In 2021, Forbes named Chattanooga as the #1 work-from-home city in America.
As factors including low cost of living and fast internet attract remote workers, several local companies like U.S. Xpress, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Tennessee Valley Authority are adopting permanent remote and hybrid work policies.
The question becomes, how can teams manage productivity and stay accountable in this flexible work environment?
Here are five ways Chattanooga’s remote teams can stay productive.
Connect and Communicate
Communication not only builds trust among remote work teams but also helps workers understand their manager’s expectations. Clear expectations lead to productivity. Workers don’t have to spend time guessing what their supervisors need from them.
Establish communication norms within your remote teams. Both managers and employees might find using team management software to be beneficial. These platforms streamline tasks and allow team members to see one another’s projects and schedules. Managers can also use team management software as an accountability tool without micromanaging employees.
Use internal messaging tools to chat or video call with team members and make sure every team member knows how to effectively use these tools.
Practice your communication skills through programs like the UTC Center for Professional Education’s microlearning course, “Communicating Virtually.” This 20-minute course is a quick and virtual way to develop remote communication skills.
Setting boundaries with yourself and others is crucial to being a productive remote team member.
Create healthy boundaries while working remotely by starting with a morning routine.
Communicate your work expectations to anyone who will be home during your office hours. Talk about your availability and establish your office hours.
Setting aside time to interact with others and taking clear breaks is also important for greater productivity. Research shows that performance worsens if a worker spends too much time on a specific task for an extended period. Implementing breaks into a workday leads to less decision fatigue, increased energy levels, more creativity and lower stress. Use your break time to take a stroll at one of the Scenic City’s many outdoor spaces like Tennessee Riverwalk, Walnut Street Bridge, Coolidge Park or Renaissance Park!
Projects have various scales of importance. Communicate with your supervisor about which tasks are the priority and focus on those tasks first.
If task prioritization is overwhelming, start with establishing your three most important tasks of the day. Work on your top three during the time you are most productive and least distracted, whether that is in the morning or afternoon.
Another helpful task prioritization method is the Action Needed, Waiting For system. “I use the Action Needed, Waiting For system to keep my projects organized,” says Ginger Duggan, assistant director of business development, UTC Center for Professional Education. “Items that require action on my end are on the Action Needed list. I engage with those items based on what is most pressing. Areas in the Waiting For include items that require action from others, and I refer to this area to follow up appropriately.”
UTC Center for Professional Education offers a microcourse titled “Prioritizing and Productivity” that helps overcome barriers and stay focused on results.
Create Your Ideal Work Environment
A designated workspace allows you to focus, get into work mode, minimize distractions and create a work-life balance. We tend to attach purpose to spaces whether it’s sleeping in a bedroom, cooking in a kitchen and working in a designated space. Research shows the importance of creating separate spaces to work and sleep.
Use light, sound, photos and even scents (or perhaps coffee) to create a customized remote environment that satisfies your wants and needs. The right office chair and desk can contribute to your comfort and productivity levels.
Many people enjoy coworking spaces that cater to different work styles and optimize productivity by blending a range of work environments. Popular Chattanooga coworking spaces include the coworking floor at Common House, the Society of Work, Workhorse and Bode.
Focus is crucial to avoid productivity pitfalls while working from home.
Avoid unscheduled browsing. Site blockers or apps like Flora will stop you from visiting certain sites during fixed hours. If social media is your vice, turn off your notifications.
Budget free time on your breaks where you can browse the internet, complete chores or take care of pets.
Avoid multitasking and find ways to keep your day dynamic while also focused. Schedule large blocks of time to focus on in-depth projects. Then, break up time between larger projects to focus on shorter tasks such as replying to emails.
Focus methods can also be helpful in becoming more productive. Try out various techniques until you find your best fit!
Increased remote work productivity does not happen overnight nor is there a one-size-fits-all productivity hack. Start where you are and figure out which processes work best for you. Cheers to higher and healthier productivity levels!
Marah Whitaker serves as the marketing assistant for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Center for Professional Education (UTC CPE). The center manages all of UTC’s non-credit certifications, credentialing and workforce training. Custom corporate training, professional development courses and medical career academies are all offered through the center. CPE believes in offering excellent lifelong learning programs to meet the diverse educational needs of those they serve.