Remote work is becoming very common, not just for freelancers but for full-time employees as well. There are even start-ups popping up that cater specifically to remote work. We will talk about the impact of remote work on employee well-being in future posts. Today, I want to share the tricks and tips I’ve learned as a remote employee.
Setting up a workspace that makes you comfortable is one of the most important things in ensuring your success as a remote employee. Many people like to have a separate room set up as an office for their work day. However, that’s not possible for many people, like myself. Living in an expensive part of L.A., space comes with a hefty price tag. But I still make it work with what I have in my 1 bedroom apartment. The amount of space you have is less important than the type of space. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Do you have enough natural light? I find having a window near my desk really helps with my mental state and my awareness of what’s happening in the world around me. It’s very easy to get sucked into your work at home and not realize what time of day it is!
- Are you surrounding yourself with distractions? I think it’s really important to try to find a space that’s slightly removed from the main living area. My desk is in the living room but I placed it off to the side near the window. There are no hallways or walking areas, the tv is not in front of me, and there is no direct view of the living space without having to turn my head. Personally, that helps me focused and not get distracted when my boyfriend might be doing something around the house.
- Is your chair comfortable? Make sure that the chair you choose is comfortable and will allow you to sit without pain while working throughout the day. Obviously, for your health, you should stand and move around throughout the day. However, you do need a chair that is supportive and comfortable for the number of hours you will spend in it.
- Is your desk set-up comfortable and functional? I have a very tiny desk. But it works for me because I have set-up that allows me to have a decent amount of working room. I have drawers and shelves that keep unnecessary items out of the way when I’m not using them. Having a smaller desk does require me to keep it more organized but it works for me. Make sure your desk and your set-up work for you. Are you comfortable when you are typing? Do you have wrist support? Can you see your monitor(s) without straining your eyes or your neck? Think about what makes your workspace pleasant and comfortable for you. I always need to have my water or tea close by so making room for it is important on my desk. I also like to keep chapstick and a phone charger easily accessible. This may not be important to some but it helps me. Take the time to figure out what makes your experience at your desk more comfortable and make it happen!
Creating a routine is also very important for many people working from home. Personally, I don’t need a routine for most of my day but the mornings are pretty important. Creating a morning routine helps get you ready for your day. When working in an office, everyone has to get ready for work and then commute. At home, you have the luxury of waking up at work! However, there is something to be said about preparing for your day to get yourself ready and focused. This is an area I know I can improve in.
My routine is pretty simple right now but I am trying to be more effective in creating that time and space for myself. I wake up, refill my water bottle, and spend some time reading headlines (I recommend The Skimm for those short on time). That helps me get my brain going so I can dive into emails first thing.
I have heard from others that taking the time to get ready in the morning is still helpful when they work from home. It doesn’t make a difference for me but if you are having trouble focusing on work in the morning, try creating a more elaborate routine. Make coffee and have breakfast. Workout. Get dressed and do your hair. Just like creating a workspace that works for you, create a morning routine that gets you energized for your day.
One thing that can be difficult when working from home is the lack of “water cooler” talk with your coworkers. It makes it harder to get to know your team and make connections. I think it’s incredibly important to make those connections to feel a part of the team and organization.
One thing that has worked for me is ensuring I set up meetings more often than is necessary. I know that sounds counter-intuitive since you want to be efficient with your time and productive in your meetings. However, I have found that instead of writing a long email, it sometimes makes sense to make a quick call or set up a 15 minute meeting. It doesn’t have to be long but having that phone time can really help. How often do you just get to the point in an email without asking someone how they are doing? On the phone, you are more likely to have some small talk before diving into the topic at hand. Make the effort to take a few minutes for small talk on your calls. Ask people how they are doing or what they did over the weekend. Engage with the person and you’ll be surprised how quickly you can build strong relationships with team members that you never physically see.
Changing Your Environment
Even with phone calls and meetings, working at home can get lonely at times. It’s important to change your setting when you feel that way. When I don’t have meetings in the afternoon, I’ll often go work at a coffee shop. Flexibility is a great perk with remote work. Take advantage! If you feel like you need some interaction with people, go to lunch with a friend, sit at a coffee shop, or take a break for a workout class. People do these things when they work in offices too. Don’t feel tied to your computer. It’s ok if you take a break to settle into a new environment or get the interaction you need to recharge.
Most people ask me how I get things done when I’m working from home. How am I not getting distracted by other things to do? Surprisingly, in my experience, it’s actually very easy to have the opposite problem – getting too focused that you work longer hours than are necessary.
It’s important to set boundaries for yourself. Set your hours, just like you might in an office. When you get to the end of your day, walk away from your desk. It can be really easy to keep working to finish something or get ahead for the next day, but try not to do that. Most people wouldn’t sit in the office all night (hopefully) so don’t do that at home. Disconnect and balance your life just like you would as an onsite employee. There will be exceptions to this when there’s a strict deadline or other reason why you may work late, but don’t make this the norm. It can be hard to disconnect or not come back to the work later in the evening when your office is right there. Make it a personal goal to limit your work hours and focus on the other fulfilling things in your life. Don’t let work take over your life and make your remote working experience an extremely stressful one.
Enjoy the Flexibility!
Find a routine and process that works for you but don’t forget to take advantage of the flexibility you’ve been awarded with this type of work environment. Take the time you aren’t using on a commute to do something for yourself and this experience will be so rewarding that you’ll never want to go back to an office again!
Do you work from home? What tips do you have to share? What other issues are you facing that you’d like to hear my thoughts on?