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I’m a remote employee and I’ve been having issues keeping myself focused at home. What can I do to keep myself organized and productive? Elaine Varelas advises

Being a remote employee can be motivating for many people, but it also be challenging to remain focused and organized while working from home. Elaine Varelas advises on how to stay productive while working as a remote employee.

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Q: Since I’ve started working remotely, I’ve found myself a little disorganized and it’s hard for me to see where my work life starts and my personal life begins. Everything seems to blur together in the whirlwind I’ve been calling my home office. What are some things I can do to keep myself focused at work while being a remote (and good) employee?

A: Most people have developed some sort of system to keep themselves organized in a dedicated workspace. In your company office, you probably had the right tools to keep things organized and maximize your professional time, whether it was file folders, desk drawers, and/or the right chargers for your electronic devices. Now, many people are working in their kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, and family spaces and what may have been short-term plans have turned long term. First recognize that this situation is ongoing and packing up your work belongings at the end of each day is not an effective use of your time and energy. It is important for you to dedicate a work area that is built to increase your productivity, is appropriate visually for virtual calls, and provides easy access to the equipment you need. This is paramount to being successful while working remotely.

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Several companies and websites are catering to remote professionals by providing tools necessary for success, including mobile desk drawers that can be used for filing and moved to a less visible space later to comprehensive wall plugs with multiple USB ports, allowing easy access to home outlets so that all your equipment stays charged. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated office space with a door, having a label on that door that says work time or something similar will help minimize distractions, such as young children, other family members at home, etc. If you don’t, then utilize your calendar so other people can view and see your dedicated work time hours.

Using your calendar for yourself will also encourage you to have consistent start times and break times. And make sure to take those breaks. You can do a couple of minutes of exercise or stretch to relieve the pressure of being in the same seated position for an extended period time. Additionally, make sure you actually stop for water and meals and take your lunch breaks. As for the end of the workday, clearly defining when you are off the clock is crucial for you and the people around you. If you can, close your laptop and put down your cell phone – doing these will become important clues that your responsibilities have changed and that you are no longer at work. You could also go for a walk and use that as a transition time between work and home.

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Without these breaks, burnout will occur significantly faster than with people who use the time to recharge and reenergize and truly keep track of how many hours they’re working, as well as the amount of breaks they are taking. Use alarms on your calendar or on your phone to encourage you to take your breaks and mental transitions. Many people check their work email before they even get out of bed. For some people, this can be reassuring. For others, the stress of the day may start well before they have had time to figure out what their plan is for the day and instead, they focus more on what other people need from them.

Additionally, professional working parents should see if they can take those break times when their kids are dropped off from school until dinner time and then work later. This could also help with employees working with multiple time zones. Take stock of what you’re currently doing, change what doesn’t work for you and continues to annoy you, and fix the tools you have so that you’re as productive and focused as possible. Don’t forget to include your manager in these work changes. Keeping them aware of what you are doing to maximize your productivity helps both them and you. For more tips, tricks, and suggestions, FlexJobs has a great list of 12 Home Office Hacks for Remote Workers: https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/15-home-office-hacks-remote-workers/.

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