Warning: This is not another “productivity hack” article. It’s based on personal experience and aims at facilitating happy and productive days that leave time and space for personal wellbeing.
Office workers enjoy an increasing number of diverse spaces to work, like lounge and kitchen areas, terraces (if you’re lucky!), empty meeting rooms, phone booths and so on.
Meanwhile, remote workers obviously have even more flexibility in choosing their workplaces, but often find they’re getting stuck in one place, like the perfect home office they finally finished setting up.
It’s a shame that many remote workers miss out on the opportunity to select the right place and time for work. Productivity depends greatly on the type of task you want to get done. Do you need to churn out 100 emails or prepare one extensive pitch for an important meeting? Since environments and times of day greatly impact your energy levels and focus, choosing wisely can make the difference between smashing your to-do list and getting stuck on one task for hours.
Remote work place 1: Your couch
Sometimes working on the couch is great, and yes it’s possible to get stuff done. Especially tasks like this one, writing blog articles, content or anything that requires a creative but relaxed state of mind are perfectly suited to be done with your legs up and a supporting backrest. Prop up your laptop on a pillow or get yourself a “lap desk” (yes, apparently that’s the correct term) if you’re feeling fancy. Breaks are great to let your eyes wander, which helps your thoughts to develop from a vague idea to a concrete outcome. Being relaxed just enough helps to get into a creative flow.
With regards to time of day, I find it easiest to get into a creative flow on the couch in the afternoon or early evening, when the bulk of to-dos is already done.
One of the biggest and most obvious drawbacks of working on the couch is your posture. Ergonomically speaking, it is terrible for your health, at least when you only work like this. Especially your neck, lower back, shoulders and wrists suffer, similarly to a wrong posture at a regular desk. Wrist tendonitis is easily caused by overstretching the wrists when typing on your laptop, so make sure you limit your time working in less than ideal positions.
Even though I’ve never tried it, I imagine Moonpod is an amazing alternative to the couch!
Remote work place 2: The (perfect) desk
This one might be the most obvious one, but it still can’t be missed. As remote workers, we are often searching for the perfect desk, whether it’s at home or at a co-working space. Once found, the perfect desk can make it easy to kick into productivity mode straight away — if you follow the basic rules of turning off distracting devices.
Adding a great stimulant such as music, especially via Focus@will or other productivity music apps, supercharges your focus. While the right music can be beneficial wherever you’re working, it supports you the most in an already fairly quiet environment. Adding music to drown out background noise is very stressful in the long run.
Desk time is ideal for completing small tasks in fast succession and with little breaks in between. The most obvious of these tasks are emails. The right desk supports you with good posture to click around and type on your keyboard without straining your body too much.
Conveniently, emails and desk work are both great to do in the morning, when the mind is still fresh. Additionally, it’s a great time to cross small tasks off your to-do list. This will give a sense of accomplishment and motivation for the rest of your day.
Obviously desk work can, and must be, highly productive, for the majority of the workforce. Nevertheless, both sitting and standing at a desk all day have been proven to be detrimental to one’s health. In addition, mental health can be affected by the monotony that comes with a never changing work environment. Make the most out of your desk time, get it done and move on to more stimulating environments.
Remote work place 3: That café you like
Although not for everyone, cafés can become your favorite remote work place, and one where you can easily kick into productive mode. Still, some might argue that cafés are horrible for certain tasks, but occasionally you have no other choice but to literally make it work. So how do you make the most out of working at a café?
Stating the obvious: avoid peak hours in the morning and lunchtime. Nobody needs that level of noise. Avoid “mom cafés”, because nobody needs a crying baby next to them either. All in all, you probably already know where to go: somewhere with fast wifi, decent coffee and a tolerance towards people working for a few hours. If you find yourself in a new city, Workfrom.co helps you find your new favourite spot.
With regards to tasks, I find presentations and any other form of creative visual output best suited for café work. Since the atmosphere is stimulating, bordering on distracting, it’s great to get big ideas going or to visually organise smaller arguments. Breaks are okay! Enjoy that coffee instead of gulping it down. An added bonus would be a vantage point to let the eyes wander or rest on the horizon. Social media posts are also one of my favourites to work on at cafés, maybe due to the “oh so ‘grammable” environment?
For the combination of creative outputs and cafés, I find afternoons are best suited to get the job done.
Remote work place 4: On the move, or “walk the talk”
This is not the first time someone tells you to move more. But trying to get your steps in during working hours is quite difficult. Introduce walking while working, or working while walking. You could either pace up and down inside or take an actual walk outside. A standing up posture allows your vocal chords to expand. This makes you sound stronger and more confident, which can be super helpful for pitches and client calls. Walking will increase the amount of oxygen transported to your brain, making your thoughts clearer and your thinking quicker.
This clearly works best for phone calls you don’t need a notepad or laptop for. Another option: Walking meetings — walk in a park instead of meeting for coffee, but make sure noise levels are acceptable and choose wisely who to do it with. It’s probably not ideal for a first-time client meeting, but great to foster a longer standing client relationship. As remote workers, getting some face-to-face interaction with colleagues and partners can be scarce, so if you get the opportunity to meet someone face to face, why not make it memorable?
Best time: the early afternoon, so you get to combat the post-lunch dip in energy as well.
Remote work place 5: Your shower (wait, what?)
Finally, there are places you don’t expect creativity to strike. This can be anywhere from the shower to the treadmill. Point is, leaving spaces for creative problem solving helps inspiration to come to you.
PRO tip for meeting spaces: Hotel lobbies. They’re free and great to have meetings in. Also, some coworking spaces offer meeting rooms for presentations or large meetings. They can be booked by non-members for an hourly rate as well.
I am aware that most jobs are not as diverse as mine. Also, some people prefer to stay put and do all their work at a café or desk. Regardless, I hope this will serve as inspiration where to take your work and how to structure your day in order to stay as relaxed and balanced as possible.
At acework we are warriors for greater flexibility and happiness at work. We are always curious how the rest of the remote work community gets this done. Get in touch and let us know your ideas and best practices. Either in the comment section or directly in Facebook messenger.
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