December 20, 2012

3 Keys to Work Productivity for Remote Workers

Work productivity in Tofino

Working from home, coffee shops, and alternative locations are becoming more of a reality for workers in North America. The benefits seem so obvious: no commutes, working in your PJs, and all your facilities at your disposal. But what about the underlying challenge? How do you maintain work productivity?

When your job requires a high degree of focus and creativity, it isn’t easy to just plop down anywhere and work. There are certain requirements in order for you to get into the right frame of mind.

I’ve had my fair share of work environments. As part of a remote team, I don’t have an office that I need to be in. So instead, I’ve worked in coffee shops, libraries, universities, surf towns, and even hostels.

Work in a Surf Town for Maximum Work Productivity

After over 2 year of working in different environments, here are my learnings about how to optimize your environment for work productivity.

Minimize Disruptions

People and noise are two very big distractions to work productivity.

Noise can be quite easily fixed with a good pair of headphones or ear plugs. But people and visual distractions are more difficult to solve. When people are moving and walking around you in a coffee shop, your peripheral vision is stimulated and it disrupts your focus.

A research done at McMaster refers to this as reorienting negativity. The reorienting process following a distraction or disruption of your attention span.

This study found that:

there isn’t a distinguishable difference between distractions caused by noise or vision, but there is a difference between expected and unexpected distractions.

So how do you get over this?

The easiest way is to choose a better location. In the spectrum of potential office spaces, coffee shops are not among the best.

However, if you do end up at a coffee shop, make sure you pick a spot that fits these 2 requirements:

  • directly facing a window with a view that will not have too much movement, like an empty residential street.
  • or directly facing a wall

The reason that you want to be facing a window or wall instead of facing into the middle of the coffee shop is that you will minimize the amount of movement in your peripheral vision.

Disconnect Electronically

Disconnect from electronics for work productivity
For those of us who depend on technology for our work, it is very easy to let distractions go unnoticed. Things like social media, instant messaging, or our phones are huge work productivity killers. And it’s so easy to pass them off as work.

Workers are interrupted every 10.5 minutes by things like IM, Tweets, and Facebook messages. And it takes 23 minutes to get back on task!

Reply to just a few messages a day, and that could throw all your work productivity out the window.

So instead, choose to disconnect. For a time block, turn off your social networks, your IM, and put your phone in another room. Focus on your work and only allow yourself to tend to them after you’ve completed your goal.

Don’t Eat Where you Work (or multitask)

It sounds like a such a simple and harmless thing to do. You can work while you eat and maintain work productivity. Except, your brain isn’t very good at multitasking.

Your focus is split between working and eating. Instead of fully immersing yourself in being creative or enjoying your food, you’re only getting a little of both. A poor trade off of your time.

Not only is it unhygienic to eat at your computer (your computer mouse has 3x more germs than a toilet seat), it will make you fatter.

Research has shown that distracted eating affects how full you feel after eating and increases the likelihood of snacking.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

When it comes to productivity, most of us have our own specifications. How do you stay productive and what are your work productivity tips?

2 Comments on “3 Keys to Work Productivity for Remote Workers

jeff 'ski' kinsey
December 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm

just as working from home is not for everyone, taking your shining new iPad mini to the local wi-fi enhanced coffee shop to get some work done won’t be effective for a lot of folks either. these are all good findings, but in my experience the best research almost always overlooks this basic fact: your mileage may vary. {grin}

some great tips here. give ’em a go, and if all else fails, go back to the office.

Toan Dang
December 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Definitely agree, Jeff. Working remotely is not for everyone. It takes a certain type of person with different motivations, discipline, and most importantly how they are energized.

Although I enjoy the freedoms of working from home (or coffee shops), I will try to get into a co-working space at least once a month just to work around other people. You get re-energized when you’re in an environment of productivity. Not only that, it’s healthy to socialize and to maintain your relationships.


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