The World is Your Office: How to effectively work remotely
The phrase “working remotely” has been tossed around, chewed up, and spat out a little too frequently in the modern workforce. This is really the first generation that considers working remotely a right and not a perk of the job, but along with that expectation has come a lot of different versions of what working remotely looks like. As someone who was homeschooled, took a lot of online college classes, and now work at a company where I work remotely on a regular basis, I can confidently tell you that most people don’t quite get how it works.
Facts about remote work that no one ever told you
Before going into how to effectively work remotely, let’s go over the hard facts of the matter. If you don’t understand the full implications of working remotely, you’ll likely never be able to do it yourself. Here’s what you need to know straight up:
- Working remotely is not for everyone.
I stand by this. Working remotely requires first and foremost, a healthy dose of self motivation. If you are not the self-disciplined type, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective employee. But working remotely will likely not work for you.
- Working remotely requires training.
The common misconception here is that working remotely is no different than working in an office, you’re just doing it at home, which means everyone should just know how to do it. Not true. There are some of us that naturally know how to work remotely, but I would say most people need some kind of training. The reality is that remote work is not the same as office work, even if you’re doing the same tasks.
- It does not require more work; it require different work.
I have heard people who took online classes with me say that working remotely ends up meaning more work for them. This is often because they’re still trying to do it the same way they do in-person classes. Once again, remote work is different. It doesn’t require more work from you, unless you’re not doing it right. What changes for you is your mindset. It’s the idea that you will not have anyone holding your hand. You work at your own pace. You won’t need to formally attend class, which saves time, but will spend that additional time reading or researching, so it evens out. The work is different. Not more. Not harder. Just different.
Keys to effectively working remotely
All right, now that we cleared up the facts about remote work, there are a few keys to success that may not be as readily apparent as you’d think. Let’s start with the obvious ones.
- Stay organized.
This is best practice for any kind of work, but it is essential for remote work. Not just to ensure that you are working efficiently, but also to keep your track record documented. If you’re ever in a position where you’re being accused of not working, you will have documented proof to back yourself up.
- Be in constant and thorough communication with your team.
For the same reason as point 1, communication is essential to manage the perception of others that you are indeed working. You could be working your butt off at home, but if you don’t communicate that to your office, how are they supposed to know you aren’t just playing Battlefield all day? Let your team know what you’re working on, when it’s done, and if you need anything from them. Stay in touch with office communication that doesn’t directly involve you, and chime in to let your team know that you are still with them.
Ok, now let’s move on to the not-so-obvious keys:
- Operate off of a company internal software that can help keep track of the work you’ve done.
Maybe this one is a given, but just in case it’s not, having some kind of internal software that everyone has access to, that keeps track of all the work done and the work that is pending, will help you know what needs done even though you are not in the office. If you are in management, you can see what your team is working on, and won’t need to turn into a micromanager who spams their employees with one sentence emails asking if stuff is done.
- Ditch the home office.
You may cry foul on this one, but hear me out. Creating a home office puts you in the mindset you would have if you were working at your actual office. If this is what you need to stay focused, then by all means, have one. But I found that working in a home office was actually counter-productive. One of the main reasons we like to work remotely is for our own comfort. Working on my couch, or at a coffee shop, is much more comfortable, and therefore I can work longer hours. A home office just feels claustrophobic and austere. As though I’m trying to recreate the office experience. If you want that, just go to your company’s office downtown . . .
- Mix up your work hours.
This is another one I expect some push back on, but again, hear me out. You are not in an office. Stop trying to kid yourself by establishing the same rules that you would have in an office. Working remotely requires a completely different mindset. It’s a different environment, and should be treated as such. Again, if you work best by having set hours, then power to you, but I wouldn’t recommend having set hours while working remotely. You’re better off working in increments. Of course, I’d argue we should probably be doing this in the office too, but when you’re working remotely, it’s kind of just the way it goes. Let go of the standard work hours, and trust me you will notice lower stress levels and higher productivity.
- Find what works for you.
I’ve been saying it all through the article, so I may as well have a formal bullet point for it. Working remotely is all about finding your own effective way of working, and running with it. If you work better with music playing, then blow out your headphones with that Demi Lovato single. If you work best in the evening, then sleep until noon and plug away to the wee hours of the morning. Don’t force yourself to work in a way that bores you, stresses you, or even just makes you uncomfortable. You may have to on occasion depending on your job, but you shouldn’t have to make a habit of working in a way that makes you hate everything that moves.