Tips to Start Working Remotely
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I've worked remotely before it became mandatory or even cool. I worked as a freelancer for a different type of teams. I was managing my small design studio with distributed team members. I've worked semi remotely when most of my team was located in one office. When I was freelancing from my 2x4 meters office room, it was remote. Even when our and clients teams were distributed across a few locations, it was still remote.
Lately, a lot of people got option or was advised to WFH (Work From Home) to reduce chances of spreading COVID-19 virus. For many, this is unexpected and difficult change. I consider working efficiently remotely as a skill that can be acquired. So, here is a list of recommendations that will help not only make your transition less painful but may allow you to understand better advantages of remote work and maybe even enjoy it a little bit. 😄
If you ask me how to improve your work with one tip. It's going to be: "Overcommunicate!". Chat and VOIP tools are useful in delivering clear messages, but sometimes it's not enough. And quite often written message that looks quite short and clear for you can be misunderstood as rude and bossy. The best way to overcome it is to communicate more. Rules of thumb:
- Would you ask this question if you meet this person over coffee machine? Drop a message.
- Have issues of understanding a written message? Set up a call. Or maybe even call immediately.
- Have difficulties in communicating over a phone? Agree to follow up over email or chat.
- Just got bored? Message your buddy with whom you would have a chat in the office.
- Do you think something might require to be followed up? Follow up.
- If you feel that you might miss something? Ask.
At first, you might feel uncomfortable that no-one is noticing how busy you are. In the office, it's quite typical to have many meetings and micro-tasks that make you feel busy and accomplished. By working remotely, you can control this chaos more easily. And when you think that everything is way too calm remember that eventually, you are going to be evaluated not by how busy you looked in the office, and how many meetings you attended, but how much value you added. So, relax and focus on delivery. On the end of the day, it's only one thing that matters.
Get a constant place
So, we sorted out work-related things. Let's move to your set up.
As usual, it's not a good idea to trying getting work done on in a cosy chair where you are swiping Instagram on your phone after work, or on the sofa where you are watching Netflix, or in a bed, where you are sleeping. You will tend to do the activity that you got used to doing. Also, it's not advised to switching those places during a day. Even if you can get some job done, it will take a lot of mental capacity to stay focused on this new task. I would advise defining one place only for work, make it comfortable and stick to it.
You want to set up this new place in a way, so it'll help you to stay focused. Just turn off the TV. Put your phone on charging on not easy reachable distance. I'm not talking about the gaming console. 😉
Get a habit
By my experience, a morning ritual is quite helpful to get starting. Every morning I'm doing the same. Getting my dog go out before going to a kitchen. Then allowing him to go in before going to my working place with a cup of aromatic bulletproof coffee. Then I'm choosing music that matches my mood (It's not always Pantera) and starting reviewing my todo list and planning my day. Also, it's good to have some shorter flow to go back to work if you got distracted during a day.
Working remotely doesn't mean that you have to work 24 hours a day. Sometimes it's challenging to follow a schedule, but it's crucial to don't overwork (so easy, right?). The same as before you should have a personal life that gives you a rest and helps come back to work next day fresh. Now I have 3 hours difference with my head office. And I decided to work the same hours. So I'm starting work at 6 AM (9 AM my HQ time) and trying to finish not later than 3 PM (6 PM my HQ time). I do need to go to bed earlier to keep this schedule comfortable, but it's quite nice to know that I have all afternoon for myself.
I think this is always important. To get yourself comfortable, get a comfy chair, nice cup, or a delightful outfit. I don't like pyjamas, but I heard that some people find them very pleasant after switching from a strict office environment.
Be kind to others
Family members who are staying with you during a day at home can be a pain in the ass. I heard recommendations about self-isolating, not talking to them during working hours and other ridiculous things. From my perspective, the ability to see people that you choose is another benefit of being flexible with work location. I'm sure that you understand that playing lego with a kid or watching Netflix with wife is absolutely not acceptable. Here I'm talking about simple things like bringing fruits from the kitchen to your loved ones or cooking quick lunch together. Use your negotiation skills. Defining limits in advance helps to save nerves for everyone.
Remote work quite often has a stereotype that it fits the best for sociopaths who is fine to avoid people for weeks. Maybe during the spread of COVID-19 virus, remote work is looking more like isolation. As usual, it's opposite for me. Instead of spending time on gossips next to a coffee machine in the office, you have a choice to build more meaningful connections. For example, instead of commuting to the office in peak hour, you can catch up with someone new for a coffee. Online gives you even more options to get new connections. For instance, after work, I interviewed many extremely interesting people located around the globe by scheduling calls with them for my publication Inborn Experience.
I will never be tired to repeat it. In remote, there is never enough communications. To be efficient, you still need to work with other people, and to do it most efficiently don't forget to over-communicate ;)
And yeah. Try to enjoy it. 😉
As my colleague said after getting an option to work remotely:
It's a bliss!