Remote work has taken off in the past few years. In fact, 99% of workers reported wanting to work from home (WFH) at least once per week for the remainder of their careers. This huge increase in remote employees has also highlighted how challenging it can be to maintain a daily schedule while working from home.
When going into an office, your morning routine naturally includes getting up and ready for the day, followed by a commute to the office that may include some morning news or a podcast. Now, those who work at home have to be much more intentional about creating rhythms that help them separate work time from personal time.
Having a set-aside office space, creating a morning routine, and crafting an intentional schedule can all be helpful hacks for keeping a healthy balance, whether you’re fully remote or wanting to find the optimal hybrid work schedule.
One person’s WFH preferences might not work for another person — and that’s okay! Here are some things to think about when planning your work schedule, and a work from home schedule template that’ll help you improve your time management, whether you have a flexible or shift schedule.
How to create a daily work-from-home schedule
Creating a daily schedule involves knowing what works best for you, and what projects you need to prioritize for work. When planning your daily schedule, make sure to prioritize time for deep work (longer chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on more challenging tasks), taking a lunch break, and getting in some social time with colleagues or loved ones.
People who work from home are 52% less likely to take time off from work, and 23% say they work longer hours than they would in the office. It can be hard to step away from your work when personal life and work life happen in the same space. In fact, 22% of remote workers admitted to having a hard time unplugging after work.
When creating a daily work-from-home schedule, plan to spend time prepping for the day with a morning routine that gets you in a productive mindset. Remember to take a lunch break to step away from work and clear your head. And finally, prioritize clocking out at the appropriate time. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean your work needs to seep into every other aspect of your life.
What to consider before making a schedule
There are a handful of questions you will want to ask yourself before making a schedule. Finding the answers to these will help you find the remote work schedule that helps you feel productive while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Don’t worry if it takes you a little bit of trial-and-error to figure out what works for you and adapt your approach as you go. Not every day will be the same, but creating a bit of consistency can help.
Here are some questions to consider as you redo your remote work schedule!
What time of day do I feel most focused?
Some people are natural morning birds and prefer getting their most challenging work done first thing in the morning. Others find that they prefer when a day ramps up a little slower and would rather have more deep Focus Time, longer chunks of uninterrupted time that allow you to be productive, in the afternoon. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong,” but knowing how you’re wired and what works for you can be a game-changer.
Here are some things to consider when deciding what will be best for you:
- When do you feel most focused and productive?
- When do you enjoy having meetings and chatting with people?
- How do you feel in the late afternoon versus in the morning?
When do I prefer taking meetings?
You might not always be able to pick the meeting time, but knowing your preference can help you maximize meetings during the time of day that works best for your workflow. Then, if your team leader schedules a team meeting to check-in with everyone on Monday mornings, it’s just one meeting that isn’t your favorite instead of the majority of your meetings not working for you.
What is my preferred work-from-home environment?
Your “home office” might be a desk somewhere in your home, a coworking space, or a local coffee shop. You might decide to spend the mornings working from your home office setup and visit a local coffee shop in the afternoon. Some people find that alternating their workspace helps them feel refreshed and refocused, while others prefer to have a single setup that they are familiar with.
If you opt to work from home, remember to be considerate of roommates or family members you share your space with. In some cases, you may need to check in with family members or roommates to find compromises for how to use the shared space — what time of day is considered “work” time, when can people have company over, and when can people blast their 80’s rock music.
What are my non-work priorities in this season of life?
Keeping a healthy work-life balance is incredibly important. Doing things like spending time with loved ones or getting in some exercise can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the work on your plate.
Knowing what your non-work priorities are can be especially helpful for those who have flexible hours, but those on a shift schedule may also find this helpful as it reminds you to clock out and enjoy your personal life.
Do my family or loved ones need things at specific times of the day from me?
If you’re working full-time while also caring for children or elderly or sick family members, consider your obligations to them. Maybe you take your kids to school every morning — if that’s the case, start your workday after you drop them off.
How to create an effective remote work schedule
When creating a work-from-home routine, start by thinking about what you need to accomplish throughout the day or week and how you can stay connected to others.
Remember, it’s important to stay healthy and rejuvenated while working from home. In the long-run, this can help prevent burnout, and in the short-term, it can improve your mood.
One aspect of work that many who work remotely miss is the relationships one builds with colleagues. Consider how you can use tools like Slack and Zoom to stay in touch with friends and colleagues in real-time while telecommuting.
Here are some ideas for how to do that:
- Send a Slack message with a fun article to your work bestie.
- Take a virtual wine tasting class with your remote teammates.
- Schedule your lunch break at the same time as your best friend, and hop on a Zoom call to chat.
