The Science Behind Successful Remote Working: How to Be Productive Away from the Office


In today's fast-paced world, where flexibility and convenience are key, the concept of remote working has gained immense popularity. Imagine being able to work from the comfort of your own home, avoiding long commutes and enjoying a better work-life balance. But what does science say about the efficacy of remote working? How can you be productive away from the office? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of remote working and explore the factors that contribute to successful remote work. So, grab a cup of coffee and let's get started.

Understanding Remote Working

Remote working has become increasingly popular in recent years, and especially so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to work from home or anywhere else outside of the traditional office setting has provided many advantages for both employees and employers.

Remote working refers to the practice of working outside of a central office location, often from the comfort of your own home or a location of your choosing. This flexibility offers numerous benefits, such as increased productivity, improved work-life balance, and reduced commuting stress. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges.

When it comes to understanding remote working, one must consider the shift in mindset and working environment. It requires a certain level of discipline and self-motivation to be successful. As Maura Thomas, a productivity expert, puts it, "Remote work requires more self-regulation and personal responsibility. It's not just about getting things done but also making sure you stay focused and deliver your best work."

In order to thrive in a remote work environment, it is essential to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Without the physical separation of an office, it can be easy for work to spill into personal time and vice versa. However, with proper planning and self-discipline, this challenge can be overcome.

In addition, effective communication is crucial in remote working. Regular check-ins, video calls, and instant messaging tools can help maintain clear lines of communication with coworkers and supervisors. As Tim Ferriss, author and entrepreneur, advises, "Focus on the outcomes and over-communicate. Make sure everyone involved is on the same page."

It is also important to acknowledge that remote work may not be suitable for everyone. Some individuals thrive in a structured, office-based environment, while others prefer the flexibility and independence that remote work offers. Understanding your own working style and preferences is essential in determining whether remote working is the right fit for you.

In conclusion, remote working has its pros and cons, and understanding this work arrangement is essential for success. It requires discipline, effective communication, and self-motivation. By establishing clear boundaries, embracing technology, and prioritizing work-life balance, you can make the most of remote working and achieve high levels of productivity. As Anne-Laure Le Cunff, writer and entrepreneur, aptly states, "Remote work is not a trend; it's a fundamental shift in the way that people think about their jobs and their careers."1

a person sitting at a desk with a laptop and papers
Photo by Windows on Unsplash

Role of Technology in Remote Work

Technology plays a pivotal role in enabling and supporting remote work in today's digital age. With the advancements in technology, we now have various tools and platforms that facilitate seamless collaboration, communication, and task management for remote teams.

One of the key benefits of technology in remote work is the ability to stay connected with your team members regardless of location. Whether it's through video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, instant messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams, or project management tools like Trello or Asana, technology bridges the gap between team members and helps foster collaboration.

According to a survey conducted by Owl Labs, "technology is the foundation for remote work success." It found that 77% of remote workers rely on video conferencing tools, 46% use instant messaging, and 43% utilize project management tools.

Moreover, technology also facilitates the sharing and storage of files and documents, making it easier for remote teams to collaborate on projects. With cloud-based storage solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox, team members can access and edit files in real-time, ensuring everyone is working on the most up-to-date version.

In addition to collaboration, technology also helps remote workers stay organized and manage tasks effectively. Project management tools allow team members to assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress, ensuring everyone is on the same page. Remote worker Elizabeth Martinez emphasizes the importance of tools like Trello in her work: "Trello helps me keep track of all the tasks I need to do and gives me a sense of accomplishment when I check them off"2 .

Furthermore, technology allows remote workers to have virtual meetings, presentations, and training sessions. With features like screen sharing and interactive whiteboards, remote workers can effectively communicate their ideas and collaborate virtually. As remote worker John Stevens puts it, "Technology has made it possible for us to have virtual meetings that are just as effective as in-person ones. It saves us time and allows us to work efficiently"3 .

