Remote Working Rules!
No commute, noisy coworkers or set office hours. Remote working means you can be much more focused and productive. Instead of spending time stuck in traffic you can be working, or doing other things. You avoid the interruptions from co-worker gossip, a birthday shout or your boss’s impromptu meetings. Your schedule can be flexed around other activities, not being bound by office hours. Going for a run in the sunshine in the middle of the day in winter, when it is dark before or after normal office hours, is one benefit I really value in working remotely.
So by working remotely you’re powering through your work, uninterrupted, focused and finishing two-three hours earlier a day? Yeah right! Unfortunately remote work is not always a utopia of focus and deeply concentrated work. Some days I can distract myself (I can’t blame the co-workers or boss) and get to the end of the day with that nagging feeling that I should have got more done.
Here are some tips I’ve found that have help me keep focused when working remotely:
1. Lonely at Home Alone
The thing about remote work for extroverts like me is that we find it lonely working at home alone. We crave a little social contact. Social contact is easy to find in an office. You’ve heard the sarcastic saying — if you’re lonely then call a meeting. When working remotely you can get a substitute for social contact through Facebook, LinkedIn, chat forums and so on…
But what starts as a quick check of a friend’s post suddenly ends up in 30 minutes gone watching videos of cats trying to fit in boxes. Some light relief but something you’d never do at the office in case someone walked past and saw you weren’t working.
Tip: Avoid the temptation by killing your social media notifications, chats, and forums. Organise once a day a face-to-face coffee meeting with a real person or a virtual coffee — Skype call catch-up.
2. Blurring Boundaries
The advantage of remote work is the flexibility to work whenever and wherever, without being locked into an office or office hours. The disadvantage is that you can end up working all hours, day and night, and your work goes everywhere with you. There is no longer the feeling of “I’ve done a day’s work and now work is finished and I can go home” when you are already at home.
Tip: Creating some physical boundaries between the home office and home. Try to keep your work in one physical space, e.g. an office or a particular corner of the living area. Ideally a space where you can shut the door physically, or even just mentally.
3. Create Headspace
It is mentally taxing to be working all the time. The brain needs time off to recover and refresh. I’m sure you’ve noticed that your best ideas come when you are not thinking about work — in the shower or going for a run. Creative work requires headspace and this means time away from thinking about the mundane minutiae.
It is easy when working remotely to think about work more often. There isn’t a set time you stop working, especially if you do short bursts here or there over the evenings and weekends. It also means that you are not really focusing on your family, friends or other activity if you are glancing at an email every now and again.
Tip: While you don’t need to create rigid office hours, try to set times for work and non-work. Set a time to stop and wrap up your work for the day neatly by taking 5 minutes at the end of the day to write down three things that you’ve achieved today, and three things you want to work on tomorrow. The psychological closure will help you switch off from work.
Working remotely has many advantages but also comes with challenges. Remote work is an opportunity to focus and power through the work leading to more time for non-work life. A few rules will help you keep to focused so you enjoy the benefits of the freedom remote working brings.