An effective remote work schedule goes beyond planning deadlines and deep Focus Time — although those are important as well! Make room in your schedule for things that “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo, organizing consultant, would say.
Remote work schedule template for flexible working hours
For freelancers, remote workers, and anyone who has the ability to choose their own work hours, it can be challenging to find a healthy work-life balance. The freedom makes it all too easy to procrastinate or even overcommit to too many projects at once (we’ve all been there). If that sounds like you, here are some ideas to gain a foothold in your workday!
Having some form of daily routine can be incredibly helpful to those who work at home on their own schedule.
Set aside some time at the beginning of your week to think through what you need to accomplish during the work week. Create a “priority list.” This is similar to a to-do list, except that you add the priority of each item on the list.
Do some of these items have strict deadlines? Are others daily tasks (like checking your email)? Do you have any meetings scheduled with clients? Write all of those down!
Here’s an example of what a “priority list” could look like for a freelance children’s book illustrator:
- Send pitch for illustrating XYZ book (deadline Thursday)
- Stay on top of email communication with clients (daily task)
- Send client X ideating sketches (ideally by Tuesday)
- Schedule call with client X to talk through feedback and potential edits to sketches (ideally by Friday)
- Illustrate 10 remaining pages on project ABC (send to client by Friday)
- Post on social media accounts (Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
As you can see, by adding a deadline, this children’s book illustrator will be able to get a sense of what the week will look like and prioritize their most important projects. Furthermore, projects like illustrating pages of a book require creative energy, while handling emails or a client call may be more administrative — by writing everything out, they can optimize their work routine to fit their preferred schedule.
Once you have an idea of everything that needs to get done, use scheduling apps like Clockwise to plan out your week. This will help you visualize what hard deadlines you have, get an idea of when you’ll have chunks of time dedicated to deep work, and remind you when you’ll need to look presentable for that Zoom call with your client.
Make sure your work routine works for you! If you’re choosing your own hours and know that you work best first thing in the morning, but hit a slump in the afternoon, use that to your advantage. You can take a break in the middle of the day to go for a walk or cook a nice lunch.
Also, you don’t have to work the same number of hours each day. For example, you could choose to only work in the morning on Wednesday and use the afternoon to go for a hike or run errands. For some, this helps them feel more refreshed and productive on other days. Maybe you want to have a “creative day” one day and the next day have an “admin day.” You might choose to prioritize working a 4-day work-week so you can reap the benefits.
Remote work schedule template for fixed working hours
It’s not uncommon for team leaders to want their entire team to be reachable during the same time of day so that team members can collaborate on projects with one another. If this is the case, they may ask everyone to work during fixed hours.
If the set hours don't work for you, communicate with your team leader to see if they are willing to accommodate your needs. For example, if your boss has asked everyone to work from 8 am - 5 pm, but you need to pick your kids up from school at 5 pm, ask if you can start working at 7:30 am so you can clock out by 4:30 pm to pick up your kids on time.
Think through what you need to get done throughout the week and if you have any specific meetings or deadlines you are working towards. Schedule out your week so that projects requiring more mental energy aren’t all back-to-back.
Here’s an example of what a daily schedule could look like if you’re a morning person who prioritizes getting their hardest projects done first thing in the morning:
8:00-8:15 — Check in with yourself. Take a look at everything on your to-do list and identify three to four priority items for the day.
8:15-10:00 — Time to tackle the first priority item.
10:00-10:15 — Get up, stretch, refill your water bottle, get a snack.
10:15-12:00 — Jump into that second highest priority item.
12:00-1:00 — Lunch break!
1:00-2:30 — Admin work. Schedule meetings with your clients and team members, attend any webinars, and if you have time left over, read up on industry-relevant news.
2:30-2:45 — Take another stretch break. Try out a YouTube yoga video, do some meditation, or go for a short walk to refresh your mind.
2:45-4:30 — Tackle that third to-do list item.
4:30-5:00 — This is an opportunity to handle any last-minute communication with team members before you clock out and check your email one last time before calling it a day.
If you’re someone who does better deep work in the afternoon, you may want to switch things around so you take meetings and handle emails in the morning and leave the more challenging projects for later in the day.
In order to excel as a remote worker, think through what you need to get done, what you care about, and your responsibilities to others. Pull out your favorite scheduling apps and make a plan.
As a smart scheduling app, Clockwise helps re-organize your day so that you can optimize your time. Remote teams can use it to keep an eye on which team members have the capacity to help tackle additional projects, schedule meetings at the optimal time of day for everyone involved, and individuals can block out chunks of time in their calendar for deep Focus Time.