Working from home seemed like living the dream. Unfortunately, that dream came with a harsh reality check in 2020, as the pandemic forced offices to quickly switch to working remotely. The adjustment period was also fraught with worries over the global situation and major lifestyle changes we could do nothing about.

Many people faced a steep learning curve when they suddenly realized the responsibilities and dedication working from home required. It’s not the fun pajama party or cool digital nomad life that Instagram leads the world to believe. The reality is, you need to be focused, disciplined, and have excellent time management skills.

Whether this is a temporary situation due to lockdown restrictions, or you’ve taken the plunge to work remotely full-time, we can all benefit from tips to stay on track. Remember, it’s not too late to make changes for the better, even if you’ve been working remotely for a while now.

Schedule Your Day

It’s important to have a plan for every workday. You should be doing this regardless of where you are working—at home, in a coffee shop, or at the office. However, a schedule is even more important when you’re working remotely because there are so many more distractions.

There are plenty of scheduling programs available that you can use to keep your day moving forward. Try something like Trello, Slack, or even just a Google Calendar. If you collaborate on any projects or work, talk to your colleagues and utilize the same software so you can link your accounts and work together easily.

If you need a guiding hand with time management you can opt for a program that helps you to block out time for different projects. Time allocation can be based on previous input, and the various tasks you need to complete.

Start drawing up your schedule by separating your tasks for the day, week, and month into the order of importance, and make note of the deadlines for each. You can then break your day up into what needs to be done daily, and when you are going to tackle specific portions of the bigger tasks you’re working on. Make sure you schedule in your regular tea and lunch breaks, as these are essential times away from your desk.

Stay Connected To Your Colleagues

Speaking of your colleagues, it’s important to stay connected, even if you aren’t collaborating. Something most people say they miss when they go remote is the office banter. There’s no more running into people in the kitchen and chatting while making a cup of coffee. You can’t pop over to someone’s desk anymore and have a quick chat about work that leads to talking about weekend plans.

Messenger programs such as Teams, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are an essential part of remote working. They allow you to talk to your colleagues one on one, or in groups, share important information, or just a daily joke or meme. This maintains a connection, and builds morale and a feeling of working together as a cohesive unit, even when in remote locations.

You can interact via chat, voice call and video call—whatever the situation calls for. Many businesses are opting for virtual phone networks to keep their company connected, and to connect to the outside world.

It’s a good idea to schedule regular video calls with your team so you can see each other’s faces, and enjoy a bit of human interaction. Knowing you have daily or weekly check ins will give you something to work towards, or to look forward to. A chance to talk to your colleagues rather than just a quick written chat or email is an important part of staying connected.

These face-to-face interactions also hold you accountable for your performance as you cannot hide behind emails or messages. Plus, scheduled meetings force you to be on time and maintain a professional attitude, so you’ll need to work them into your schedule and manage your time around them accordingly.

Make Sure You’re Heard By HR

COVID-19 has had a major impact on HR and its operations. Many companies are deploying cloud-based HR systems so they can have a better handle on their employees working remotely. It also gives managers greater oversight into how their teams are doing in both their work and sentiment towards the company.

In addition, these HR systems improve the way employees connect with managers. Plus, they provide a way of ensuring their comments and concerns are being heard.

All interactions are stored on the system, allowing managers to go back and look through past problems and solutions. Those in leadership positions have new challenges on their hands, and by working together with HR they can adapt and ensure the workforce stays motivated, engaged and satisfied.

Pretend It’s A Regular Day At The Office

The switch from office to remote life usually means saying goodbye to office wear. In fact, it’s all too tempting to roll out of bed and sit down in front of your computer without brushing your teeth or getting dressed. Before you know it, you’ve gone past lunchtime and you’re still in your pajamas. This is fun to begin with, but can become a bad downward spiral that leads to a lack of motivation, and possibly even depression.

The best way to combat this is to treat every workday like you were heading to the office. Set your alarm clock, get up, shower and have breakfast. Then, when you’re ready for work, sit down at your desk just like you would in an office.

While some companies have instituted employee logging software that tracks their online activity and presence, others rely on employees to manage their time themselves. If you’re struggling to do so, you can utilize alarms or calendar reminders to keep you on track.

In the future, remote working, or a hybrid of remote and in-office attendance looks set to become more the norm. A recent survey in the U.S illustrated that 55% of employees would prefer this hybrid work model. Time management will be essential for employees, managers, and HR. Much of time keeping and management relies on forming good habits, but there’s software and technology that aids the process too.

As the world goes increasingly remote, time management and HR software is likely to grow in popularity, becoming an integral part of businesses that manage their workforce from afar.