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How To Make Remote Work Work For You

How to make remote work work for you

Working from home offers you far greater freedom and flexibility than the regular job. This might seem like a dream to anyone stuck in a cubicle looking on the clock and counting down the minutes until the workday is finally over. Unfortunately, the reality is not quite so simple. Anyone who wants to implement remote work and make it really work have to set clear boundaries and routines. Otherwise, things can get ugly. Below, you will find couple tips to make remote work work for you.

Remote Work Has Never Been Easier

Today, the traditional office is under heavy attack. Regular jobs in cubicles or open-spaces are beaten down by video calls, outsourcing and workers getting their shit done in coffee bars across the street. Nowadays, more and more companies use this as approach to make the work more enjoyable for their employees and also to cut their costs. Some jobs are quite well suited for this solution such as developers, designers (web, graphic, etc.) and other creative professions.

If remote work is so good, why are we talking about it only now? Well, the problem was technology. In previous decade, the technology was not on so advanced and available as it is now. Today, you can pack your notebook, phone, notepad, or whatever tool you are working with, go to near cafe or library, connect to their wifi and do the work right there. This is something our parents and parents of our parents never even dreamed before and it is all available for you.

Understand, previous generations have been raised on the idea that good work happens from 9am to 5pm. They believe that you have to sit in your cubicle from Monday to Friday. Fortunately, technology now allow you to move away from this dogma. In the past, it was luxury reserved only for the richest individuals to enjoy the freedom to work from any place. With tools such as Google Drive, GitHub, Skype, Slack and Google Hangouts, the ball is on your side of the playground.

Tips for Successful Remote Workers

Before you will try to persuade your boss to give the remote work model a try there are couple things you should do to make sure you will handle all the challenges coming with this way of work.

1. Reduce the Barriers

When you switch to remote work instead of commuting to your office you will have to face some barriers. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways how you can reduce these barriers or remove them completely to achieving success. One of the fundamental and most important ones lies in integrating systems of organization into your work process. Doing so, you will be better equipped to streamline your productivity and get your work done. In short, organization is paramount.

We often postpone organizing our work and workspace because we see it like a wasted time. We think about it as an activity taking us away from more urgent tasks that will pay bills, like meeting the deadlines we set and replying to clients emails. It is just too easy to let it go by the wayside. However, the power of getting your workspace and work in shape shouldn’t be underestimated. Strategic organization of your surroundings can increase your productivity significantly.

After years of working remotely and as freelancer, I have found that it is best to incorporate organization into each and every task you do. A messy environment, whether physical or digital, can make for a messy mind. A few seconds here and there spent on organizing your stuff will save you from frustration of looking for something you need.

That being said, it does not mean your workspace should look like an operating room with empty shelves and odor of disinfection in the air. You should customize your working environment to suit your needs and tastes. If you like things being kept in certain way, feel free to stay with it as long as it doesn’t hurt your productivity and work. If it does, you should change it.

2. Clean Up Your Workspace

Let’s stay with the topic of organization for a moment and discuss the necessity of keeping your workspace tidy. This may sound like a trivial thing, but keeping your work area clean and tidy can have tremendous effect on your productivity and overall happiness. When you work from home and your workspace is, therefore, part of your home, it can be tough keeping it organized, especially if the rest of your place is generally messy. However, that does not mean you should give it up.

In my case, I can work very well in messy space. It doesn’t distract me from things I want to get done. On the other hand, a dirty workstation is something different. My creativity and focus go to hell. If I have to dig through piles of some stuff just to find a pencil, my productivity is miles away from it peak. So even though I too have a hard time keeping my home clean, I will fight through the resistance to make sure I never pile stuff on my desk. The same thing with keeping the surrounding area clear. No matter how hard it is, the benefits will outweigh the struggle.

Just like with organization, you don’t have to become a perfectionist or a control freak when it comes to keeping your workspace. You can live in messy space full of crap and dust if you want. However, you should keep in mind that it will be you who will have to work and live there every day. How does that sound? Take a look at your workspace and ask yourself if it helps your productivity or damages it.

3. Separate Work And Home Or Not

Many remote working people find it very useful to separate work and home even if they are in the same building. In a fact, they often consider it as essential. One of the biggest issues you can face while working remotely is that the line between home and work will be blurred. For many people, it is tough to keep the two separate and somewhat balanced. One thing that can help you achieve this separation is getting out of the house and working elsewhere. Unfortunately, this option might not be always available for you.

Some people working on remote basis deal with this challenge by dedicating a special room in the house for their office. If this will not work for you or you don’t have the luxury of space, another thing to try is to create a specific work rituals that will let you know it’s time to get down to business. These rituals can be anything, from wearing certain cloth to turning on certain music. The important thing is that it must become a habit–you have to repeat it over and over again.

Another thing, if you live in a small space, is to try installing a physical divider between your workstation and your living space. This can be enough to create the boundary between your work time and free time.

Interestingly, there are some people who don’t feel that need to create a clear wall between their work and life. What’s more, these people find it even helpful when these two blend together or intertwine. I have to admit that I belong into this group. Meaning, I don’t even like to separate my free time and time for work. This is something I am very bad at. For example, when I stop working in the evening, it takes just a few minutes before my thoughts are back in business. For me, work became a habit. It is not a chore or stress anymore.

4. Communicate With Your Clients Or Team

One thing to keep in mind when you are working remotely is to keep communication flowing. A good amount of communication with your clients or company may feel unnatural. You may feel like you are bothering someone or seem too needy. That is nonsense. There is nothing like over-communicating it. Think about the regular office setting. In that situation, it would be normal for you to speak with your colleagues often during the day. Why should you feel differently about the same thing when working from remote place?

