Succeeding as a Remote Worker
Remote work is in my DNA. My father worked from home for the majority of my childhood (and still does today). When I came home from school, I remember sitting on the floor of his office with my lime green GameBoy color, holding it at the perfect angle so I could see the screen without a glare (how times have changed)! If his door was closed, it didn’t have to be locked - because a closed door simply meant DO NOT ENTER. But when the door was open, I would peek my head in to say hi, ask for help on a math problem, or try to beat the next level of Mario (with the volume turned off, of course).
I always thought it was amazing that he could work from anywhere.
He didn’t have to wear uncomfortable clothing, or sit in a too-hot or too-cold cubicle.
He didn’t have to put miles on his car or sit in traffic at the end of a long day.
He could enjoy the cozy feeling of a rainy day, without the dread of getting soaked on his way to the office.
He had access to the entire refrigerator at lunchtime, rather than limiting himself to the deli meat sandwich that he packed but didn’t really want.
It’s the little things in life, right?
I didn’t know what I wanted to study in college, but one thing was certain - I wanted the ability to work remotely one day. It seemed like a dream to me. Remote work may not be your dream, especially if you’re highly extroverted. However, due to the pandemic, many professionals are working remotely out of necessity. If remote work isn’t in your DNA, you might be struggling with the transition - but it’s important that you learn how to be successful at it. Why? Because remote work is the future.
Teams are more global now than ever before. Even if you’re not going to work remotely post-pandemic, you may still have remote team members or consultants, and you need to be able to work effectively and efficiently with remote teams.
Let’s get to the meat of why you’re here and talk about how to be successful at remote work.
Choose a Dedicated Office Space
You will want a change of scenery every now and then, but a home base is important. In a perfect world, your office is a space where you work and nothing else. No TV’s, no workout equipment, no nothing. Just a desk. This helps you mentally prepare for “work mode.” It limits distractions. It gives everyone in your home clarity around what that space is for. If your office is in the living room, your kids don’t know when it’s playtime vs. work time, which can cause frustration on both ends. I get that working remotely means you can work from anywhere, but anywhere should still be a work-friendly space.
If your home doesn’t offer you the luxury of a dedicated office space, the next best option is to use the room in your home that is used the least. If you only visit your formal dining room on Thanksgiving day, make it your office space for the other 364 days of the year. A guest bedroom or sunroom is a good alternative as well.
Maintain a Routine
It’s easy to roll out of bed at 7:57 and be on that conference call at 8:00 when you work from home... don’t do that! Get up, eat breakfast, read your Bible, exercise, and start work at the same time every morning. Take a lunch break at a set time, and try to stop working at the same time each day. It will help you have structure around your workday, just like you had in the office.
Communicate Effectively with Roommates / Family
If you don’t live alone, communication is key when working remotely. Just like I knew to stay out of my father’s office when his door was closed, your immediate family should respect work hours and only interrupt you in the case of an emergency. You may find yourself needing to define “emergency” too! There is nothing more stressful than a spouse or child interrupting an important meeting with important people to tell you there’s an ice cream truck outside. Do your best to prevent that stress by setting boundaries and sharing expectations with your family.
Have an Accountability Partner
Sometimes your motivation to be productive suffers when your boss and/or coworkers aren’t physically present. Make a To Do list at the beginning of each day (or use a tool like ToDoIst). Give a friend or coworker access to your To Do’s for the day. Ask them to check in with you periodically so you can tell them if you’re on track.
For small teams, have a 5-10 minute video call every morning where each team member shares what they plan to accomplish that day, and what they got done the day before. It’s a great way to manage expectations, know what everyone is doing, and be held accountable.
If you’re a manager, make sure expectations are very clear of what needs to be done by your team, and what the deadlines are. Don’t let your boss wonder what you’re doing. Produce results and give people confidence that you’re pulling your share of the weight in the organization.
Be Fully Present
When you’re on the clock, be fully present. You owe it to your company and to your clients to be focused and productive. BUT, when you’re OFF the clock, be fully off the clock. Don’t check email at night. Don’t take a 3 hour lunch break and tell yourself you’ll just work later that night. People who cannot set boundaries around remote work feel like they’re working all the time, even if they’re not. In order for you to be fully present with work, and fully present with your church / family / hobbies, you must do your best to not let remote work bleed into the other equally important areas of your life. If you can do this, you will enjoy the benefits of remote work while avoiding the downsides - and you may just learn to love it.