As most remote workers have figured out by now, working remotely is not exactly a cakewalk. While remote work seems great in theory–no commute, no need to get dressed up, more time to yourself– in reality, there are a lot of potential challenges to motivation from this type of working style that need to be taken into account.
Primary among these challenges is the loneliness and isolation that some may feel. As we discussed in a different blog post, we gain a lot more from the relationships and social interactions at our jobs than we think, including the motivation that they can afford us. And even if you aren’t working completely from home as a remote worker (i.e. you work from cafes or shared workspaces), you may still feel cut-off from your coworkers, which can similarly affect motivation.
With that in mind, below is a list of practical ways you can keep your motivation high while working remotely. Of course, everyone is different and has different needs when it comes to work. Some people may be just fine and dandy working from home. But even so, hopefully, everyone can gain something from this list, if only just to think about their own remote style a little more consciously.
We can all improve motivation, but we all need to find our own unique ways to do so. That’s a major part of what I want to demonstrate in this list.
1. Communicate with your team (and everyone else)
Keeping communication channels open with colleagues and being proactive about engaging with work relationships is one of the most important things you can do when working remotely. You might be surprised at how easy it is to recede into your own bubble when you work remotely, especially when you work from home.
Which is why you need to work a little harder to stay involved with your team–not just when it comes to projects, but also when it comes to casual social interactions. These little interactions, which may seem insignificant, are actually powerful work motivators. Also, make sure to keep up with friends and family too, as they can help you stay centered and grounded as you spend more of your time in a digital environment.
2. Enjoy learning how to manage yourself
Remote work brings a lot more freedom generally. But that freedom can also be a little scary. Without the structure of an office setting or a manager watching over you directly, it may be hard at first to develop your own work style away from others.
However, this can also be a great chance to discover new things about yourself and how you “manage” your own time. Taking an attitude of self-discovery can lead to a more positive mindset and a willingness to experiment with different approaches, which can empower you to take control over your own work experience and motivate you to be more productive on your own.
3. Find the right way to organize yourself
Going along with managing yourself is finding the right way to schedule your own time and organize your tasks. Whether it’s the classic pen and paper list or a new organizational app, there are lots of different ways to get organized. Discovering the right one can be part of the fun of remote work. But what’s most important is finding the method that fits your particular needs and working style, since establishing good habits is what can motivate you naturally.
4. Be kind to yourself
You’re not around coworkers as much, and in effect, you’re basically your own daily manager– so it’s natural to be extra hard on yourself and your work. Sometimes you might feel like you need to overwork yourself because “you’re just at home”. Or you may feel anxious about not being “productive enough”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Understand that many people are going through similar things, your coworkers included, and give yourself some grace about your own sense of work ethic and productivity. Allow yourself to get into a good flow with remote work, and you will gain a better sense of what you can and can’t do, and what you actually would like to do. The motivation will flow naturally from there. But if you aren’t kind to yourself, your motivation will only fade and turn into something much worse.
5. Set boundaries and priorities
Part of being kind to yourself is also learning when to say no. With remote work, it’s very easy for work and life to mesh together. Even if this is somewhat inevitable, you can still set boundaries so that your work doesn’t override your life entirely. Part of this lies in figuring out priorities, including how to prioritize your time.
Working all hours of the day is actually counterproductive (and just leads to burnout). Making priorities about how you want to spend your down time can in reality make you more motivated when you are at work. Additionally, setting those priorities in your own life can actually influence which projects and tasks you prioritize at work as well and make you an overall more confident and motivated worker.
6. Give yourself “rewards” (i.e. breaks)
This one is on lots of lists like this, and it always strikes me as a little simplistic and condescending– like we all need a cookie or a gold star to get through the day. But let’s expand the concept of “reward”. A reward could be a 10-minute break. It could be a quick swipe through Twitter or Facebook. It could be a quick snack, or a walk around the street, or a leisurely gaze out the window. Basically, don’t forget to give yourself mental and physical breaks. Sure you’re at home, but you still need and deserve them. And you’ll feel more motivated to get back to work after.
7. Stay healthy
No matter how healthy you are, remote work can make you less so. You’re sitting most of the day, usually at a makeshift office that isn’t meant for long hours of work, and you’re not going outside or walking around as much. Doctors have also noticed strange things happening to our bodies due to spending more time indoors. All of this can sap your motivation and energy even if you aren’t conscious of it.
So to counteract this, make sure you maintain your health. Exercise, do stretches, get enough sleep, and eat right. All of these activities are good for you and release endorphins that make you happy so that you can perform better when you’re working and more motivated to face the day.
8. Take care of emotional needs
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Remote work can take a toll on mental health, since you aren’t around people as much and you may be more “stuck inside your head” while alone. We are social and emotional beings, so make sure these needs are being met. As mentioned above, it’s important to talk and share with friends and family. If you feel something missing or lacking, try to address it as soon as possible before it metastasizes. Also get support from mental health professionals if needed.
9. Find a new hobby
With more time on your hands as a result of working remotely, a great thing to do that will motivate you in both your personal and work lives is to find a new hobby. Cooking, writing, painting, or gardening are all easy to do at home. There are even hobbies that could be helpful in your professional life, like coding, video editing, or learning a new language.
A new hobby gives you a sense of excitement in your life that redounds to your work as well. It gives you more self-confidence in yourself, which makes you more motivated in general. And if you like it enough, a new hobby can spur you to finish all your work quickly so you can get back to doing it.
10. Get outside
While there is the physical health advantage of getting outside (see above), here I am just talking about the simple feeling and enjoyment of nature. Even if you just sit on a bench near your house, getting outdoors for some part of the day is important, in of itself, when working remotely.
Working remotely can often lead to staying inside more often just because it’s easier. However, breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on your face is a good way to feel refreshed and remotivate yourself. But more than that, getting outside means connecting with the world and that special sense of discovery that you can find when you leave your safe nest behind.
Conclusion: Motivation is different for everyone
This list of tips to motivate yourself while working remotely is not exhaustive or definitive. There are countless ways to get motivated and stay motivated and it will be different for every person. Because remote work is so novel on this scale, we are still for the most part figuring out how to really “make it work”. However, that makes it more open and interesting, too. It means that we can experiment, and discover how to motivate ourselves. Hopefully, this list can be one step in that process.
Invite Japan has developed a range of team building activities that can help motivate remote and hybrid teams, including online and face-to-face programs. Contact us for more information!