It may seem trivial, but it’s this person-to-person interaction that strengthen relationships between you and people you work with. It also enables better project communication and evokes a sense of loyalty that creates better culture and happier work environment. On a professional level, putting that extra effort into keeping in touch with your co-workers or taking some extra time to help someone in your team with his task can be glue that keeps the whole team working effectively. In such a culture, you will feel more like being a part of close community, almost a family.

Another benefit of staying in touch and reaching out as much as you can is that it adds value to your working relationships. In normal setting, your manager knows exactly what you are working on and when you are working on it. In a remote setting, however, your colleagues may have no idea when you are working on something unless you tell them. This can have unpleasant consequences you would never think about. Don’t make your client or boss contact you first to make sure you are still working for him. Do yourself a favor and keep him updated.

To make your remote work easier, arrange a schedule for giving your boss or client regular updates about your work. Good communication also includes messaging when you are not working. This may seem silly, but it will keep the communication open and everyone will be on the same page. This kind of regular interaction is has significant outcomes and creates better community culture.

5. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

If you are not fan of to-do lists, kanban or any other productivity tools, you are not alone. There are only couple things more dreadful than trying to get that one item done while being completely exhausted. This is a problem most of productivity tools are not dealing with. They are trying to help you manage your task instead of managing your energy levels. If the idea of managing your energy versus your time inexplicably inspires a sigh of relief, you are on the same boat.

When you think about it, managing your energy makes sense because it’s something you can control. On the other hand, time is something different. We see it either as an ally or enemy, depending on current situation. What’s more, time is a finite resource. If you spent one hour doing one thing, you cannot take it back whereas energy can always be recharged or “created”. So, even if you waste your energy on a task that had no significant benefit, you can recharge your “batteries” and work on something else. The takeaway is simple. Manage your energy, not time.

If you have no idea where to start, here is a suggestion. Create a couple of simple rituals that helps you relax and give you energy. These rituals can be 15-minute walks or listening to your favorite music. Anything is great as long as it doesn’t drain energy. Next step is to inset these tiny rituals between block of time dedicated to work, or doing them any time when your energy reservoirs will be depleted. Although it may feel like a bad thing to go away from work, these short breaks will get your blood flowing, increase oxygen to your brain and significantly increase your energy.

6. Take Pride In Your Work

How do you think about your work? What do you feel after when the job is done and your work is ready to go out? If you feel satisfied and happy, that’s great. Remember that it is important to applaud yourself for a job well-done as it is to do the job well. You should celebrate every time this will happen. Reason for doing this is that the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that you achieve when you acknowledge all your efforts will reinforce your subconscious to keep up the speed and continue checking the rest of tasks on your list.

It is important for anyone interested in remote work to understand how acknowledgment of your successes can affect performance and productivity. So, every time when you finish a big task, celebrate your accomplishment. And, don’t do it in solitude. Share your happiness with your colleagues, client or people in your social network and encourage them to do the same. There are already hundreds of people who ridicule or humiliate others. Don’t be that guy or gal.

For the more silent folks, when it comes to celebrating your achievements, you don’t have to feel bad. Unless you are overdoing it, taking pride in work of someone else or being fake, you will not be perceived negatively. Quite the opposite. When you share your achievement and happiness it brings, many people will find it motivational and try to achieve some feat as well. Why do you thing people find it helpful reading about success, be it losing weight or getting higher salary?

If you still find it uncomfortable to celebrate and share your achievements, no matter the arguments above, there is something you should consider. Every time you share a piece of something you’ve created, you are also showing (not showing off) your skills to potential clients or people who may be looking for hiring someone like you. So, instead of bragging, think about sharing your work like about creating opportunities for future.

7. Play and Flow

I understand. You are a hard-working high achiever[]. Remote or not, you work from Monday to Sunday, from January to December. I am on the same boat. However, that doesn’t mean you should not take a while here or there and invest it in play. What do I mean by play? Well, this subject is a bit more difficult than it might seem at first. When you love your job, a state of “play” comes naturally. In this situation, active engagement with your work leads you to creative, fun and healthy challenges that are both, satisfactory and also productive.

In other words, you are still working hard even though you find it pleasant and even recharging your energy. This results in what researches in the fields of psychology and neuroscience refer to as state of flow. When we are in the flow, we are so immersed in what we are doing in the present moment that we lose self-consciousness. One of the “symptoms” of flow is a dilation of time. It is this state where our best work is born. When we are “in the zone”, we are completely focused on our activity in the moment not caring about anything else, even food.

But what if this sense of play is not coming naturally to you? Well, there are steps you can make to improve your chances of entering this state. First, you have to find a challenge. It should be something that you enjoy doing, but not too easy. Second, develop your skills in order to be able to meet the challenge. Third, you have to set clear goals. Be absolutely clear on what you want to achieve and also how you will know whether you’re succeeding. Fourth, focus completely on the task at hand and eliminate all other distractions.

Keep in mind that it can take some time before you get into the state of flow. So, make sure to set aside enough time to reach it. If you still find it hard to get into the flow, you should check your emotions. You will have the best chance to get into flow state when you are relaxed. If you are angry, nervous or worried, try something to calm yourself down. Read some book, talk with friend or just get on fresh air.

8. Get Some People Time

The last thing I recommend you to do is to schedule some time for going out and talking with people face-to-face. After spending whole day immersed in work on your computer, there is nothing so refreshing as being around people you like. You don’t even have to talk, just listen to them and enjoy their company. Keeping some time aside for meeting with people in-person will help you stay sane and motivated in the long run. Remember, you live only once.

Closing thoughts on make remote work work for you

Is remote work the best thing for everyone? Not at all. Some people are not built for this kind of approach and find it easier and more comfortable to work from their office. However, remote work can work very well for other ones. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the only way to find out whether it will work for you is by giving it a shot and trying it on your own.

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