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Tips for Remote Workers

Ah, working remotely – it’s the dream, right? Go anywhere, do anything, get the job done, and get paid. It’s a freedom that’s becoming more available as technology makes it easier to collaborate across distances and time zones. If you have the opportunity to seize this lifestyle, by all means do it! Just don’t let the stars in your eyes blind you to the fact that working remotely comes with pitfalls, and if you want to be successful, you need to put in the effort to avoid or overcome them.

Practice staying focused.
Let’s be honest: when you’re working remotely, temptation is everywhere. It’s not always easy to choose what you have to do over what you want to do. Fortunately, discipline and time management can be learned. The first step to staying focused is to acknowledge that you are not immune to temptation. No matter how much you love doing your job, or how great your time management skills are in the office, sooner or later you’ll find something you’d rather do than work and there won’t be anyone there to remind you that if you don’t meet this deadline you’ll have a problem. Maybe establishing a reward system for staying on task will help you focus, or maybe surrounding yourself with snacks is the key – it may take some trial and late nights to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. The good news is, the more you practice good habits, the easier they are to maintain.

Come up for air.
On the flip side, you may find that you get so wrapped up in your work without typical office distractions to tear you away that you forget to move, or eat, or be a human being throughout the day. Again, you need to find a time management strategy that works for you, but I can tell you what worked for me. In the early days of working remotely, I used the Aloe Bud app to remind myself to drink water, take walks, and stretch periodically throughout my day.

Set boundaries.
First, set some physical boundaries for yourself. Having a home office is one thing; turning your entire home into your office is a terrible idea. Resist the urge to check work emails from bed. Try to eat meals somewhere other than your desk – even if that’s how you did it in the office. Trust me: you need to keep some spaces in your home sacred, or you’re going to feel like you never leave work. Mental and emotional separation from your job is important for avoiding burnout, even if you love what you do.

Next, set boundaries for your time. Communicate with your boss to understand what’s expected of you – do you need to stick to a set schedule every day? How much flexibility do you have with your hours and when you take breaks? Do you need to be available through certain channels (Slack, email, etc.) during particular hours? Once you know what’s expected of you, it’s time to set expectations for your colleagues. Unless you’re being paid (handsomely) to be available 24/7, you don’t have to be, and you shouldn’t be. Don’t feel pressured to take work home with you just because you work from home.

Make your workspace a place you want to be.
There are no rules about workspace decoration when you work from home (apart from maybe building codes, depending on how crazy you want to g0) so take steps to make your workplace somewhere you want to be. Invest in a comfortable office chair, string up those fairy lights your last boss called a “fire hazard”, keep snacks in your desk drawer without fear the fear of turning your entire office into a giant ant farm by the next day (a true story for another day). Go big, because you’ve already gone home, so what choice do you have?

Occasionally leave your house.
Working remotely can be a great way to save money because you’re no longer shelling out for gas or public transportation every day. It can also turn you into a hermit. You don’t have to go somewhere new and exciting every day, but you should occasionally treat yourself to a change of scenery. Coworking spaces are great because they often offer many of the same amenities as your office would (free coffee, desk space, printing, etc.) and give you the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other remote workers in the same or different industries.

Coffee shops are another traditional spot to spend a few hours with your laptop – just make sure to buy something if you’re going to take up space for an extended period of time. If you’re a nerdy bookworm like myself, your local library is another good (and free!) space to occupy as long as you’re not taking calls. You can even work outside if you want to! Just make sure your devices are charged and you can find a shady spot where it’s not too difficult to see your screens (cleaning them ahead of time is also helpful in this situation).

Be an active participant in overcoming isolation.
Working remotely can be an isolating experience. Even if you fashion yourself a lone wolf, there will more than likely come a time when you feel lonely. Shared experience – in particular shared pain – is a powerful bonding agent among human beings. If you’ve ever had a crappy job and commiserated about it with coworkers, you know what I mean. When you’re working remotely it can be difficult to connect with your colleagues on a personal level, and your friends may not understand your experience if they’ve never been remote workers. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Start a group slack channel (of willing participants) at work to share photos of your pets. Hit up other remote workers in your area (you can find them in coworking spaces, on LinkedIn, or through friends and colleagues) and see if they want to grab coffee and work together for a few hours sometime. Make the effort to reach out to other people and develop meaningful connections. I’m an introvert so I know it’s tough, but it’s also worth it.

Remote workers of the world, what simple actions have helped you to be successful in a remote position? Share your wisdom in the comments, please.

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[Photo credit: Manny Pantoja via Unsplash]

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