A Closer Look at Remote Work

Remote jobs are a big draw these days to job seekers.  They are like a shiny new car…great in theory, with no maintenance for a while, better gas mileage than a similar used car, and the technology is top notch.  Sounds like a dream, right?  The only thing is, once you get that new car, a lot of times it’s more work than you expected.  You want to keep it looking nice, so you take it to the car wash once a week.  That remote work technology is great…when it works.  You can get out of bed whenever you want to with no set time to clock in, but sometimes you find that you’re working late into the evening to wrap things up because you dilly-dallied throughout the day without a boss in the next office breathing down your throat. 

The truth is, virtual jobs are becoming more and more popular, but oftentimes, employees find that remote work is actually harder than an in-person job.  Shocker, right?!   Here are some things to consider to be successful in a remote position. 

1. Keep a calendar or schedule: Making sure you keep a routine and calendar will help keep you on task and manage your work in a timely manner. It’s very easy to get up and put a load of clothes in the dryer and get sidetracked with 5 other things you saw on the way to the laundry room.  The best way to stay on track is to set daily goals, use task lists and stick to a schedule. Our team uses calendar workblocking and brain dumping to plan our days/weeks/months. We set specific rhythms for our work that are laid out in our job descriptions, and then adjust them according to the time of month or year in order to make time for the current priorities. Read more about how our team manages calendars here. 

2. Take breaks:  This is so important!  When you work in a public place, you probably take more breaks than you should, but what I have found is that working at home, I tend to not take enough breaks!  Build those into your calendar to give you the opportunity to walk to the mailbox to get some fresh air or take the dog out and stretch your legs. This is also a great time to put that load of clothes in the dryer or even prep for dinner.

3. Have a designated space to work with proper equipment:  It’s great to be able to work from anywhere, right?  After all, that’s one of the biggest positives about remote work.  BUT, there are times when you really have to get in and focus, and when I’m working on those jobs, I find that my dedicated desk and large monitor make my time spent on that project much more productive.  When I’m at my desk, I can focus and enlarge things on the big screen, or even see multiple things on the screen at once.  The designated space increases efficiency and even helps with focus.  A laptop is nice to move around, maybe sit outside when checking emails or doing mindless tasks, but when it’s time to do the real work,  the designated space is best!  On top of that, being a remote worker means meeting with clients and team daily and there are a few things that are necessary to make those meetings effective, efficient, and productive.  (Have you ever been on a call with someone who keeps losing internet connection?  It happens to all of us, but isn’t it annoying?) Here is a fun graphic we use in our firm for a virtual meeting checklist.


4. Communicate: You know the saying “No man is an Island”?  Well in a strong, healthy business culture, that saying is still true.  Make time to communicate with your boss, team, and clients often.  In fact, it’s probably good to be prepared to over-communicate.  You know how when you write a quick email or text, it’s sometimes misunderstood?  That’s because you were trying to hurry through it and move on to something else. Same is true in the workplace.  Make sure your communication is concise and thorough as well as timely and accurate. Type it out, read it, and then read it again.  If it still sounds like you’re getting the right message across, click send. 

5. Set boundaries:  I know for me, I have a hard time “turning it off.”  I may work thirty minutes or an hour past my blocked time on my calendar to make sure I wrap up a project while my family is waiting for me to hang out with them.  With SLACK or email access on my phone, I can check it during commercial breaks and cross off something else on my list. The reality is, yes it’s there and available, but do I really NEED to check my email now?  Is anyone EXPECTING me to check-in right now?  Probably not at 8 pm. When you make a plan for your work day, try your best to stick to it.  We all “get to work late” or “work over” occasionally (and that’s great, especially if you have a deadline or if you’re waiting up late for your kid to get home like I am right now), but it should not be the norm.  On the other hand, when you have your set office hours on your calendar, it’s important to have boundaries to protect that as well.  We all have days where we are more distracted than others or a kid is sick, but best practice is to let those in your home know your work schedule and stick to it.  One of our team members has this sign posted on her office door as a reminder to her kids that she has time set aside to work and when the door is closed, she needs focused time. (It’s a bit comical, but it also get’s the point across.)

6. Take care of yourself:  It is way too easy to fall into the routine of “just one more thing” before turning off the computer or just moving from the desk chair to the couch.  It is so important to make sure you still take care of yourself physically and mentally.  Block time on your calendar every day from some kind of physical movement whether it’s a full workout, or just a walk outside.  It’s necessary to make sure you keep moving to combat that sedentary lifestyle that remote work can lead to.  Also, make sure to keep some healthy snacks on hand to fight the mid-afternoon munchies that so often hit. Finally, with virtual work, you’re probably looking at a screen 8-10 hours/day.  Be intentional to set aside time for clearing your head, meditation, and other hobbies. 

Just like a mullet isn’t for everyone, remote work isn’t either. If you are considering a remote role, take the time to think through these points and assess if remote work is right for you. (Or even if you are currently in a virtual space, are you giving it your best and fulfilling the agreement you signed with your employer?) Probably the biggest shocker for me when I started working virtually is that I actually work harder than I ever did in an office setting.  Not only do I work harder, with more communication and collaboration, but I also have to encourage myself in ways that others would have encouraged me before (ex: that lunchtime walk…I don’t have a coworker to walk with me anymore).  Finally, it may feel unnecessary to have the designated “office space” (after all, you’re supposed to be able to work from anywhere, right?) or make sure you have the right equipment for working virtually, but it makes a difference.  Your boss notices, and so does your team and clients.  So like Julie says, “Do you want what [remote] means?”

For more tips on personal growth, check out Jason’s blog here:  Mastery is Just Getting in More Reps than Anyone Else.

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