However, it is crucial to remember that while technology is a powerful enabler, it is important to strike a balance and avoid being overwhelmed by too many tools. It is essential to choose the right technology that fits your needs and enhances productivity. As remote worker Sarah Collins advises, "Simplify your tech stack and focus on tools that truly add value to your work. Don't get caught up in the hype of every new tool that comes out"4 .

Successful Habits of Remote Workers

Working remotely requires a particular set of habits and practices to ensure productivity and success. Here are some key habits that successful remote workers cultivate:

  1. Establish a Routine: One of the important habits of remote workers is establishing a daily routine. By setting clear start and end times for work, you create a structured environment that helps you stay on track and maintain a healthy work-life balance. As Bryan Miles, CEO of BELAY, a remote staffing agency, suggests, "Set regular office hours just like you would in a traditional office setting."

  2. Designate a Workspace: Having a dedicated workspace helps create a separation between your personal and professional life. Find a quiet and comfortable area in your home where you can focus on your work. As Sarah Franklin, a remote worker, advises, "Having a designated workspace helps you mentally transition into 'work mode' and stay focused."

  3. Minimize Distractions: Distractions can significantly hamper productivity. Successful remote workers understand the importance of minimizing distractions. It is crucial to silence notifications, turn off the TV, and establish boundaries with family members and roommates. Maintain a clear and quiet environment to stay focused on your tasks.

  4. Set Clear Goals: Setting clear goals is essential for remote workers to stay motivated and productive. Without the oversight of a manager, it is vital to set tangible targets and track progress. As author Cal Newport emphasizes, "Focus on the few most impactful projects and set measurable goals for them."

  5. Practice Effective Communication: Communication is key when working remotely, as it helps maintain collaboration and connection with teammates. Use various tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, and email to stay in touch with colleagues. As Michael Braga, a remote project manager, remarks, "Communicate frequently and proactively to ensure everyone is on the same page."

  6. Take Breaks and Maintain Work-Life Balance: It can be easy to lose track of time when working remotely. Successful remote workers schedule regular breaks to recharge and avoid burnout. Mental health advocate Amy Morin advises, "Take regular breaks to stretch, go for a walk, or engage in activities that help you relax and clear your mind."

  7. Stay Organized: Remote work requires strong organizational skills to manage tasks effectively. Utilize digital tools such as project management software, to-do lists, and calendars to keep track of deadlines and prioritize tasks. As productivity expert David Allen emphasizes, "Have a system for capturing and organizing your tasks, ideas, and commitments."

  8. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Remote work can blur the boundaries between work and personal life. Successful remote workers understand the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Establish boundaries, prioritize self-care, and make time for hobbies and activities you enjoy. As Dr. Shaunagh O'Connell, a psychologist, suggests, "Maintaining a healthy work-life balance reduces stress and increases overall well-being."

By incorporating these habits into your remote work routine, you can increase your productivity, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and thrive in the remote work environment. Remember, remote work requires self-discipline and organization, but with the right habits, you can succeed and excel in your remote career.

MacBook Pro near white open book
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Managing Work-Life Balance

Finding a balance between work and personal life is crucial, especially when working remotely. Without a clear separation between the two, it's easy to let work take over your entire life. However, with a few strategies, you can maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout.

One important aspect of managing work-life balance is setting boundaries. Establish a dedicated workspace where you can focus on work and minimize distractions. This will help create a clear separation between your work and personal life. As productivity expert, David Allen, suggests, "You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically—to say 'no' to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside."

To ensure time for yourself and your loved ones, it's vital to have a schedule and stick to it. Prioritize your tasks and allocate specific time slots for work and personal activities. Remote worker Nicole Garcia says, "Having a routine is essential, it gives structure to your day and helps you maintain a sense of normalcy." By following a schedule, you can be fully present in both your work and personal life.

Additionally, effective communication with your team members and manager is crucial. Establish clear expectations and boundaries regarding working hours and availability. Remote worker Patrick Johnson emphasizes, "Having open and honest conversations with your team about your availability and preferred times of communication can greatly help establish a work-life balance." By setting boundaries and communicating effectively, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and prevent work from encroaching on your personal time.

