When we were kids, our parents used to tell us to do our homework before dinner and to go to bed at a certain time. Many of us griped about the evening routine imposed by Mom. But as we grew up, we realized that staying on a schedule created a structure that helped us accomplish more tasks and perform better at our 9-to-5 desk job. If you’re working remotely, having a morning routine has become more important than ever.
Remote Work: A Brief History
Working remotely is nothing new.
In fact, the origin of telecommuting in the United States can be traced back to the 1980s when rising gasoline prices, worsening traffic congestion, and growing concerns about the environment affected the profitability of several big companies.
Included in this list of companies that were hit hard in this decade were JC Penny, Levi-Strauss, Hartford, and American Express.
During an economic crisis, the first step is to find ways to streamline costs. These companies implemented telecommuting arrangements whereby jobs were awarded to people who can work from home and paid per productive hour.
By 2011, more companies joined the telecommuting bandwagon and selected employees for work-from-home appointments. These businesses realized that not only do they save up on costs but employee productivity was much higher.
It was predicted that by 2020, 50% of the global workforce would be working remotely.
Fast-forward to 2020, a time when the entire world is faced with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses were forced to shut down because of the government-imposed lockdowns. However, the companies that had remote work solutions in place continued to function and generate income.
Economies worldwide struggled months after the lockdowns were lifted. The pandemic experience triggered a seismic shift not only in business processes but also in worker attitudes.
The experiences gained from the COVD-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns further emphasized the importance of having remote work arrangements built into workforce management systems.
The updated forecast is that by 2025, 70% of workforces will be working remotely.
Let’s face it. More people will be working remotely regardless of the pandemic. Remote work is the future of work – the new engine of economic growth. Businesses will offer telecommuting arrangements. People will pursue self-employment opportunities as freelancers or virtual assistants.
In order to succeed, the conditions for productivity must be established at the place of remote work.
But there are challenges that must be overcome.
The Remote Work Conundrum
Working remotely certainly has its perks:
- No need to rush out of the house to beat the traffic.
- More time for the family.
- Ability to manage one’s time and schedule.
- Fewer expenses as you don’t have to commute and can eat at home.
- Fewer stressors; no office politics.
- More time for “The Self”.
And many Americans, feel safer working from home where the threat of getting infected with the newest COVID-19 variant is much less.
However, the benefits of these perks might not be enough to offset the difficulties other people experience when they start working from home.
In fact, for some, working from home isn’t a privilege and can become an ordeal that carries different types of challenges such as:
- Distractions from family; having to attend to their needs and having more duties/obligations to handle than before.
- Loneliness and boredom; lack of camaraderie without office mates around.
- Difficulty adjusting to a work-from-home environment.
- Relations within the family get more strained.
- Inability to disconnect from technology.
- Difficulties in adjusting to differences in time zones if some members of the remote team are from other countries.
- Difficulties in adjusting to differences in cultural practices, beliefs, and attitudes of some members of the remote team who are from other countries.
- Problems with technology – computer issues and poor Internet connection.
- No such thing as “Me Time” when the client or the employer has you at his beck and call any hour of the day and night.
- Difficulty separating home life from work life.
The last challenge is one that many remote workers deal with on a daily basis. When they used to work in a brick-and-mortar office, the line between home life and work life was easily delineated.
Why A Morning Routine Is More Important When Working Remotely
Now that the home has become the office, it’s harder to separate the distinctions between the two.
The room that used to be the music/recreation room is now your workplace. Every time you pass by it, you think of work – the current problems as well as the tasks you have to do the following day.
Thus, while the numbers show that remote workers are much happier than brick-and-mortar workers, the opposite can hold true if the challenges aren’t properly addressed.
And this is why having a morning routine is more important when you’re working remotely.
Similar to how an evening routine as kids helped establish a structure for school work and later on as 9-to-5 employees, having a morning routine will organize the things you need to do to prepare for the day ahead.
A morning routine will help you start the day right mentally, physically, and emotionally.
1. Mental Preparedness
When you used to have the daily office grind, the second you jump out of bed you’re constantly glancing at the clock. You have to be out of the house at a certain time to beat the morning rush.
By doing a bit of reverse-engineering, you have to be in the shower at a certain time, finish your breakfast within a specified time frame, and have your coffee brewing the second you arrive at the kitchen.
You won’t have much time to savor the coffee, allow the caffeine to kick in, and your mind to wake up and visualize the day ahead. Every sip you take is a second off the clock. Instead of focusing on what you need to do for task #1, you’re looking to get to the shower by 7:30 am.
Now that you work from home, you can savor the coffee, allow the caffeine to kick in, and give your mind time to properly wake up so you can visualize the day ahead.
