Experts have long predicted a slow increase in the number of people working from home, but few could have seen 2020 coming. Almost overnight, vast swaths of the American workforce were being asked to stay home — and many have not gone back since, with Upwork reporting that over 40% of workers remain fully remote.
Working from home is a blessing for some and a nuisance for others; for everyone, though, it is an adjustment. The patterns you follow in the workplace don’t necessarily translate well to the home office, and this is especially true for tech usage. Remote workers rely on technology in order to get their jobs done, so adopting the best possible tech habits is crucial. Here’s where to start:
Scale back features.
Before you use a piece of technology, evaluate exactly what you need from it. Is it for doing certain tasks? Connecting with certain people? Whatever the goal is, make sure that you’re using the tech for that goal and that goal alone. The abundance of features that so many modern tools now boast means that it’s easy to get bogged down and sidetracked if you’re not deliberate.
Long thought dead, devices with scaled-back features are now undergoing something of a renaissance. Workers looking to refine their tech habits need only look to some of these products as examples. Consider the phones offered by Gabb Wireless: designed for children, they include only the most essential apps and features. A number of companies are starting to offer similar options for their employees of all ages — invaluable investments for remote workers.
Set tech time zones.
When you work from home, there’s no easy way to divorce one from the other: you have no commute, no punch card, no parking spaces to vie for. Letting your work day and your personal time intermingle is especially easy when both use the same devices — the same computer you use to Slack co-workers might later turn into a gaming rig or a way to video chat with loved ones.
In order to skirt this issue, simply make a schedule of when you can use certain devices, apps, or programs. Work ones can only be used during working hours, and recreational ones are reserved for when the day is definitively over. Hard time limits on usage makes it easier to avoid leakage from one part of your world into another.
These schedules don’t just need to be day-to-day either: going tech-free for one or more days per week can be a great way to unplug and unwind after extended periods of remote work. Work on incorporating a few extended periods of tech detox into your long-term schedule. Using tech correctly is all about balance, and those who use tech to work from home may need to escape it every now and then in order to keep everything as balanced as it should be.
Get your tech to do it for you.
If you’re having difficulty effectively managing your tech, don’t worry — tech is designed to be both usable and used, meaning that setting proper boundaries and following best practices are often easier said than done. Keeping that in mind, it makes sense that the best place to turn to for managing your tech is, well, more tech.
Calendar management apps, auto-schedulers, note compilers such as Evernote, dictation tools: the platforms you need are out there, you just have to find them. By selecting just the right lineup of software, you can keep all of your tasks in check without letting your digital responsibilities get out of hand.
Tech management is an ongoing process, one that needs to evolve with each new device and product. By adopting a few key principles, though, you can ensure that technology always supports both your work and personal life instead of infringing on either.