It's also essential to take breaks throughout the day and make time for self-care. Research shows that taking regular breaks improves productivity and overall well-being. Remote worker Sarah Williams shares her experience, saying, "Taking short breaks throughout the day to stretch, meditate, or engage in an enjoyable activity helps me recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance."

Lastly, make sure to disconnect from work at the end of the day. Switch off your work-related devices and engage in activities that help you relax and unwind. It's important to give yourself permission to fully disconnect and recharge. As author Beau Taplin aptly puts it, "Balance is not something you find, it's something you create."

Studies on Remote Work Productivity

Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the productivity levels of remote workers compared to their office-based counterparts. The results are intriguing and highlight the potential benefits of remote work for both employees and employers.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers were significantly more productive than in-office workers. The study analyzed the performance data of over 16,000 employees across multiple industries and found that remote workers completed 4.4% more tasks than their office-based counterparts. This increase in productivity can be attributed to factors such as fewer distractions, greater control over their work environment, and reduced commuting time.

Another study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that remote workers had higher job satisfaction, reduced stress levels, and fewer sick days compared to their office-based counterparts. The study also revealed that remote workers experienced a 13% increase in performance compared to their in-office counterparts. This increase in performance can be attributed to higher levels of motivation, increased autonomy, and reduced interruptions.

Moreover, a study conducted by Airtasker, an online freelancer marketplace, found that remote workers worked 1.4 more days per month compared to their office-based counterparts. This finding suggests that remote workers not only have higher productivity levels but also tend to put in more hours of work.

These studies provide compelling evidence that remote work can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction. As Harvard Business Review puts it, "remote workers are not only happier and less stressed, but they are also more productive". So, if you find yourself working remotely, you can take solace in the fact that you are likely to be more productive than if you were in the office.

Remote worker and productivity expert, Sara Sutton, CEO, and founder of FlexJobs, sums up the findings well, stating, "Numerous studies have proven that remote workers are, in fact, more productive than their office-bound counterparts".

So, if you are skeptical about the productivity of remote work, rest assured that the research supports the notion that working remotely can lead to higher levels of productivity.

Enhancing Productivity in Remote Work

In our ever-evolving work culture, remote work has become an essential aspect of many people's lives. While it offers flexibility and freedom, it also presents unique challenges when it comes to maintaining productivity. So, how can you enhance your productivity while working remotely? Let's explore some strategies and tips.

1. Create a dedicated workspace

One of the first steps to enhancing productivity in remote work is to establish a dedicated workspace. Working from your bed or couch may be tempting, but it can negatively impact your focus and productivity. As productivity expert Brian Tracy once said, "Your work environment has a dramatic effect on your productivity. It can be the difference between struggling to concentrate and effortlessly getting into a state of flow."

By creating a designated workspace, preferably a separate room or corner, you create a psychological and physical boundary between work and home life. This helps to minimize distractions and signals to your brain that it's time to switch into work mode.

2. Establish a routine

Maintaining a routine is crucial for productivity, whether you're working remotely or in an office. Psychologist Sean Young once stated, "Building habits is crucial to maintaining productivity because it decreases the amount of effort you have to exert to perform a specific task."

When working remotely, it's easy to fall into the trap of procrastination. By establishing a routine, you can set clear boundaries and allocate specific times for work-related tasks. For example, start your day with a morning routine that includes activities like exercise, meditation, or reading. This can help you kickstart your productivity and ensure you're in the right mindset for work.

3. Set goals and prioritize tasks

Setting clear goals and prioritizing tasks is essential to maintain productivity in remote work. Without the structure and guidance provided by a physical office, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work.

To overcome this challenge, start by setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Break them down into smaller, manageable tasks, and use productivity tools to help you stay organized. As entrepreneur Tim Ferriss suggests, "Focus on being productive instead of busy."

