Working remotely: seems like a dream, doesn't it? The idea casts a warm, Instagram-filter glow over an imagined vision of your new work life. It's a fantasy where you work on your own turf, during your own hours, throwing off the shackles of a commute and trading your business suits for track pants.
Reader, beware! You may see the prospect of working remotely with rose-colored glasses, but reality will come crashing through. Working remotely in some respects IS ideal, but it can also be lonely, breed insecurities, create health and wellness issues, and make you feel career-invisible.
Those of you who are already working remotely know what I'm talking about. Work and personal time suddenly become indistinguishable from one another. You look up from your computer screen at noon, only to realize you're still in your PJ pants and haven't brushed your teeth yet. The kids peer over stacks of your work files and papers as they attempt to eat dinner at the kitchen table. The dog wants to go outside to play for the 42nd time today. Your back is sore from sitting at the kitchen table for so long. This is the glamorous reality of your new work life, and surprise - it's anything but!
Reader, the reality is that YOU and you alone have control over your remote work experience. You control whether it's PJ day every day, or whether you're up early and sticking to your schedule like a boss. As someone who works outside of the office 90% of the time, I've learned to stick to some hard-and-fast rules when it comes to working remotely.
Lorri's Immutable Rules of Remote Work:
Get ready for your day as if you were going into the office:
This means you get up and do your morning routine (exercise, eat breakfast, shower, brush teeth etc.) first thing, without fail, BEFORE starting work. Cozy duds like PJs and tracksuits are for more relaxed, off-work times. You need to be alert and on the ball during work hours. Starting your day as if you were going into the office will help keep your mind sharp and work life distinct from your chill-out time.
Set reasonable boundaries for the start and end of your work day - Don't take electronics to bed:
You've done it, I've done it, we know we shouldn't do it and yet we do it anyway. Taking your smartphone to bed - or worse, your laptop! - is a bad idea all around. Not only do those screens radiate sleep-depriving blue light and distract us during hours when we should be sleeping, but having electronics in the bedroom also means they're right there from the moment you wake up. If you start replying to email before your feet even hit the floor, there's a danger of hanging out in bed way too long. As comfy as it might be in there, working from bed is not a great choice when trying to increase your productivity!
WiFi has to be tip-top:
Working from a café, library or another public place may be an excellent way to mix up your work day, but first be sure the WiFi is reliable enough to suit your needs. Consider finding a solution for a backup connection too. I have DSL and tethering on my phone if the DSL goes out. If you’re continually having Skype issues or dropping calls, you’re becoming both less reliable and less professional in the eyes of others who might be trying to manage several remote employees.
Have a quiet place and a busy place:
You need to be able to close the door for peace and quiet as you log into a conference call or webinar. Other times, the din of background noise from the local coffee shop will be just what you need to hone in your concentration as you tackle tasks like writing or researching. Identify where those two places are and use them as your go-to spots for times when you need quiet or noise.
Back away from the kitchen table:
The kitchen is the centre of the household universe - NOT ideal for work. Work in a designated clutter and distraction-free area when you work at home. For many of us, working at home is not an ideal situation (children, pets and spouses can be a real distraction).
Missing in-office casual conversation? Stay connected to colleagues using chat tools so you can create electronic watercooler; it's great for ‘by the way’ questions you would normally get in the office. (I love the constant chat room).
Use active, rather than passive, means of communication:
Phone calls, chat rooms and video conferencing provide us with the most robust ways of communicating with our work teams. When people can hear tone of voice, see facial expression, participate in a discussion and get answers to questions quickly, they feel connected to and have a greater understanding of one another. Try not to rely on passive, slow, email as a means of communication (see my blog post 'I Hate Email' for further explanation).
Ergonomics are important:
Working while hunched over your laptop as you sink further into your couch is not good work hygiene. Whenever possible, work from a comfortable seat, with legs at a 90-degree angle, sitting up straight, with your screen up high, directly in front of you. A strained body is not a productive body.
Build in accountability:
Share a 3x3 update – proactively push it out! Hold yourself more accountable and underline your priorities and accomplishments in a summary way. If you write down your progress and your challenges on a regularly scheduled basis, you'll find yourself working more diligently to complete your project goals.
Do you work remotely and have tips you'd like to share on making work life more productive? Get in touch! Follow the link here to submit your name, email and comment, and I'll share your advice with my readers in a future blog post.