Self awareness and how it will fundamentally shape your success as a remote worker
There are several misconceptions that people may have when it comes to remote working.
The most common misconception I hear when they bring up remote working is the pyjamas wearing, daytime tv watching lifestyle, that's very much far from the truth. I can't speak for everyone but I can speak about the community of remote workers that I know and I can tell you that we work harder than we ever did in an office environment.
The reasons for this? We don't have the usual social distractions that we would in a shared office. We also don't have a dreaded commute to an office every day. Generally, we have more energy because of this and if we have refined our routine, we can squeeze in a brisk walk or a yoga workout in between our day. Of course, this is not always the case. What I've explained above usually occurs when a remote worker has a heightened sense of self-awareness, feels supported in their work and understands what works for them. Being honest, these aspects of your working day usually come from a mixture of trial and error, so I wanted to share some key learnings and best practices below.
YOU are your productivity hack. Tapping into yourself and understanding the following is vital in order to succeed as a remote worker:
When am I at my most productive? Is it at 7 am or 7 pm? Understanding this allows you to get the most complicated tasks done when you're feeling your best.
How can I design a workspace in my home that's comfortable, that I enjoy and that inspires me? Your workspace doesn't have to necessarily be an office, it can be any space within your home. Make sure you feel comfortable working there and you dedicate your working day there. Try your best not to work from your couch or your bed. This is not productive and makes 'switch-off time' even more difficult.
Get dressed every morning. Brush your hair, and feel good. If you're having calls with your peers or team at work, your camera should be turned on for body language purposes (see my communication research in my blog for more on that).
Experiment with what, when, how, and where you are most productive. Remote working is a very individualized way to work. I know some people schedule a 'morning commute' to their local coffee shop so they are getting out for fresh air first thing in the morning. I know others that take one day a week to work from a co-working space so that they are surrounded by like-minded individuals, can have those water cooler chats and get out of the house for the day. Figure out what works best for you.
Understanding the Remote Burnout
The reality of remote working is that people sometimes find it hard to switch off. Consider individuals who work across various time zones. In order to do so, you must be available throughout the standard 9-5. As a remote worker, understanding what you can do to make sure you're switching off from work accordingly and distressing throughout the day is important. For example, what do you do for lunch? It's easy to make something quickly and reply to emails whilst you eat, right? Personally the only time I do this is when I've taken an hour lunch to do some exercise or a yoga class and get back to work. Whether it's the gym, a walk, a nap, or meeting a friend for coffee. Try to schedule in some time in the day where you're not staring at your screens.
Ask yourself, when is the last time I left the house or interacted with someone other than the people/family I live with? Remote working can be lonely and when you're so engrossed in your projects and professional life, it can be easy to forget about life outside of your laptop. Understanding the ways in which remote working can dramatically improve the quality of your life and use it to your advantage. The commute you used to drive every morning, what can you now use that time to do apart from working? Meditation perhaps, making a wholesome delicious breakfast?
Finally, understanding that if you don't switch off, you'll burn out, eventually. When you have downtime from your work scheduled, it's important to remove all aspects of work from your technology. For example, remove Slack from your phone. Disconnect your emails from your iPad on the holidays. This may be easier if you have a dedicated work phone, of course, switch it off and leave it in a drawer. Just because you work remotely, doesn't mean you have to be constantly available.
I hope some of these points have helped or given you food for thought when it comes to remote working. I'd love to hear your individual hacks and learnings for when it comes to remote working below.