As a full-time remote employee, I feel compelled to put it out there that working remotely is not the equivalent of an employed recluse. Yes, a remote position is different than working out of a traditional office. And, yes, working remotely is not for everyone. But, holding a position as a remote employee still means you are employed by an organization that expects you to be productive and results-driven. There are some major perks, too, like flexibility, no commute-time and fewer distractions.
If you currently are—or are thinking about becoming—a remote worker, here are six tips to set yourself up for success:
Dedicate a work space and have a back up
You must have a space that is dedicated to work, regardless of the size of your house. This assigned space will help you separate your work from home life and help you get in your zone, which will increase your productivity. If you are fortunate enough to dedicate a room to “office space”, awesome! If not, you can still find a space. There is nook somewhere waiting to be devoted to your work success. Perhaps you need to create a “portable office”. The kitchen table does a great job moonlighting as a desk. Keep your computer and work supplies in a basket and set up shop each morning (or evening, if that’s when you do your best work). Make sure the room has good lighting and minimal distractions (the center of your child’s playroom is not ideal).
I have transformed my guest room into a home-office. Although there are certain tasks I like to do at my kitchen table, or even couch, I know that when it’s time for a call or a labor-intensive task, it’s time to settle back in my “office”.
Like any office, things happen. Working remotely makes for unique situations. Your internet could go haywire, family may come for a visit or you could just want a change of pace. Have a back-up plan for when things arise. I like to get out of my house and be around people, so I have found two local coffee shops that I frequent. Libraries and shared work-spaces are great too.
Set a schedule
One of the perks of working remotely (for most of us) is being able to set your own schedule. The beauty in a flexible work schedule is that you can decide when and how you want to work. Set yourself up for success by creating a schedule that works for you. Dedicate time each workday when you can accomplish the most, feel your best and enjoy the work you’re doing.
I stick to a strict Monday-Friday 8 am start time. My productivity is dependent on getting up and getting moving. The hours of 8 am- noon are when I am at my prime for answering emails, getting organized and diving into my work. Depending on what meetings I have and projects I am working on, I like to take a longer lunch break in the middle of the day, which I account for in the evening. The afternoon is when I like to schedule calls. I’ve found that grouping them together works well for me. The hours of 7 pm -9 pm is another time block that I am most naturally “in the zone”. I set aside this time for any creative writing or projects I am working on that require a lot of critical thinking and energy. I can count on these two interruption-free hours to get lost in my work. I also cherish these hours to check emails again and get set up for the following day. Sunday evenings are also a very productive time for me, so I use this time wisely as often and I can. I have a co-worker that has children, so early mornings and the hours of 5 pm- 9 pm are off-limits for work. It’s a matter of figuring out what works for you.
It will take some trial and error, but commit to finding what works for you and use the flexibility to your advantage. Remember, a flexible work schedule will require some flexibility on your part as well, so get comfortable with things “popping up”.
Once you’ve identified what times work best for you in your work day, stick to it. It’s easy to get distracted with personal things when working from a home office, but if it’s time for work, those dishes will have to wait! Creating a space dedicated to work as well as sticking to a schedule that works for you will help you stay on track. If you find yourself getting distracted easily, chances are either your schedule or your work space is not conducive to your success.
Set up a system with your manager and co-workers
Communication is imperative when working remotely. Work with your team to find a balance of always being informed and up-to-date, but not so much communication to hinder your productivity. At SME Digital, we have a weekly call where all members of the organization dial in to touch base on all internal and external projects, address any questions or concerns, and celebrate the wins. My specific team has a half-hour touch base every morning to go over our work in more detail and make sure everyone is set up for success. We also use G-Chat for conversations throughout the day. (I told you we weren’t recluses!)
Make time to socialize
Working remotely does mean a bit of isolation. While the benefits of this can be monumental (hello, productivity!), it’s important that you find an outlet for socialization. This can be done in conventional ways such as networking groups, social clubs, or making time for dinner with friends on a regular basis. There are also non-conventional ways, too. Here at SME Digital, we schedule “coffee talks” where we set up 15 minutes with one of our colleagues and literally sip coffee and chat about anything non-work related. It’s a great way to get to know your co-workers on personal level and also provides some human interaction.
The biggest challenge I’ve experienced as a remote-worker is shutting down. Knowing my work is only a few feet away is tempting, and there is always “just one more thing” to be done. I’m told that putting your computer and work materials away in a place you will not see during off-hours (in a room dedicated to work, a drawer, a closet- anything!) helps. I do believe that there are major benefits from unplugging and recharging, so when I master this, I’ll report back.
These are a few ways I find success as a remote employee. Share what helps you in the comments below.