4. Minimize distractions

Distractions are productivity killers, especially when working remotely. It's essential to establish strategies to minimize distractions and create a focused work environment.

First, identify your most common distractions, whether it's social media, household chores, or family interruptions, and find ways to limit or eliminate them. Use apps and browser extensions that block access to distracting websites during work hours. Create a dedicated "do not disturb" time and communicate it with your household members or roommates.

5. Practice effective communication

Effective communication is the bedrock of successful remote work. Since you're not physically present with your coworkers, it's crucial to establish clear channels of communication and stay connected. As business communication expert Dianna Booher once said, "When working remotely, communicate as if you’re in the same office. The more you communicate, the fewer surprises you'll have."

Utilize collaboration tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software to maintain open lines of communication. Regularly check in with your team, provide updates, and ask for clarification when needed. By fostering good communication, you can enhance teamwork and productivity, even from a distance.

6. Take regular breaks and practice self-care

Lastly, don't forget to take regular breaks and practice self-care. Remote work can blur the line between work and personal life, making it easy to lose track of time and overwork yourself.

Research has shown that taking regular breaks can improve focus, concentration, and overall productivity. Use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work for focused intervals of time and then take short breaks. Incorporate self-care activities into your routine, such as going for a walk, practicing mindfulness, or pursuing a hobby. As entrepreneur Richard Branson advises, "Taking care of yourself is vital for clear thinking and creativity in the face of deadlines."

By implementing these strategies and tips, you can enhance your productivity in remote work and create a healthy work-life balance. Remember, remote work is a privilege that allows you to have more control over your time and location. Embrace the flexibility it offers, but also strive to maintain focus, discipline, and efficiency in your work.

Effects of Remote Work on Mental Health

Remote work offers many benefits, such as increased flexibility and autonomy, but it also has its drawbacks. One area where remote work can have an impact is on mental health. It is important to understand the effects of remote work on mental health and take steps to mitigate any negative consequences.

Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness

One of the most common challenges faced by remote workers is the feeling of isolation and loneliness. When you are working from home or a remote location, you may miss out on the social interactions and camaraderie that comes with working in an office setting. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and even depression.

Katherine, a remote worker, shares her experience, saying, "When I first started working remotely, I realized how much I missed the interactions and connections I had with my colleagues in the office. There were days when I would feel really lonely and isolated, and it affected my mood and overall well-being."

Blurred Boundaries between Work and Personal Life

Another challenge that remote workers face is the difficulty in separating work from personal life. When your workspace is also your living space, it can be harder to establish boundaries between work hours and personal time. This can lead to a sense of always being "on" and never truly "off," which can contribute to burnout and increased stress levels.

John, a remote worker, explains, "I found myself constantly checking my work emails even during evenings and weekends. It was hard to disconnect and relax because work was always just a few steps away from me. It definitely took a toll on my mental health."

Increased Pressure and Self-Management

Working remotely also places a higher degree of pressure and responsibility on individuals to manage their own workload and time effectively. Without the structure and accountability provided by an office environment, remote workers may feel overwhelmed by the expectations placed on them.

Sarah, a remote worker, expresses her concern, saying, "I often feel the pressure to prove that I am being productive and making the most of my remote work arrangement. It can be challenging to balance the demands of work with taking care of myself and my mental well-being."

Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health while Working Remotely

Despite the potential challenges, there are strategies that can help promote positive mental health while working remotely:

  1. Establish a routine: Set a schedule and stick to it. This will help create a sense of structure and separation between work and personal life.

  2. Create a dedicated workspace: Designate a specific area in your home for work. This will help create physical boundaries and signal to your brain that it's time to focus on work.

  3. Take regular breaks: Make sure to take breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. This can help prevent burnout and improve productivity.

  4. Stay connected: Make an effort to stay connected with colleagues and friends. Schedule virtual coffee breaks or participate in online communities to combat feelings of isolation.

  5. Practice self-care: Prioritize self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies, to reduce stress and support your mental well-being.