You might want to check your agenda for the day and run a mental review of the things you need to do to accomplish task #1. If you have a sales presentation, you can do an impromptu mental rehearsal in a very relaxed and stress-free state of mind.
Put it this way.
Having a simple routine such as starting the day with a freshly brewed mug of coffee and performing a mental review makes you productive as early as 6:30 am.
By the time you hit your home office, you’re ready to go. You’re relaxed and know exactly what to do the second the computer boots up.
In comparison, as an office employee, you might be thinking of the day ahead only when you get to your desk at 9:00 am. You’ll need some time to shake the cobwebs off and perhaps coffee to calm down traffic-induced stress. You probably won’t get real work done until 9:30 or 10:00 am.
2. Physical Preparedness
Since you don’t have to beat the morning rush, you now have time for physical exercise.
You don’t have to spend hours at a commercial gym to get results from a workout. You can do calisthenics at home or have a quick 20-minute run at the park. A one-hour walk around the village will be enough to clear your mind and prepare you for the day’s activities.
Setting up a home gym has become popular with Americans. At the height of the pandemic, sales of home gym equipment soared as Americans hoped to stay healthy – and in shape – during the lockdown.
While home gym equipment sales have waned since the lockdown was lifted and commercial gyms opened for business, working out at home is a more practical solution if you’re already working at home.
Knowing that you’ve invested thousands of dollars for barbells, dumbbells, and a few machines and having the thought of a gym just a few steps away should be enough to motivate you to get moving.
The best time to exercise is when you do it. Whether you prefer to exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening doesn’t matter as long as you’re able to maintain the schedule.
That said, for those who struggle with consistency, exercising in the morning is the best time for you.
Again, no excuses!
Exercise gets your blood circulation moving. Your mind becomes sharper and more focused, and your cognition levels are higher. Your immune system is healthier and stronger.
When you’re sitting in front of a computer for hours, your neck, shoulders, and lower back become tight. A good exercise program that includes strength training, cardio, mobility, and stretching will protect your body from chronic pain associated with working at a desk.
Lastly, exercise helps you cope and manage stress.
Let’s assume your exercise goal was to run 5-kilometers in under 30 minutes. You spend your mornings training to do a sub-30 5-kilometer run. One day you decided to go for it – and you get it.
That feeling of accomplishment will stay with you forever. You’ll develop confidence that reminds you of your ability to overcome challenges and succeed.
3. Emotional Preparedness
A major reason why people prefer to work from home is that they want to spend more time with their families. With effective time management, you can make this possible on a daily basis.
Include “family time” in your morning routine.
- Have breakfast with your family.
- Bring your children to school.
- Have a cup of coffee and a conversation with your spouse.
Setting aside time for the family brings you constant reminders of why you do what you do. Your family is your purpose – your “why” – for getting up every morning and seizing the day.
You can also dedicate an hour or so per day to connecting with your remote team.
- Schedule a pre-shift meeting where you and the team can discuss the day’s agenda.
- Incorporate a pre-shift consultation or counseling session for individual team members who are lagging behind.
- Have a “virtual coffee hour” 2 mornings per week where remote team members can log in and join you for coffee and breakfast.
By spending time with your remote team, you foster camaraderie, develop a better understanding of who they are, and help everyone overcome feelings of loneliness and boredom.
Last but certainly not least, set aside time for yourself.
- Find a quiet place where you can just breathe and meditate.
- Fix yourself a healthy and delicious breakfast.
- Practice self-care by extending your shower time by a few minutes.
- Spend a few minutes taking care of obligations that might serve as distractions during the workday such as paying bills online.
For many remote workers, the emotional challenges are the most difficult ones to overcome especially during the first few weeks of being located away from the brick-and-mortar office.
It takes time to adjust.
Your kids might not be used to having you “present” in mind and spirit at breakfast. You’re more relaxed and conversant. In an hour, you’ll find yourself alone in an empty house because the kids are already off to school while your spouse could be off at work or running errands.
By including some of these activities as part of your morning routine, you’ll feel more comfortable and fulfilled in your new remote work environment.
The most important aspect of having a successful morning routine when working remote is to remain unplugged or disconnected from technology.
Avoid checking your email or your phone for messages first thing in the morning. Yes, it’s tempting but all you need is one peek and you’re hooked. When that happens – your morning routine will go out the window.
You’ll have plenty of time – in fact, 6 to 8 hours of the day – with your computer and mobile devices.
Without a morning routine, you’ll feel disheveled and the rest of your day might just fall apart. Once your eyes open from a deep slumber, resist the snooze button on the alarm clock and get out of bed.
Start your day by hitting the ground walking – toward the kitchen.
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