The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a massive shift in how we work -- and things are likely to be that way for the foreseeable future.
One major shift that is likely to stay for a very long time is the shift towards remote work:
According to data compiled by Talentlyft, while only 7 percent of U.S. employees regularly worked from home before the COVID-19 pandemic the number of U.S. employees now working from home has shot up to a massive 62 percent -- due to the pandemic!
Here's an even more interesting fact: 59 percent of employees in the U.S. who have been forced to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue working from home once the public health restrictions are lifted -- and 54 percent are willing to quit their job if they find an alternative that allows them to work remotely.
If you're one of the newly-remote workers, one of the major challenges you have to deal with is being productive while working remotely: with an unfamiliar environment, distractions from kids and family, and the fact that you're not very used to working remotely, how do you ensure you remain productive? By making technology your best friend.
Here are some ideas on how to leverage technology to boost your productivity while working remotely:
1. Consider Using Anti-Distraction Apps to Recover Lost Time
You might not know it yet, but Facebook, Twitter, and social media are probably eating up into a good portion of your work day.
According to some sources, workers often waste up to two hours a day on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and other distractions.
While it might be impossible to recover all the time you're losing to online distractions, you can recover a great deal of this time by using anti-distraction apps. There are several of these apps you can choose from, with the majority of them free, regardless of what device you use. These include StayFocusd, SelfControl, and Freedom.
Once you have settled on the app of your choice, you set a time limit (say, 10 minutes) for how long you are allowed to spend on certain apps/sites during your working hours and the app blocks access to them once you exceed that time limit. You'll only be able to access the sites/apps you blocked again after working hours or once the timer reset at the end of the day.
Some of these apps will only block apps and websites in certain browsers while others will take over your computer and block apps and websites.
2. Consider Using AI & Chatbots to Streamline Your Workflow and Enhance Your Mood
When many think "chatbots," the first thing that comes to mind is the Facebook Messenger bot or other types of customer support chat bots. The reality, however, is that chatbots can do a lot more than help you acquire and interact with customers.
For example, there are chatbots that can help you improve your mood and calm you down; notable examples include MeditateBot which helps you meditate and stay calm and Woebot which is a free therapy chatbot that monitors and helps improve your mood.
These bots can be especially useful to newly-remote workers who might not yet be very familiar with the emotional health challenges (such as loneliness and isolation) that are often associated with working remotely.
There are also several other types of bot that are specifically designed to boost professional productivity:
- The ME bot turns to a personal assistant that helps organize your tasks and reminds you about what you have to do; you can link it with Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, SMS, and email.
- The SendGoal bot helps you identify your top goals for the day and constantly motivates and encourages you to focus until you complete them. It can also streamline your meetings.
- The X.ai bot links up with your calendar and helps coordinate and schedule your meetings with little interference from you -- saving you a lot of time.
3. Consider Using the Pomodoro Technique
Research studies have consistently found a link between improved employee productivity and regular work breaks: our brains aren't designed to keep working for very long stretches of time without any sort of break.
Taking regular work breaks, and even taking brief walks during these breaks if you can, can help refresh your brain and improve your focus thereby making you more productive.
The Pomodoro Technique was designed around the concept of taking regular short breaks between tasks: invented in the early 1990s by Francesco Cirillo, the idea behind the technique is that you take five minute breaks for every 25 minutes of work.
Of course, depending on the nature of your work/your individual preference, you can increase the work/break time (for example, work for 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break).
Installing a Pomodoro app not only helps you take advantage of this technique, but an increased consciousness of how much time you have to complete a task can also do its wonders.
The following apps can help you use the Pomodoro Timer:
- The Focus To-Do app (with support for all devices and the Chrome browser).
- The Tomato Timer website (a web-based app based on the Pomodoro technique).
- The Pomodoro Tracker website (another web-based app based on the Pomodoro technique).
4. Make Sure All Work Related Activities are Automatically Backed Up to the Cloud
I no longer use Microsoft Word. I now use Google Docs. The same goes for Excel (I use Google Spreadsheets) and other cloud related apps when creating or doing work that can be synced to the cloud.
I wasn't always a fan of Google Docs until my house was burglarized and my computer was stolen -- with several work-related documents in it. The most painful loss was that of a client project I had spent days working on prior to the theft of my laptop; all gone in an instant!
Now, I'm recounting my experience not to actually encourage you to use Google Drive (there are countless alternatives including Microsoft OneNote) but to make a point: always do your work on the cloud. Not only does this have physical security advantages , but it also ensures you're much more productive and efficient:
- You can access your documents on the go and from any device without having to go through the extra stress of logging in to the device it was originally created on.
- You can easily collaborate with others on the same document without having to manually upload and send documents back and forth (particularly whenever you make updates) -- which saves quite a bit of time downloading, uploading, and opening documents.
- Your work isn't lost in the case of damage to, or loss of, your device.
5. Block Out Every Notification During After-Work Hours
As a remote worker, separating after-work hours from work hours can be a bit challenging; while this might not look like much of a problem initially, it can quickly spiral out of control:
Firstly, you become consumed by work-related notifications and activities after working hours which can quickly drain your energy and gradually wear you out. Secondly, not clearly defining your working and non-working hours (and strictly adhering to it!) can make it difficult to do focused work: since both are intertwined, you might find yourself engaging more and more in non-work-related activities during working hours.
You can use apps like Daywise to control when you get work-related notifications; in other words, you block out notifications during non-working hours and only get them when it's time to start working again.
Bamidele Onibalusi is a successful freelance writer and founder of Writers in Charge, a blog dedicated to helping writers secure well-paying freelance writing jobs. He has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, and The Huffington Post and other top publications.