Remote Work Productivity Hacks: Staying Efficient Outside the Office

The freedom of remote work is a double-edged sword. While having the flexibility to work from anywhere sounds like a dream, the lack of structure can quickly turn into a productivity nightmare. Distractions lurk around every corner when your home is also your office.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself binge-watching Netflix instead of tackling that big project. Or maybe you’ve spent hours aimlessly browsing social media, only to realize the workday has slipped away. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Maintaining productivity while working remotely is a common challenge, but one that can be overcome with the right strategies.

Just ask Sara, a marketing manager who transitioned to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. “At first, I loved the idea of working from home in my pajamas,” she recalls. “But after a few months, I found myself constantly distracted and behind on deadlines. My work-life balance was non-existent.”

With a few key adjustments to her environment and routine, Sara was able to reclaim her productivity and thrive in the remote work setting. Here are the top strategies she and other remote productivity experts recommend.

Thriving as a remote worker requires an intentional approach. Create an ergonomic, distraction-free workspace and implement productivity tactics like time blocking, the Eisenhower Matrix, and the Pomodoro Technique. Leverage communication tools wisely while establishing clear work-life boundaries. Embrace self-care to avoid burnout. With the right strategies for focus, prioritization, and work-life balance, you can unlock peak efficiency outside the office.

Setting Up Your Workspace

The first step to remote work productivity is creating an environment conducive to focus and efficiency. This starts with your physical workspace.

remote work

Creating an Ergonomic Setup

Investing in an ergonomic workstation may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it can pay dividends in terms of productivity and overall well-being. Properly positioning your desk, chair, and monitor can help reduce strain on your body, allowing you to work for longer periods without discomfort or fatigue.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), your monitor should be positioned about an arm’s length away, with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level. Your chair should provide adequate lumbar support, and your feet should rest flat on the floor (or a footrest if needed).

“I can’t overstate how much my productivity improved once I invested in a quality office chair and raised my monitor to the proper height,” says Sara. “I was amazed at how much less strain I felt after a full workday.”

Eliminating Distractions

One of the biggest challenges of remote work is separating your professional and personal lives when they coexist in the same physical space. If possible, dedicate a specific room or area of your home as your “office” and minimize distractions there.

Clear away clutter that might divert your attention, and consider using noise-canceling headphones or a white noise machine to block out household sounds. Website blockers and silencing notifications on your devices can also help you stay focused on the task at hand.

“I finally had to set some boundaries by designating a spare bedroom as my home office,” says Sara. “I let my family know that when the door was closed, they should avoid interrupting me unless it was an emergency. This small change made a huge difference in my ability to concentrate.”

For those without a dedicated room option, Sara recommends creating a physical barrier like a folding room divider or curtain to section off your workspace from the rest of the living area.

Effective Time Blocking

With fewer physical boundaries between work and personal life, it’s easy for the lines to blur when working remotely. Time blocking – the practice of allocating specific time slots for tasks and activities – can help you regain control of your schedule.

Prioritizing Tasks

Not all tasks are created equal, so start each day by prioritizing your to-do list. Methods like the Eisenhower Matrix can help you categorize tasks based on urgency and importance, ensuring you tackle the most crucial items first.

The matrix divides tasks into four quadrants:

Another approach is the “eat the frog” technique, which involves completing your biggest, most dreaded task first thing in the morning. This strategy capitalizes on your peak productivity hours and provides a sense of accomplishment to propel you through the rest of the day.

“I used to waste precious morning hours on busy work like clearing out my inbox,” reflects Sara. “Once I started eating the frog every day by tackling my most important project first, I felt so much more satisfied and focused for the rest of the workday.”

Scheduling Breaks

While it may seem counterintuitive, taking regular breaks can actually boost your productivity. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, involves working in 25-minute sprints followed by 5-minute breaks. These short respites allow you to recharge and return to your tasks with renewed focus and energy.

Regardless of the specific time-blocking method you choose, be sure to schedule breaks for meals, movement, and mental refreshment. Stepping away from your work can help prevent burnout and increase overall output.

“When I first started working remotely, I would often work straight through lunch without even realizing it,” says Sara. “Now, I set a recurring alarm to stand up, stretch, and enjoy a real break every few hours. I come back to my desk feeling recharged and more productive than ever.”

Communication Best Practices

Effective communication is essential for remote workers, as the lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for collaboration.

Virtual Meeting Etiquette

With video conferencing becoming the norm, it’s important to approach virtual meetings with the same professionalism as in-person gatherings. Before each call, test your audio and video to ensure everything is working properly, and eliminate any potential distractions in your background.

During the meeting, stay engaged by maintaining eye contact with the camera (not just watching your own video feed) and allowing others to finish their thoughts without interruption. Remember, body language and nonverbal cues can be easily misconstrued in a virtual setting, so be mindful of your demeanor.