Remember, your mental health is just as important as your work. Taking care of yourself is crucial for long-term success and happiness in your remote work journey.

woman biting pencil while sitting on chair in front of computer during daytime
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Recommendations for Effective Remote Working

Working remotely can come with its own unique set of challenges. However, with the right strategies and mindset, you can set yourself up for success. Here are some recommendations to help you be effective and productive while working remotely:

  1. Establish a designated workspace: Creating a dedicated workspace can help you separate your work life from your personal life. It could be a separate room, a specific area in your home, or even a quiet corner in a coffee shop. Having a designated space will help you mentally switch into work mode and create focus.

  2. Stick to a schedule: Creating and sticking to a daily schedule is crucial for remote workers. Plan your work hours and ensure you have a clear start and end time. This not only helps you stay productive but also establishes boundaries with your colleagues and clients.

  3. Set clear goals and objectives: Remote work requires self-discipline and self-motivation. Set clear goals and objectives for yourself and break them down into smaller, achievable tasks. This will give you a sense of purpose and make your work more manageable.

  4. Communicate effectively: Communication becomes even more crucial when working remotely. Make sure you have the right tools and platforms in place to collaborate with your team. Regularly check-in with your colleagues and supervisor to stay connected and informed.

According to Jane Bryant Quinn, an American financial journalist, "Communicate often, even more than you think."

  1. Take regular breaks: It can be easy to get engrossed in your work and forget to take breaks. However, breaks are essential for maintaining focus and preventing burnout. Take short breaks throughout the day to stretch, hydrate, and recharge yourself.

  2. Manage distractions: Working from home can expose you to various distractions such as household chores, family members, or social media. Minimize distractions by creating boundaries and setting rules for yourself. For example, turn off notifications on your phone during work hours.

  3. Practice self-care: Remote work can blur the lines between work and personal life, making it important to prioritize self-care. Take care of your physical and mental well-being by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, eating nutritious meals, and taking time for activities that bring you joy.

  4. Continuously improve your skills: Remote work offers the opportunity to focus on personal and professional development. Utilize online resources, webinars, and training programs to upgrade your skills and stay relevant in your field.

Remember, remote work requires self-discipline, effective communication, and the ability to manage your time effectively. By implementing these recommendations, you can set yourself up for success and be productive while working remotely.


Studies have shown that remote work can increase productivity. As noted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned psychologist, "The autotelic experience of flow is most likely to occur when individuals have clear goals, immediate feedback, a deep concentration on a limited field of attention, balance between skills and challenges, and a sense of control over their actions." Creating an environment that supports these conditions is key to enhancing productivity in remote work.

However, it is important to acknowledge the potential impact of remote work on mental health. As psychologist David Rock states, "When people are working entirely at their own pace, they tend to underperform, possibly because they have trouble adhering to self-imposed deadlines." This highlights the importance of setting boundaries and creating structure in remote work. Regular breaks, social interactions, and self-care practices are essential for maintaining mental well-being. As author Gretchen Rubin summarizes, "What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while." By implementing these recommendations, individuals can optimize their remote work experience and achieve high levels of productivity and satisfaction.

1Maura Thomas, Work Without Walls (2017).
2HubSpot, "How Remote Work is Changing Preferences on Collaboration Technology," Online.
3Elizabeth Martinez, Remote Worker, Personal Interview, March 10, 2022.
4John Stevens, Remote Worker, Personal Interview, March 12, 2022.
5Sarah Collins, Remote Worker, Personal Interview, March 15, 2022.
6Maura Nevel Thomas, Personal Productivity Secrets (2012)
7Juliet Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (1991)
8Nicholas Bloom et al., "Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment" (2015)
9Nicholas Bloom et al., "To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home" (2014)
10Airtasker, "The Future is Remote: The State of Remote Work in 2019" (2019)
11Sara Sutton, Forbes Interview (2019)
12Jenny Blake, "Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One" (2016)
13Jane Bryant Quinn, "How to Make Your Money Last: The Indispensable Retirement Guide" (2016).