; it’s another thing entirely to get work done on a quick business flight from Chicago to Los Angeles.
If you find yourself working remotely sometimes (but not often enough to get good at it), here are five productivity tricks that can help you get more done the next time you’re on the road.
1. Create portable productivity triggers
When you work in an office, you have habits around doing productive work, such as getting dressed, commuting, and sitting down at your desk with a hot drink. When you work remotely, those important cues may be missing. To make your next out-of-office work session more effective and more focused, identify work habits you can do anywhere, like listening to a specific kind of music, setting a timer, and meditating.
2. Make it clear you aren’t available to talk
Another reason working remotely from time to time can be less productive than working in an office is that you’ll often experience more interruptions. Whether it’s a spouse stepping into your home office to ask a question or a flight attendant offering you a soda, people may interrupt you more frequently because they don’t know you’re working. Remove this opportunity for distraction by setting clear expectations around your work whenever possible. For example, let your spouse know you need 20 minutes of uninterrupted work time or wear headphones on business flights (even if you aren’t listening to anything) to signal that you aren’t available to talk.
3. Choose one goal for each session
One of the biggest challenges of working outside your regular working environment is the tendency to get distracted by everything that needs to get done. If you’re not used to doing your job outside the office, it may be difficult to focus on the work at hand. When you try to accomplish too much, you often get nothing done. Fight the distractions by choosing one clear goal for each work session and taking a break when that task is complete.
4. Set clear expectations about the kind of work you can do remotely
If you aren’t used to working remotely, it may be downright impossible to accomplish highly analytical or complicated tasks outside the office because you simply can’t focus enough to get them done. And, trying to do the tasks will only lead to frustration and errors. If you’re traveling or working during a vacation, let your team know you won’t be taking on anything that's too complex while you’re on the go. However, you can communicate that you’re available to check email and answer quick questions if you're up for it.
5. Use technology to help you focus
Another form of distraction that can be a challenge for infrequent remote workers is the distraction of websites, games and apps on your laptop and phone. If you find you simply don’t get as much done when working remotely as you do in the office, consider using distraction-disrupting technology to help you focus. Apps like RescueTime, Cold Turkey and Freedom can track how you spend your computer time and lock down distracting websites on your computer for preset periods of time, helping you work in peace.
If you’re not used to staying focused on work outside the office, it may be difficult to adjust to short periods of working remotely. Use this list of tips to make sure your next business flight or working vacation is as productive as it can be.