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Remote Work Hacks That We Can Learn From Traditional Trades

According to a McKinsey survey of 250,000 employees in a variety of industries, 87% would jump at the opportunity to work in a remote position. Although this statistic does show the increase in demand and popularity of remote work, it may not stay that way if some of the issues that remote employees experience continue to rise.

If you’re a remote employee yourself, you may be familiar with some of these issues associated with remote work, including: 

  • Little to no networking opportunities; 
  • A lack of work-life balance; 
  • For some, the potential for a declining mental health state. 

However, these complications can easily be addressed by looking elsewhere — particularly at trade jobs that have, through time, become well-established with skilled professionals who hone in on their strengths and set boundaries with their work.

Let’s take a look at a couple of these trade jobs and what lessons you can learn from those who do them.  

Stick to a Routine

Remote work has been and continues to be applauded for its flexibility. However, there is also some beauty to be found in the rigidity of certain trade jobs, especially those with a routine. One 2018 study found that people who favored regular daytime routines were more inclined to have regular sleep patterns at night, which also made them better equipped to address their mental health status the following days. 

If you clock in and out of your work with no regularity, you may find your work/balance deteriorating. Instead, it’s best to establish a boundary with yourself early on. This may look like having a set time to work during the day and having a regular bedtime. With these practices, you can have equally productive days and just as restorative nights.  

Focus On One Project at a Time

When you’re at home for work, distractions abound. You may have a pile of laundry that needs to be done. There may be family around begging for your attention. Or it may be a great opportunity to water the plants instead of working on that last work project for the day. However, switching between tasks while you’re working from home can be detrimental. 

According to a study reported in the American Psychological Association, switching tasks inevitably wastes time. The seconds or minutes it takes for you to concentrate on your work after playing with your kids can add up — up to 40% of your total time spent for the day can accumulate from this switch-up, according to that same study.

To minimize this time waste, take a look at plumbers, for example. They wouldn’t leave a house with its pipes burst just because they wanted to focus on something else. Instead, they would wait to leave once they finished their project. You, too, can emulate this behavior. You can still handle other projects, just make sure one is finished before starting another. 

Sometimes Old Is Better Than New

Most remote employees typically need to be on top of their digital game. You may even interpret this as buying the newest and latest technology out there and throwing out older editions. However, these actions could contribute to the 50 million tons of electronic waste that exists in the world. This can certainly weigh on your conscience, which may worsen any current stresses.

You’ll find a more sustainable and mentally soothing approach in the idea that sometimes newer doesn’t always mean better. If anything, older-school methods can help you work more efficiently. For example, diesel mechanics prize used engines because they often work better for longer, making vehicles run without problems for the foreseeable future.

In a remote setting, this may look like using a notepad to write down your notes or a physical calendar instead of buying the latest iPhone for the same purposes. Although this may seem “old school,” you may find they’re tried and true purchases for a reason.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Bigger Picture

Remote employees may also find their mental health status declining as they work on small, menial tasks repeatedly in isolation, with no indication of what the impact looks like. Those in trade jobs, such as auto mechanics, can experience something equally detrimental but just as fixable. 

Auto mechanics that become bogged down from menial tasks like changing a vehicle’s oil every day can easily adapt to their role and take on more challenging tasks. They could start working with more parts of a vehicle and maybe even specialize with those parts to create custom kits and serve a more niche customer base.

You can do the same by finding ways to challenge yourself or specialize in something new that can make your roles even more essential.  

Plan Your Meals for Workdays

Meals can also add a level of inconvenience for remote employees. Although you may have the luxury of making your own meals at home, you may also have access to corners of your pantry you wouldn’t normally have access to if you had to commute to an office. You may even find yourself overeating out of boredom while you’re working from home. 

Again, it’s best to look to those who work in trade jobs. Those in construction typically have to pack all of their meals for the day in one bag since they work a majority of the day away. With remote work, you can pack a theoretical lunch box, even if you never leave the office — which may include meal planning over the weekend or controlling your portions when you make your meals beforehand.  

Take a Lunch Break

On the other hand, many remote employees may find that barely have time at all to take a break to eat. In a survey of 2,000 remote employee respondents, 29% reported that they don’t carve time out for a lunch break and 69% feel guilty for even doing so. This guilt is entirely unwarranted, as breaks are essential to your productivity. 

If you give up lunch breaks, not only are you risking your own mental and physical health, but you’re more prone to making mistakes, which can be risky in more physically demanding trade work jobs. 

Try Not To Take Work Home With You

One of the complaints that remote employees have with their workplace setting is how easy it is to delay their “clocking off” time and continue working past normal working hours. Nearly 45% of remote employees, in fact, reported they had trouble with this same issue. Although employers may initially applaud this behavior, it’s ultimately unsustainable and may lead to burnout. Just like an electrician wouldn’t continue to work at a house with electrical issues after their set hours, neither should you. 

You may also benefit by adding a “commute time” — a time in which those in trade jobs can easily decompress from their day, which remote employees could easily emulate. 

Make Time for Communication

If you’ve been complaining about the mental health toll of isolation that walks hand in hand with remote work, you’re not the only one. In fact, there are plenty of other trade jobs where isolation is a given, and many have adapted as a result. 

Truck drivers, for instance, often spend days if not weeks alone on the road without another voice to reach out to. The biggest advice experts give these same drivers is to stay aware of their mental state when they feel lonely. 

Many drivers will try to distract themselves when they find their mental state declining, or ignore their problems entirely when in reality, they should be seeking help. It’s important to listen to that voice inside that says, “I’m lonely,” and reach out to someone. In remote work, you should take similar advice. Find professional help and most importantly, find time to communicate with those who support you. 

Stay Active

Although many of those in trade jobs report times of being stagnant, like the aforementioned truck drivers, others have more active days spent physically loading products onto vehicles, bending down, and lifting heavy objects. 

Although you may never have as physically taxing of a role in a remote position as those in trade industries, you should still find ways to stay equally as active. If you prioritize daily movement and exercise before or after a workday, you may find a variety of benefits including an improvement in cognition and memory, lower stress, and more creativity. 

If you have the time to fit in a workout in the middle of the workday, just as trade professionals stay active during their workday, all the better. In one study, employees who participated in a workout in the middle of their workdays self-reported being more productive afterward. Although an improvement in your work is all well and good, the best part of this advice is the improvement in your mental and physical health.

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