Nov 19, 201912:31 PMOpen Mic
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5 tips to win at working remotely
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Remote working seems to be all the buzz. Apparently, 70 percent of professionals work from home at least once a week. Similarly, 77 percent of people work more productively and 68 percent of millennials would consider a company more if they offered remote working. It seems to make sense: technology, connectivity, and culture seem to be setting the world up more and more for remote working. Oh, and home-brewed coffee is better than ever, too.
Here’s the stark truth: remote working is not a panacea. Sure, it seems like hanging around at home in your jimjams, listening to your antisocial music, and sipping on buckets of coffee is perfect, but it isn’t for everyone.
Some people need the structure of an office. Some people need the social element of an office. Some people need to get out the house. Some people lack the discipline to stay focused at home. Some people are avoiding the government coming and knocking on the door due to years of unpaid back taxes.
Remote working is like a muscle; it can bring enormous strength and capabilities if you train and maintain it. If you don’t, your results are going to vary.
I have worked from home for the vast majority of my career. I love it. I am more productive, happier, and empowered when I work from home. I don’t dislike working in an office, and I enjoy the social element, but I am more in my “zone” when I work from home. I also love blisteringly heavy metal, which can pose a problem when the office doesn’t want to listen to After the Burial.
I have learned how I need to manage remote work, using the right balance of work routine, travel, and other elements, and here are five of my recommendations:
1. You need discipline and routine (and to understand your “waves”)
Remote work really is a muscle that needs to be trained. Just like building actual muscle, there needs to be a clear routine and a healthy dollop of discipline mixed in.
Always get dressed (no jimjams). Set your start and end time for your day (I work 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days). Choose your lunch break (mine is 12 p.m.). Choose your morning ritual (mine is email followed by a full review of my client needs). Decide where your main workplace will be (mine is my home office). Decide when you will exercise each day (I do it at 5 p.m. most days).
Design a realistic routine and do it for 66 days. It takes this long to build a habit. Try not to deviate from the routine. The more you stick the routine, the less work it will seem further down the line. By the end of the 66 days, it will feel natural and you won’t have to think about it.
Here’s the deal though, we don’t live in a vacuum (cleaner, or otherwise). We all have waves.
A wave is when you need a change of routine to mix things up. For example, in summertime I generally want more sunlight. I will often work outside in the garden. Near the holidays I get more distracted, so I need more structure in my day. Sometimes I just need more human contact, so I will work from coffee shops for a few weeks. Sometimes I just fancy working in the kitchen or on the couch. You need to learn your waves and listen to your body. Build your habit first, and then modify it as you learn your waves.
2. Set expectations with your management and colleagues
Not everyone knows how to do remote working, and if your company is less familiar with remote working, you especially need to set expectations with colleagues.
This can be pretty simple: when you have designed your routine, communicate it clearly to your management and team. Let them know how they can get hold of you, how to contact you in an emergency, and how you will be collaborating while at home.
The communication component here is critical. There are some remote workers who are scared to leave their computer for fear that someone will send them a message while they are away (and they are worried people may think they are just eating Cheetos and watching Netflix).
You need time away. You need to eat lunch without one eye on your computer. You are not a 911 emergency responder. Set expectations that sometimes you may not be immediately responsive, but you will get back to them as soon as possible.
Similarly, set expectations on your general availability. For example, I set expectations with clients that I generally work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Sure, if a client needs something urgently, I am more than happy to respond outside of those hours, but as a general rule I am usually working between those hours. This is necessary for a balanced life.
3. Distractions are your enemy and they need managing
We all get distracted. It is human nature. It could be your young kid getting home and wanting to play Rescue Bots. It could be checking Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to ensure you don’t miss any unwanted political opinions or photos of people’s lunches. It could be that there is something else going on your life that is taking your attention (such as an upcoming wedding, event, or big trip.)
You need to learn what distracts you and how to manage it. For example, I know I get distracted by my email and Twitter. I check it religiously and every check gets me out of the zone of what I am working on. I also get distracted by grabbing coffee and water, which then may turn into a snack and a YouTube video.
The digital distractions have a simple solution: lock them out. Close down the tabs until you complete what you are doing. I do this all the time with big chunks of work — I lock out the distractions until I am done. It requires discipline, but all of this does.
The human elements are tougher. If you have a family, you need to make it clear that when you are work, you need to be generally left alone. This is why a home office is so important. You need to set boundaries that mum or dad is working. Come in if there is emergency, but otherwise they need to be left alone.
There are all kinds of opportunities for locking these distractions out. Put your phone on silent. Set yourself as away. Move to a different room (or building) where the distraction isn’t there. Again, be honest in what distracts you and manage it. If you don’t, you will always be at their mercy.