Ok first of all this is my first article with using a clickbait title. I wanted to see for myself what difference it made.
And now back to the topic: Since I have been working remotely for about 2 years now I wanted to share some of my experiences. As well as things that I could have done better when starting and things that went well from the beginning.
Why do I work remotely?
It came out of necessity. Having a child with severe sleep issues we needed more family help. So we wanted to move near parts of our family.
Changing the employer was out of the question since I really liked it there and working remotely with the team seemed possible.
After many discussions, we came to an agreement and we moved.
Luckily I already had some experience having a remote work setup. During my university time, I already enjoyed doing my learnings at home. As well as doing some freelance work from home.
Therefore I really knew what I was up to and if I would be able to keep myself motivated.
Also, the COVID-19 crisis didn't bring much of a surprise for my way of working. The only (well, that's a big thing, actually) additional thing to take care of was the now-missing day-care for our first-born.
Here's what you should know
At first here is the list of what I think are the most positive things about working remotely:
- No commute - It really saves you a lot of time you can have with your family (and for side-projects).
- More freedom on how to structure your day - Apart from having meetings you could even work at night if that suits you.
- Having more time for family - related to the missing commute, but not only.
- Being more productive - That's only true if you can keep distractions to a minimum, though.
There are downsides as well:
- It will be more difficult connecting to the team, especially if it's a partly remote team
And now the things the topic promised:
1. Be prepared
You should prepare yourself for working at home. Where do you want or are you able to do your work? Can you get a quiet spot somewhere? When will you do the work? What do you need to work effectively? How are you going to get food and when? What's about your family? Since I was already used doing work from home I already knew the answers to most of these questions. Sometimes you just have to try, though.
2. Get a room
If it's in any way possible you should create a workplace in a separate room. If that's not possible you can also use the bedroom, for example. As long as you can manage to get some quiet time and some space for a desk in this room, everything is ok. Well, if using the bedroom you should be able to mentally separate "working time" and "free time", too!
3. Get a standing desk
I know this might be an issue, especially if you're short on space or do not want or are not allowed to work from home permanently. There are desk covers enhancing your desk to be converted into a standing desk. But even sth. small like a portable laptop desk might help. Many things you can build on your own via DYI as well. Now, I hear you saying "But why would I need that?". It helps you to change the position. Instead of sitting down all the time get up with your desk and stand. Your back will thank you in the end!
4. Make a daily schedule
While when working from home with children this might not always be actionable, at least it helps you to have some orientation on what you want to do and when, today. So in the evening make a plan for the next day about what and (more or less) when you want and have to do the upcoming day. Don't forget to plan time for relaxation as well as having food. Many people forget eating and taking breaks when starting to work remotely.
5. Reduce the pressure
If you're anything like me you might put much of a pressure on yourself getting things done fast and efficiently. While being more effective often can be true for working remotely there are no guarantees. Either working from home just isn't your thing or there are things you can't control. Like kids being at home and you having to take of them somehow while doing your work. Or just not having the right equipment or space. In such a case, take a step back and be happy with what you are able to do without thinking so much about what you could have achieved.
6. Use timebox techniques like Pomodoro
Well, time-boxed not only useful for working at home but it helps with a few things:
- Getting into "work mood"
- Keep concentrated on one task even though there might be distractions
- Keeping track of what you did for how long
- Preventing you from getting sucked into a topic too deeply. So you can realize if you might be wasting time more early.
Using Pomodoro on a regular basis definitely was something I started after quite some time and it helped a lot.
7. Avoid meetings if possible
Having remote meetings can be even more stressful than being at an on-site meeting. In my opinion, there are three reasons for this:
- You have to concentrate more: on the screen and trying to get the people's body language via mostly seeing their faces.
- Remote meetings often take longer than necessary. This might become getter over time, though. And it helps to stick to an agenda.
- You can easily get distracted on your PC if you have other communication channels open.
Actually I'm always tempted to skip almost any meeting... Of course, that's not possible and not good, either.
8. Get an external monitor, keyboard and mouse
9. Keep track of your work
This should include keeping track of what you did and, and IMHO that's important, of what you have learned.
Out of two reasons, keep track of your work:
- For yourself to see what you did and what you learned each day
- For your employer, so he can see what you did (and you got something to prove if there ever should be any doubt)
This is something I adopted to quite recently.
10. Don't forget to exercise
Since commuting often implies getting some exercise because you're moving you will have to replace that activity somehow. So having breaks to do some smaller exercises as well as getting out and do active walking or running should be part of your daily schedule.
Having little children and not enough sleep most of the time it proved quite difficult to do a real workout on a regular basis. But I managed to get a great walk every day, at least.
11. Separate between "working time" and "living time"
As mentioned earlier you should learn to separate the time you are doing work from the time you're spending with your family or for yourself. Most of the time you're probably doing great so you don't have to always think about work. Or even do longer hours because you seem to have the time now or it seems to be appropriate. It really is important to have time for yourself and getting some rest! While I don't think you always have to have the same schedule or should never do work if you have, i. e. an idea, you should at least ask yourself if it really is necessary. And don't let work "eat you up"!
12. Think about prospects
Working remote does not necessarily mean working from home. So you could (at post-corona times) try working from a café, co-working spaces or even when travelling.
If you're looking for tools you can use for remote work here's a shortlist of some sources and tools: