If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that work can be done anywhere. Management and staff alike have seen firsthand how it can work – and work well. Many professionals have thrived in remote work environments. While some organizations have hybrid work arrangements, others have chosen to have all staff return to a five-day, onsite work week. Many organizations, though, have fully embraced the remote work model, to the delight of professionals who love it and find working onsite unappealing or less productive.

Remote work has its benefits – flexible schedules, fewer interruptions, less office noise. However, if you’ve been working remotely for some time, you’ve learned that the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. In fact, working remotely – as wonderful as it can be – is no cakewalk and still comes with its own challenges. In this blog, we’ll take a look at five ways you can thrive in a remote work environment.

1. Form your routine.

As with any job you’ve held at a physical office location, you’ll develop your own office routine when working remotely. Your life is still going on, even if you are working from home or a remote location. You may have children to get off to school, pets to take care of or an errand to run. Need your morning coffee or exercise? Plan for your priorities, just like you would if you were commuting. Set up your office in a quiet area that is as free from distractions as possible. Depending on your company’s structure and requirements, you’ll need to plan to begin work by a specific time. Working remotely should be structured for effectiveness, the same way in-office work can be. Create a routine that works for you, enabling you to meet your obligations and allowing for work-life balance that remote work is known for.

2. Make a point to connect and collaborate.

The truth is, working remotely can be lonely sometimes. This means you have to be more intentional than ever about making connections with colleagues. You don’t have the luxury of chatting in a hallway about a task or asking impromptu questions face-to-face. However, you do have the power to schedule time to brainstorm, go over next steps in a project or discuss initiatives with your coworkers. 

In addition, make time to socialize with your teammates, just like you would if you were in a physical office. If you live in the same area your teammates do, schedule an in-person lunch to connect. Take a virtual coffee break with a member of your team. Talk about work if you want, but make time for connections. That’s part of the fun of office life, so take the chance to chat, catch up and build positive work relationships.

3. Be disciplined with your time.

You might think, “Yeah, I get it. Be on time. Follow through.” Remote work involves much more than personal accountability. As you plan your day, it’s easy to get bogged down in details or minutiae. You may find yourself wading through administrative tasks or feeling pulled to respond to team chats, DMs and emails as soon as the notification chimes. Fair enough, but consider how you used to manage time in an office. You likely would set a time for admin work and schedule blocks or sprints around specific tasks, weekly planning, and breaks. You have to ensure you’re doing the same thing while working remotely – protecting your time as fiercely as you strive to maximize the effectiveness of it.

4. Respect the boundaries (theirs and yours).

The good news is, remote work means you’re available just about anytime. The bad news is, remote work means you’re available just about anytime. Same goes for your colleagues. We want to be available whenever our coworkers need us and vice versa, but do you need to be accessible at 9 p.m. on a regular basis during the week? Probably not. Do you need to work through lunch every day? No, you don’t. 

Respecting healthy boundaries is the Achilles heel of remote work. Is your colleague in a meeting for the next 30 minutes? Don’t send IMs to them. (It’s the equivalent of popping into a conference room and interrupting a meeting to ask someone a question. You wouldn’t do that in the office.) Do you need to focus for one hour without interruptions? Silence the notifications, shut down messaging apps and don’t look at emails. As professionals, we have to be intentional about respecting work boundaries – our colleagues’ as well as our own. They’re an essential part of a healthy workplace.

5. Take a break.

You might think it goes without saying, but take your breaks. Go outside. Have lunch. Breathe. Don’t work overtime all the time. Wrap it up for the day at a reasonable hour. Enjoy family and friends time. At night, don’t fall into the trap of checking work emails before bed. (They’ll be there in the morning.) Get the sleep you need. Have a life!

You can’t sustain an intense work pace without stopping to relax and rest. Think of when you were in the office before. You took coffee breaks, walked outside for air, went off-site for lunch or stopped often to talk with colleagues. When you work remotely, there’s no one who will stop by your workspace late in the day who says, “You’re still here?!” Take care of yourself by taking breaks and stop when it’s time to stop. Self-care makes a difference for creativity, sharpness, innovation and your health.

If you work remotely, you have a unique opportunity to produce work that is cultivated in an environment free from typical office distractions. As with all good work, though, it doesn’t just happen. When you intentionally form a routine, make a point to connect and collaborate with your teammates, remain disciplined with your time, respect healthy work boundaries, and decide to maintain a reasonable balance between life and your job, working remotely can be the best of both worlds.