Remote Work

Five New Year’s resolutions for remote workers

Funny how they always say “new year, new you!” as though one is capable of total reinvention on an annual basis. Still, there’s something exhilarating about starting fresh, and January is as good a time as any.

We’re not here to tell you to eat healthier (pizza is life) or get an under-the-desk bike (unless you already wanted to). But remote work comes with its own challenges, and a few handy New Year’s resolutions can keep you motivated and increase productivity. If anything, it could give you a fresh outlook on work, which is a very “new year, new you” thing to do.

Make resolutions that won’t fail

You’re probably no stranger to New Year’s resolutions, which means you’re quite familiar with the way you just sort of give up on them and go back to what you were doing last year. Why do we abandon our resolutions? And how can we actually stick with them? Here are a few pointers.

  • Start small! Small changes are easier to make and more likely to be sustainable.

  • Quality > quantity. Don’t try to completely revamp your life. Pick one resolution to start, and get used to the changes it makes in your routine. MAYBE add a second—but feel damn proud if you have achieved one consistently.

  • Stick with it. Did you know that it can take 2 months before a new behavior becomes a reliable part of your routine? Don’t give up!

  • Acknowledge that there will be bad days. Days that break the routine—maybe even weeks where you let things slide. But pick your resolution back up, dust it off, and keep going. A bad day, week, or month doesn’t mean it’s game over.

#5: decorate your workspace

Have you heard of the frequency illusion? It’s a type of cognitive bias in which the details of your environment basically become invisible. When there’s a big change, like Halloween decorations springing up overnight, you’ll notice and pay attention to it. But after a few days, that fun, new thing fades into the background.

So, when was the last time you redecorated your workspace? Swapped out the figurines on your desk? Put some fresh cut flowers in a vase your cat is 100% going to knock over? When you’re a remote worker, it’s on you to harness your inner Office Manager and refresh your office’s look every so often. It takes work, but it’s all worth it for that moment you walk in and notice something fresh, bright, and new.

#4: grab coffee with a coworker

Or tea, if that’s your jam. (Or toast with jam, if that’s your jam). A casualty of remote work are those impromptu moments of conversation with your team. No catching up while you take the elevator together, no jumping into a conversation about House of the Dragon because you hear two other folks discussing the latest episode.

It’s up to you to make those moments happen. Schedule a half-hour huddle with a different teammate each week. Grab a drink in advance, and just chat amongst yourselves. I’ll even give you a topic. The jelly bean is neither made of jelly nor is it a bean. Discuss.

Breaking out of the often-monotonous work from home routine is a good thing, and becoming a little closer to your work friends is even better.

#3: make plans to socialize

We’ve all had those heads-down, hyper-focused weeks where we realize we haven’t left the house and talk to a person outside of a screen in days. Even the most introverted of us need to get out and find a little human connection every so often.

Resolve to keep your social network alive. Schedule monthly D&D sessions with your friends. Take your family out for ice cream on the weekend. Catch a baseball game and drink overpriced beer. Just break from work, even when your workspace is literally steps away, and charge your social battery appropriately.

#2: manage distractions to increase productivity

Procrastination and distraction are huge blockers for remote workers. Resolve to work more efficiently this year by eliminating distractions wherever possible.

  • – Consider a browser extension that blocks (the very fun) time-wasting websites you frequent

  • – Schedule breaks into your day; knowing you can goof off in 45 minutes might help you focus better

  • – Reward yourself for completing each task—maybe a little treat or a few minutes of browsing time

And most importantly, give yourself some grace. There will be some unproductive days, despite your best efforts. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

#1: leave work at work

For many remote workers, the difference between your workspace and your home space is about 10 steps. If you’re not compartmentalizing your work area, you might find that you’re not mentally leaving “work mode” at the end of the day. This poses a huge burden on your mind—and also on your loved ones, who might be counting on you to be in “family mode” or “play with dog” mode instead.

This year, resolve to be more present and keep yourself from burning out.

  • – Physically separate your workspace if at all possible. This might require the creative use of hanging curtains or room dividers.

  • – Fully disconnect at the end of the day. Shut the laptop, turn off the monitors, and set yourself “away” on Slack. In fact, uninstall Slack from your personal phone.

  • – Give yourself a hard stop at the end of your workday. Plan to pick up your kids from school, take an exercise class, or meet friends for dinner. On those days you don’t have somewhere to be at 5pm, remind yourself that it’s not an excuse to work until 8pm.

Bonus: resolve to read to the end of every Parsec blog post

Just kidding, but we’d sure appreciate it if you do. Have a fantastic year, and if your resolutions fall through the cracks, well… there’s always February. Or July. Or even December, if that’s when motivation strikes.

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