Note: I originally wrote this article in 2017.
I have been acquainted with working remotely since about 2005.
I have to admit that even considering that today is a big trend in my job line, in the past, people who arrived at the knowledge I was working from home found it somewhat strange. Their feelings ranged from some envy to admiration.
I have to say it was not easy to start. The dominant topic in this context was and still is Discipline. The underlying question is always, can you balance your private life with your work life?
I struggled with this for a while. Not in the way that you skip or delay your goals and tasks due to distractions. In my case, I did not know when to stop. Out of bed early, straight to work, and constantly feeling Half of the day already gone when office colleagues logged in!. Trust me; this is a very wrong way to do it. You will find out that when others are still in the middle of their productivity peak, that early start has already drained you, and then you end up going all the same deep in the evening, forgetting about your family sometimes.
Finding the balance is for sure a must. Consider this my first tip on this subject (and perhaps one of the most important ones).
Make it simple and easy!
Whether you choose to work in your living room or at that fantastic coffee shop with a view, you must ensure that your laptop, notebook, etc. are always in a place you know and handy. This level of organization is paramount to keeping your productivity streamlined hard as a rock. If you allow yourself to be in a chaotic environment (either physical or virtual), you will end up having a messed up mind. Those few extra moments of planning and systematic thinking will prevent you from plunging into hours of catch-up and ending up with high levels of self-induced frustration.
Energy prevails over Time.
Another golden secret I’d like to share is that punching the clock is far less important than managing your available energy throughout the day. Why is this so? Simply because Time will always turn into a deadline, being something that will end. On the other end, energy is something you can always create to keep yourself running. Create some routines in your day to replenish your energy. Walk your dog or walk around your neighbourhood. Such activities will get you away from your computer and clear your mind. In my case, I established two “power walks” throughout the day. In the morning I like to walk for about one mile, and another in the afternoon. I avoid looking at my smartphone at all costs on those 15 to 20 minutes strolls. Don’t forget that office working entails a commute (that allows some reading, listening to music etc.), and offices often have coffee machines or other places where you can get away from desks.
Don’t let your team Out!
Nowadays, you rely on tools like Zoom or Teams to interact remotely with a team. We can name a myriad of instant messengers that allow collaboration flows of all kinds of shapes, colours, and sizes. But these communication channels can cause you to feel some awkwardness in some moments because you may wrongly think that you will be disturbing your colleague. Nothing is less accurate! It would be best if you kept in touch. It would help if you made yourself felt by your team. Play, joke, discuss work, bring up ideas, issue opinions: Make yourself seen! If you were at the office, you would constantly run into colleagues and discuss your last vacations or that movie you saw Saturday night. Sounds too much trivial? It is not. This kind of interaction fortifies relationships providing better work-related communication and causing nothing less than a sense of loyalty. Being a “visible” member and being aware is vital for success in this work model.
Be a sprinter!
Remote workers are more exposed to distractions. That is a fact, and it is called Context Switching. On the other end, sometimes you get that 5 minutes call request that quickly turned into a wormhole of thirty or more minutes. Also, because you are not in person at the office, showing as online on your IM platform transmits the idea that you are fully available at all moments. So to mitigate possible issues from this problem, which is more acute for remote workers, make some sprints. Start a timer. Twenty-five minutes may be enough (try this: 25m Timer or simple from your google search bar type: set timer 25 minutes), and make yourself busy with phones, IMs etc. Now use those 25 minutes to complete that never-ending task. Worked? I knew so!
Working from home was mainly a privilege when I started doing it. From the years I’ve been doing this, I can surely tell you that on many occasions, your perception will shift from feeling like a truly blessed soul to being overwhelmed and intimidated by the concept. But as soon as you become able to manage yourself and maintain a solid and meaningful connection with your colleagues while yet being able to sustain a balanced life, you will find out that the remote concept becomes lesser and lesser a synonymous with isolation.