3 Keys to Productive Remote Work

Working from home is a common practice for residence life and housing staff. While remote work – telecommuting, co-working spaces, virtual teams – is mostly off limits in student affairs, the majority of entry level residence life and housing jobs are live-in positions, and many of us in this line of work are used to mixing work-life and home-life.

While we may not think of student affairs work as being remote work “friendly,” as Keith Edwards points out in 9 Suggestions on Exploring Your Side Hustle, a lot of folks are interested in moving to independent work. And more broadly speaking, more and more people are finding careers that allow some sort of remote work.

A Gallup poll found that 37% of respondents have already worked virtually, and the World Economic Forum identified in their Future of Jobs Report that telecommuting, co-working spaces, virtual teams, freelancing and online talent platforms are all on the rise.

Before I began working remotely in July 2016 I talked to everyone I knew that had worked from home; I read articles and did everything I knew to do in order to set myself up for success. Thanks to their advice and a few years of trial and error, I feel confident to share a few suggestions. No matter if you are setting up a work space in your live-in apartment, a space for your side hustle, or getting ready to transition to a fully remote role, here are the 3 keys to making sure you are set-up for success for independent work:

You must have a clearly designated work space.

There are a few things from the office worth replicating for your home office. A desk is one of them – I recommend getting your own desk and space, and surround it with things you would have in your ideal work environment. You want your work space to be comfortable, but you also want to feel like you are “leaving work” when you step away from your desk.

Get dressed for work.

Admittedly, this is the toughest one for me to follow, but getting ready every morning and dressing in the right clothing helps to put you in the right mindset. One of the biggest challenges of remote work is limiting your distractions and getting into a good flow for work productivity. Set the tone for your day by dressing in something that is comfortable, but also motivating and office appropriate.

Schedule a clearly designated work time.

I found that one of the worst pieces of advice I received was “if you’re never at work, you’re never working.” Meaning, if you can successful blend your work time and your personal time, than it’s like you’re never working. I found the opposite to be true — instead, I found myself constantly on my phone responding to emails and checking the team chat. Instead, I suggest scheduling a clearly designated work time and doing your best to stick to it. By compartmentalizing your work time and personal time you allow yourself to be present in your environment.


Independent work is on the rise and while student affairs will always require face-to-face human interaction, in the years ahead many student affairs services will incorporate remote work. As you consider what independent work might look like for you, plan for your work space, think about how you can separate your work schedule and personal time, and don’t underestimate the importance of dressing in something that makes you feel confident and ready for the day ahead.

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