Remote work: it’s no longer just a hot topic. It’s the reality for many workers today. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Two-thirds of employers allow at least some staffers to work at home occasionally, up from 50% in 2008, and 38% allow some workers to do so on a regular basis, up from 23%.” But working remotely is not the same as working from the office. Without the proper tools and structure in place, it can be difficult to do.
While I won’t use this as a chance to gripe over my love/hate relationship with Wi-Fi, I do think someone needs to come out and say what a lot of us are thinking but won’t say out loud: remote work can be hard. Really hard. It requires different tools, resources and a discipline for focus you don’t have to deal with in the traditional office.
How do I know? I’ve spent the last two months traveling across Europe while working remotely full time, visiting over eight countries and working in more than ten different cities. I’ve worked from coworking spaces, cafes, my apartment, hostels, airports, trains, you name it. Through this, I’ve learned a thing or two. Below are my top tried and tested tips for working remotely:
1. Get your routine in place. Assign your fixed working time, even if you have the flexibility to work anytime you like. Figure out your most productive hours. Are you a morning person? An afternoon person? Maybe you like to pull a couple all-nighters but then work an eight-hour day once a week? Pick your personal productive hours, and focus on your work then. Sometimes you’ll have to test out a few options to see what works best. This might also change from time to time, so be sure to check in with yourself and gauge when and how you are most productive
2. Create your own workspace haven. Don’t only work in bed or crouch over the coffee table. Trust me, I’ve had days where I’m so exhausted from travel that I just want to WFB (“work from bed”) all day, but this really isn’t the most productive place to do work. Part of creating your workspace haven is making physical boundaries for yourself, so when you occupy this space you mentally know you are “on” for work. For example, I know that I’m frequently on video calls and need to have a good setting in which to take these, so ambiance is my top priority when it comes to selecting a workspace.
Pick out the physical things that aid you with productivity and use them to recreate that ideal environment wherever you work. For instance, I need a desk or table, comfortable chair, power outlet, good headphones, a spot near a window, a space where others are present and close proximity to a coffee bar (added bonus!). Being productive is about keeping your mind and body focused, so creating a comfortable physical space for yourself is key.
3. Remember: remote work is still work! To all my friends who thought I was just watching movies in bed when I would work from home, sorry! Remote work does NOT mean you don’t work anymore. You just don’t work in an office. You’ll still face the same distractions (email, social media, endless trails of YouTube videos) but this just requires you to have a different type of discipline than you would in the office. Attention span and mental focus still require a rested mind and body — regardless of whether you’re working at the office or from home. So maintain a regular lifestyle and schedule that you would as if you were in the office doing the regular 9 to 5.
4. Set daily goals and make to-do lists. Being organized is the first step to being productive. Know what you have to do, what is most important, what is urgent, and what is optional. Set priorities and do regular check-ins with yourself to make sure you’re on track. Write to-do lists, create a trail of post-its, set calendar reminders, whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself on track. I’ve found that working remotely can alter your sense of time and place so it is important to keep yourself organized and make sure you aren’t missing any deadlines. When you complete these things, you’ll feel more accomplished and motivated to take on more.
NOTE: part of setting goals and timing should include time for breaks! Just as if you were in a regular office setting, you need time to give yourself a rest or you’ll lose attention span. I like to set a reminder every couple of hours for a quick 15 minute walk, a coffee break, or to go chat with a fellow remote worker. Being tied to your computer for eight hours will take its toll on you, find something that helps you refresh so when you get back to work you can be productive.
5. Create a backup plan (or two, or three). This is the one I struggle with most. Because, even if you are able to pull off steps one through five, there will be occasional road blocks that throw you for a loop: loss of internet, blown out power cords, issues with getting email to sync, inclement weather (just to name a few from personal experience). While these aren’t things you can predict, there are ways to be better prepared to handle these. Now thanks to a few minor mishaps, I always make sure I have a backup computer charger and outlet adapter on me at all times. When I know I’m going to need to access important emails, I’ll save them locally in case my Wi-Fi goes down. I also like to have a running list of “things to do without technology” (can you imagine?!) in case I find myself in a situation where my computer goes out of commission. Extreme, I know, but I’ve seen it happen to others and simply having a notebook on me at all times can really help in times of need.
Have any remote working tips you want to share? Do you have your own tips and tricks? Comment and share below!