Working remotely can have great benefits to you and the ones you love. You get to spend more time at home and spend more time with your family and the people who mean the most to you. Instead of spending hours commuting to and from a workplace, you can use your time more effectively. Being freed up from the rigors of commuting and dealing with office life results in more time to be used in ways you wouldn’t have been able to imagine before.
Unfortunately, not all utopian dreams last long. There are many problems with working remotely. Lots of issues arise when you work from home that would not be a worry if you were working in an office. It only takes some construction in your neighborhood or a neighbor firing up a leaf-blower in the garden next door or to cause havoc with your remote meeting schedule. Toddlers can burst into the room at the wrong time and pets can ruin a meeting that is make-or-break. How do you navigate the pitfalls to success when you are working from home or from a hotel room?
Remote work is the new normal. The global pandemic disrupted the way we thought about working generally and the major and most obvious change has been the commute to work. We are no longer expected to travel long distances into the office all the time. Working a few days a week from home or even working completely remotely has become a usual business practice.
If you are working from home or are traveling there are a few things that can make your remote working experience easier.
Manage your Time. When you work in an office there are set working times that you are expected to attend. When you are not in an office it is easy to let your time run away with you. It can be used in other ways when things distract you. Time is valuable and you can’t get more of it. There are a finite amount of hours in a day. This means you have to have excellent time management skills when you are working away from an office environment.
Treat your desk at home like your desk at the office. It takes mental discipline to recategorize a part of your home to a mini work space. But this shift in attitude will make all the difference. If you get out of bed, and go through your morning routine of coffee, shower, breakfast, workout, (whatever is it for you) and then would come the time to go to work. Ok, so ... go to work! It just takes less time to get there. That's all. Go through all the same motions as you would before when you were commuting to an office — get dressed and be ready for the day. This will sort of force you into a mental state of "ready for work". But if you roll out of bed, gulp a cup of reheated microwave coffee, and stumble over to your laptop in your pajamas, well, you're not ready for work, are you? You wouldn't show up to the office like that, would you? No. Treat your home-office with the same respect and discipline as you would treat the office-office.
Section off work time. Clearly setting aside hours for work means you have a schedule that you stick to. Rather than just working till you get tasks done or leaving it until the last minute when you will have to work two long days of overtime in the week, it is better to work steadily and effectively. If you don’t section off time for work you could be in for some nasty surprises and mistakes.
Use alarms and alerts on your diary and phone to keep track of meetings and deadlines. Having an alert system stops mistakes and forgetting where you are supposed to be. If you are in the garden doing some “research on your laptop” in the sunshine and suddenly realize you are supposed to be on a zoom call with your team members you could cause problems for yourself and others. A late entry to a meeting (or even worse — forgetting completely) is not the behavior of a trusted team member.
Take clear breaks. Sound the alarm when it's time for a break. When you aren’t working in an office you might skip lunch or forget that it is midday. The hours can go by quickly when you have no outside distractions and when that happens sometimes people forget to eat lunch or take a break. Breaks are very important to your well-being and you wouldn’t be expected to forgo breaks in an office.
Pick a definitive finish time. Make sure to schedule when you are done for the day. This is also very important. Just as important as turning up on time is setting a time to end the day. Without that end time, you can get caught up in constant late hours and this can affect your mental health as well as stress affecting your physical well-being.
Internet access needs to be excellent. Working remotely is dependant on technology. You can’t send a big file to the team via carrier pigeon or US mail. You need to be connected with as fast a connection as possible. This enables you to keep in contact with the rest of the team. Without lighting fast net access you won’t be able to join video call meetings without glitches or cutouts. If you are in the middle of a presentation and your internet is glitchy, it could seriously hamper your chances of success. People find patchy communication annoying. It starts to grate at the nerves after a while when you have to keep repeating yourself. Communication is based on having the ability to receive and understand the ideas being communicated by the other parties concerned. If one of the people in the conversation is unintelligible, even if it is due to technology constraints, it causes a fractious scene that can be frustrating for all.
Note: If you are working from home and internet speed is a problem, try reaching out to your office manager and asking for some help. There might be a remote-work budget set aside to take care of that for you.
Set goals for yourself. Setting goals gives you something to work towards. It also helps you to schedule your time effectively. Time management is key to the success of working remotely. Setting goals with smaller incremental task goals gives you a good overall look at where you are with regards to all the jobs you need to get done. Use this overall view as a master plan to achieve success in whatever endeavor you embark on. Putting them up on a board is very useful but when working in a space like a hotel room or business lounge using a notepad or even a scheduling system on your laptop can be helpful too.
Look after your physical health. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair or worse, sitting on the couch with your favorite show on the tv in the background while you work is not a good move. Your posture is not correct and you will end up hurting yourself. You also need to concentrate on the tasks at hand, no matter how well you think you multitask.
Get enough sleep. Working remotely can play havoc with your sleep patterns. Jet lag when traveling is one thing but it is also possible to end up with sleep patterns that knock you out of kilter if you stay up late at night because you don’t have to drive to work in the morning. Make sure you are rested during the workweek.
No matter where you are working from, it is essential to create an effective working environment so that you can do your best. Setting yourself up for success entails taking control of the way you work rather than just reacting to tasks that are handed over to you.