“I’ve found it helpful to keep a notepad nearby to jot down any thoughts I want to circle back to, rather than interrupting the speaker,” advises Sara. “This simple practice has made me a much better virtual meeting participant.”

Collaboration Tools

Fortunately, there are numerous tools available to facilitate remote collaboration and communication. Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom offer chat, file-sharing, and video conferencing capabilities to keep teams connected and projects moving forward.

When communicating via written channels, strive for clarity and concision. Use proper grammar and formatting, and avoid excessive shorthand or emojis that could be misinterpreted. If a discussion becomes complex or emotionally charged, consider hopping on a video call to resolve any misunderstandings.

“I can’t imagine working remotely without tools like Trello for project management,” says Sara. “Being able to create visual workflows, assign tasks, and comment on project updates has been a game-changer for keeping our marketing campaigns organized and on track.”

She also emphasizes the importance of maintaining strong team camaraderie, even when working remotely. “We have a dedicated Slack channel just for non-work banter and bonding. Having that virtual water cooler to connect on a personal level helps offset the isolation of remote work.”

Balancing Work and Personal Life

One of the greatest advantages of remote work is the flexibility it affords, but this perk can quickly become a double-edged sword. Without clear boundaries between work and personal time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overworking or neglecting self-care.

Creating Boundaries

Establish set working hours and stick to them as closely as possible. When the workday ends, shut down your computer and step away from your workspace. This physical separation can help signal to your brain that it’s time to disengage from work mode.

It can also be helpful to set boundaries with colleagues and clients. Let them know your availability windows, and don’t feel obligated to respond to emails or messages outside of your designated working hours (barring true emergencies, of course).

“I actually schedule ’email parking lot’ time a few times per day to quickly scan my inbox,” explains Sara. “This way, I’m not constantly getting distracted by new messages popping up. I also enable deliver-by reminders for any emails I send outside my team’s established working hours.”

Another helpful tactic is to create a definitive “closing routine” at the end of each workday – whether that’s packing up your laptop, straightening your desk area, or simply changing out of your work clothes into more casual attire.

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is a very real risk for remote workers, as the lines between work and personal life become increasingly blurred. Watch for warning signs like exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of productivity or satisfaction in your work.

To combat burnout, prioritize self-care activities like exercise, hobbies, and quality time with loved ones. Consider incorporating mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing exercises into your routine to help manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“On particularly stressful days, I’ll take a midday yoga break or go for a quick walk around the neighborhood,” says Sara. “Those small pockets of ‘me time’ provide a much-needed mental reset to power through the rest of my workday.”

Remember, your productivity and overall well-being are interconnected. By implementing strategies to stay focused and efficient during work hours, you’ll be better equipped to fully disengage and recharge during your personal time.

remote work setup

Leveraging Technology for Productivity

In addition to communication tools, today’s technology landscape offers a wealth of apps and software designed to boost productivity for remote workers. Here are a few top recommendations:

  • Freedom – This website and app blocker allows you to create custom block lists to eliminate distracting sites during set work periods.
  • RescueTime – Track how you’re spending your time across applications and websites with this productivity monitoring tool. The data can help identify time-wasting culprits.
  • Focusmate – For an extra dose of accountability, this virtual co-working service matches you with a remote partner for 50-minute focus sessions.
  • Todoist – Stay on top of tasks and projects with this intuitive to-do list and project management app.
  • SaneBox – Tame email overwhelm with the smart filters and prioritization features of this productivity-boosting email platform.

“I’m a bit of a productivity app junkie,” Sara confesses with a laugh. “But having the right tools in my arsenal to eliminate distractions, prioritize my workload, and optimize communication has been essential for thriving as a remote worker.”

Of course, the most robust suite of productivity tools is only as effective as the practices surrounding them. Establish sustainable routines, create an environment optimized for focus, and remain diligent about work-life boundaries, and you’ll be well on your way to peak performance – no office required.


Achieving productivity while working remotely requires a multifaceted approach. By setting up an ergonomic and distraction-free workspace, you’ll have an environment conducive to focus. Implementing time blocking techniques like the Eisenhower Matrix and Pomodoro Method can help you prioritize tasks and maintain momentum throughout the day.

Strong communication practices – including virtual meeting etiquette and effective use of collaboration tools – are also key to remote work success. Perhaps most importantly, establishing clear boundaries between work and personal time can prevent burnout and promote a sustainable work-life balance.

While the transition to remote work can be challenging, embracing productivity strategies tailored to this new paradigm can unlock newfound efficiency and job satisfaction. Start by implementing just a few of the tips outlined above, and you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of remote productivity.

The remote workforce is here to stay, with 25-30% of employees expected to work from home multiple days per week by the end of 2023. By optimizing your workflow now, you’ll have a competitive edge in the future of work.

Dan Sawyer

Founding editor and head writer of Dan is a job interview and career expert, with more than 20 years of experience in senior roles at high tech leaders Space Exploration Technologies and Samsung Austin Semiconductor.

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