How to stay engaged when working remotely


Remote working was once called the future of work. The COVID-19 pandemic made it a present reality. Despite being a year into this working style, some may feel they aren’t growing professionally whilst the world is at a standstill. Those of us who can work remotely are fortunate, but we may not feel as connected to what we do as we would be in an office. Here’s how to break out of that rut, take control of your motivation, and optimise your working style, for you. 

Don’t wait for motivation

When working remotely, there is often the option to do more work some days and less on other days, as long as you meet that deadline. This can be brilliant for working around life commitments, but it can easily fall into being a slave to the elusive ‘motivation’ or ‘inspiration’. 

Creative writers will know a lot about this – they’ll know that if you wait for inspiration to strike, you won’t get things done consistently. This will get you down for a while. It will make you feel like you’re less in control of your output. 

Instead, it’s best to lay out a roadmap for your week – what you’ll be doing, and when. If you wear a lot of hats and therefore use several parts of the brain in your work, you can always shuffle things around. You can swap tasks depending on what frame of mind you’re in. The main thing is that you have your list and you’re creating your own motivation by acting positively.

Granulate your tasks

When you’re not at the office and can’t collaborate instantly, to some extent you have more ownership of the tasks ahead of you. When you’re working on big projects, this can feel overwhelming. 

Feeling overwhelmed by big tasks can lead to a mental block and a decrease in productivity as a result. 

You could also give yourself rewards for completing particular tasks. Whether it’s your favourite snack or simply taking a break to get some fresh air.

Goal setting

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) includes SMART goal-setting in its techniques. It could really help you stay more engaged with your work in the long term. Here’s the SMART acronym and what it means: 

Specific – is your goal well-defined?
Measurable – does your goal have specific criteria?
Achievable – is it possible to achieve?
Realistic – is it within reach and relevant?
Timely – to you have a target date for your goal?

Goals are rarely achievable in just one step. So make sure you connect your day-to-day tasks with longer-term aspirations.

Keep an eye on mental health 

Some people thrive from working alone. However, for many people, working remotely and often alone can be a struggle. This is being increasingly recognised when more people are working remotely due to lockdowns. Lockdowns are necessary to protect the vulnerable, but we must still find ways to connect. Not only from a mental health perspective but for the knock-on effect loneliness has on physical health. According to Psychology Today, “even brief bouts of loneliness impact our immune system”.

The good news is that loneliness can largely be avoided. Adam Hickman, PhD points out the difference between loneliness and isolation. Loneliness is the emotional response – isolation is structural. If your company doesn’t have a structure in place to stay connected and engaged with each other, don’t be afraid to speak up. He recommends asking each other direct questions to drive engagement and ensure a healthy workplace. 

You should check in with yourself by asking the following questions:

  • How are you getting along with working from home? 
  • How are you feeling, and what’s your energy level? 
  • Do you have access to the things you need to do your job well? 
  • Do you feel you have enough learning and development opportunities? 
  • What do you think could help us to improve daily communication?
  • What do you do to take a break and recharge? 

Questions like these are things you can ask yourself periodically. You should also acknowledge that your working style is unique to you. For example, one person might thrive from lots of video meetings, while others may experience ‘Zoom fatigue’. 

Everybody stays engaged in different ways and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but if you ask yourself questions like this, you’ll be more engaged. 

Cloud-based collaboration

Constant video calls aren’t necessarily the best way for a team to stay engaged. As mentioned above, it can lead to fatigue and isn’t always productive. 

Cloud-based collaboration platforms, such as Slack, can help fill that gap if you’re considering reducing your video conferencing. They’re great ways to continue conversations around different topics (classed as channels) and you then have a written record to refer back to. 

It can also increase morale. It’s so easy to send a small message with your teammates to stay connected and then go back to your day. 

Know when to step away 

This is partly related to knowing if you’re an early bird or a night owl. You may be someone who can put on the coffee machine early and get a load of work done before you even eat breakfast. If that’s the case, chances are you won’t benefit from staying online until 5.30 pm with a thousand-yard stare. If you have superhuman energy and can sustain your productivity from early morning to late in the afternoon, kudos. But you may want to be aware of the signs of burnout.

 A great way to stay engaged is to set yourself some core hours. Be considerate to your colleagues by allowing a good window for when they can contact you. But, your work-life balance depends on your circumstances and should be individualised. If you stay at your desk until late, you might find yourself Revenge Bedtime Procrastinating. This will make you feel really tired and unengaged the next day and could lead to an exhausting cycle. 

Performance expert Alessandra Edwards explains Revenge Bedtime Procrastination (RBP):

“A term that describes when people who don’t have much control over their daytime life categorically refuse to go to bed early in order to regain some sense of freedom during the late-night hours.”

If you feel more in touch with how you can be at your best, you can step away from your desk with pride. Knowing that remote working isn’t the easiest thing to do like people might assume, but you were able to take charge of yourself. Instead of being your own biggest distraction, you’ve been your own coach. And the best way to make a change in your organisation is to share wisdom. Have you found a yoga video on YouTube that really helped you to take a break and return to work with a renewed focus? Share it with your team. 

If you have a specific way you like to work from home, please share it with us, too.