Tips for working remote in winter

Tips and tricks to stay productive in winter

Contrary to popular lore, even remote workers sometimes can’t (or don’t want to) escape winter and its lack of light (and Vitamin D). Let me share some twitter-sourced tips on how to motivate yourself when outside your window there’s only cold and darkness, most of the time.

So let’s be clear: I choose to stay. My work is remote, but my life is not. My kids love their school and their local swimming classes. Their father has a country-bound profession. Extended family loves to visit without having to change hemispheres. Working remote only refers to the work-part being remote. But for many of us, there’s more to life. Luckily, working remote does make it easier to combat the winter blues.

Special shoutout to @lrnrd on Twitter for starting the conversation.

Control your environment to control your motivation

Your motivation, your self-control, your just-do-it mindset, and your willpower serve you well – until around midday. By then, decision fatigue takes over and your brain starts to rely heavily on routines and habits. It will use any shortcut available to save energy, ignoring completely the promises you made yourself when waking up.

Instead of trying harder, invest your energy into creating a framework that helps you to be productive even after nightfall (at 4pm). Make it easy to do the right thing. Make it hard(er) to be lazy.

Change your surroundings and your habits will follow

Change your light bulbs, and put a warm hoodie next to your bed (to avoid feeling cold as you get up), and it will be that much easier to get out of bed. Habits require a couple of months to really settle in – adapting your environment can often be done in one afternoon. Start looking at what you want to achieve, and then set your surroundings up to help you. In winter, it’s mostly about getting enough light / Vitamin D.

Use technology to help you

Change all your light bulbs to LED daylight light bulbs and make sure to switch them on before the sun goes down. SAD lights also help for staying awake.  (@Samathy_Barratt).

@rachelnabors, @findlilyhere and I both swear by the Philips Wake Up Light lamp. The simplest version works just fine, if it’s the light effect you are interested in. Waking up is so much smoother when it’s light-induced.

If in summer you use Flux or Nightshift, you can adjust/disable the settings during the winter months to get more blue light exposure and stay awake. Occasional tanning bed sessions can also help if you feel severely sun-deprived (@verpixelt).

For your desk there are several recommendations, like the Bluemax happy light (@danmayer) or this light therapy lamp (@claytonwert).

Once it’s not only darkness, but also complete silence, a playlist with city space background noise can help keep your energy upp. @VishalRohra203 recommends this Spotify Playlist.

Adapt your routine

Shorter days also means no risk for sunburn. This means you can take a brisk walk or exercise midday instead of braving the even colder mornings (@moodreds).

To avoid lingering in bed longer than recommended, switch up your morning routine. Make yourself a luxury coffee/tea/smoothie and/or prepare some scrambled eggs to make the commute from bed to desk more enjoyable (@keeleyhammond).

Once at your desk, use the Pomodoro technique or the reminder function on your Fitbit to get up at least once an hour, walk around for 5 min, or get some physical housework done.

You can also use this break to switch your work environment. Go to a nearby coffee shop (@matei_radu) or simply change to another chair in your house (@ryaninvents)

Both dogs and kids help to get active, though I do not recommend to get either just to battle the winter blues.

Some uncertified nutritional recommendations

The main reason we need regular sunlight exposure is Vitamin D. If there’s no sun around and you do not trust those sunlight alternatives, you might want to look into Vitamin D supplements. There are daily and weekly options, and you should probably talk to your doctor first. (@kurtiskemple)

Another northern trick is to add more (good) fats and proteins to your diet. This includes nuts and avocados. At the very least, make sure that you increase your water intake. Dehydration is much more common in winter when it’s easy to forget that you still need to drink. And your brain does not like being short on water. (@lovevalgeisler and @semicorpus).

There you go – may your winter be productive, wherever you spend it.


Book Cover From a DistanceIf you like my style, and you are interested in ideas, processes and practical exercises around leading a successful team – remotely, you’ll love my latest book From a Distance.

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