How to Be More Productive: Navigating the Office and Remote Work Paradox

Having worked in both traditional offices and remotely, I've seen the complex nature of productivity. Traditional offices appear efficient due to their structure, but remote work challenges these notions, prompting a reevaluation of how best to achieve peak productivity. This dichotomy highlights the elusive and multifaceted aspects of what truly drives efficiency in different work environments.


James Moffatt


December 19, 2023

Productivity has always been a bit of an enigma. A real head-scratcher. As someone who has worked in traditional offices but now works remotely, I've experienced both sides of this twisty-turny productivity coin. In some ways, the structured environment of an office seems ideal for efficiency. But once you step into the world of remote work, you begin questioning many assumptions about how to maximize productivity. Really makes you think, doesn't it?

In my topsy-turvy journey to understand the ever-perplexing productivity puzzle, I've picked up some insights worth sharing. And who better to add some real-world experience than my own team at Bubbles? They've been my companions on this rollercoaster ride into flexible and remote work. So come along as I unpack the productivity enigma, with plenty of Bubbles tales sprinkled in! But be warned – this adventure has more twists and turns than a maze!

The Office: Not Always As Productive As It Looks

When you envision an office, you probably picture busy employees at desks, tapping away at keyboards, right? It seems like the pinnacle of productivity. But over my years in traditional office jobs, I realized much of that frenetic activity was a mirage. A façade. Beneath the surface, a multitude of productivity killers were lurking.

Just think about it - the daily commute alone can sap your energy before you even start working. And the office is full of distractions - conversations floating over cubicle walls, impromptu meetings in the hallway, the allure of snacks in the breakroom. We often underestimate these sneaky productivity thieves. Plus, we glorify multitasking, which research shows harms more than helps. What a paradox!

While offices provide structure, it became clear to me they don't necessarily cultivate effectiveness. Being busy ≠ being productive. It’s a head-scratcher!

Remote Work: Freedom Can Be a Double-Edged Sword

When I started working remotely, it felt incredibly liberating. No more wasted hours commuting! I could take breaks when I wanted, work odd hours if needed, and avoid pointless meetings. I thought I unlocked the secret to ultimate productivity! Hallelujah!

But I soon realized that with freedom comes responsibility. Without someone looking over my shoulder or a schedule dictating my day, I needed much more self-discipline and time management skills. It was exhilarating yet daunting to take ownership of structuring my own time. Quite the paradox!

My Bubbles teammates often joke that remote work makes you your own manager. And let me tell you, I am one tough boss! But that pressure forces me to test different productivity strategies. It’s been crucial though to give myself grace on less focused days. Finding that balance has been imperative, but way harder than it looks!

Hybrid Work: Attempting to Master Workplace Juggling

Lately, many companies like mine have shifted to hybrid arrangements, blending remote workdays with occasional office days. The goal is to enjoy the freedom of unplugging at home with the collaborative energy of on-site work. Sounds peachy, right?

But from my experience, hybrid can mean constantly switching hats...and some days, feeling like a failure in both worlds! At home, I battle distractions from kids, pets, chores. At the office, I crave my noise-canceling headphones and flexible schedule. I end up feeling like a fish out of water no matter where I'm working!

The teams at Bubbles are still figuring out how to optimize hybrid models. But one insight we’ve uncovered is that the most productive hybrid employees are ruthlessly organized. They plan their office days around collaborative meetings and socialization. And they vigilantly protect their remote days by blocking off time for deep work. Easier said than done!

Hybrid is like a tightrope walk – one slip in time management and you’ll tumble off! What a predicament!

Unpacking Remote Work’s Productivity Perks

Now that I’ve worked remotely for a few years, I’ve come to appreciate several built-in advantages:

Asynchronous Schedules Help Align With Natural Energy Levels

One of my favorite parts of remote work is having an asynchronous schedule – where my teammates and I can work at slightly different times based on when we feel most productive. I tend to get a second wind in the late afternoon, so I love wrapping up emails or tackling analytical projects then. Others at Bubbles are early birds who enjoy using the quiet morning hours to power through writing assignments.

As an asynchronous team at Bubbles, we all experience this, and thus, feel qualified to explain this theory, and how it helps one team member to increase productivity in the Bubble below:

Better Tools To Prevent Distractions

While home life brings its own distractions, I have more weapons in my arsenal to manage them with remote work. The Pomodoro technique has been a game-changer for my concentration. I hunker down with noise-canceling headphones and timers to carve out sacrosanct focus blocks throughout my day. It’s been tricky to figure out, but worth it!

My Bubbles colleagues have found other creative solutions too, from setting up dedicated home offices to establishing “no meeting” blocks on their calendar. Curating your environment and protocols enables productivity. But it requires some trial and error!

Leveraging Technology, But Not Letting It Rule You

Modern tools certainly propel productivity for remote teams. Video calls facilitate collaboration across cities and time zones. Communication apps like Bubbles keep everyone aligned. It can eliminate up to 38% of meetings with quick back-and-forth videos and smart reminders to effectively collaborate while further reducing distractions.

Where it is truly necessary to meet over Zoom, for example, make sure to implement Bubbles' Notetaker to revolutionize your meetings and increase productivity within, but also during the follow-up process. With technology, employers can also track progress without the need for a physical office presence, ensuring that worker productivity remains high and accountability is present.

Try Bubbles' Notetaker free here

Built-In Opportunities To Recharge

Early in my remote work days, I’d often eat lunch at my desk to keep plugging away at projects. But I’ve come to cherish my daily post-lunch walk as a sacred reset ritual. Stepping away from my devices, even briefly, brings my brain back to life. It’s an energizing lifeline!

Remote work makes it easier to intersperse recharging breaks throughout the day. At Bubbles, we’ve realized resisting burnout bolsters productivity over the long-haul. But that lesson took some trial and error to stick!

What Does Research Say About Remote Productivity?

I may be biased from my own experience, but data supports my hunch that remote work often enhances productivity. Economist Jose Maria Barrero’s research found employees have been 5% more productive working from home during the pandemic. Proof I’m not just making this up!

He attributes this productivity edge to fewer distractions, better focus, and increased autonomy. And I must agree! Those have all been game-changing differentiators from my office days. It’s like a whole new world!

Research also indicates that remote employees tend to feel more engaged with their work, sparking an upward productivity spiral. When provided flexibility and trust, employees take real ownership over their contributions. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Every time I hear my Bubbles colleagues proudly share the projects they’re pouring themselves into, I see that spark in action! It’s so motivating!

Overcoming Remote Work’s Challenges

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge remote work still poses some meaningful hurdles. Despite my team’s camaraderie, I occasionally feel pangs of isolation staring at my home office walls. So lonely! Other times I struggle to set clear work-life boundaries and overexert myself. I end up working too late into the night!

But tools like Bubbles, which enable easy check-ins and social support, help mitigate the loneliness pitfall. As for work-life balance, I’m still learning how to improve, but small steps like building in end-of-day buffers have brought more harmony. It’s a winding road though!

The Future of Productivity

As remote and hybrid arrangements gain steam, I believe we’re on the cusp of redefining productivity. The classic office no longer holds a monopoly; the benefits of unbounded workspace are simply too compelling. A total game changer!

Business owners would be remiss not to consider remote and flexible models. And employees should realize they now have more power than ever to sculpt work that aligns with their lives and natural productivity rhythms. Empowering but perplexing!

The teams at Bubbles certainly don’t have all the answers yet. But we’re committed to continuing to innovate and share what we learn on this eccentric adventure into the future of work! The future remains unwritten, but I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic. What a thrill ride!

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