Working remotely: to some, these are shining words of magical freedom. To others, a reality of isolation in dark rooms brings involuntary cringing. After working remotely on and off for more than eight years, I currently work 100% with no actual “office”. Let me tell you, as with most things in life, working remotely is exactly what you make of it. However, here are some tips I’ve learned after years of struggle. Read, learn, and take what pieces of advice you can.
1. Know your sleep schedule, then set your hours.
If you have the freedom and ability to set your own hours, then do so! Most people inherently know if they are morning people (or not). If you wake up early and are gung-ho to start the day, then make sure you throw in the towel before it gets dark out. If you alternatively are up until 4am working, maybe you should sleep past lunch and only work during your most productive hours, even if they’re late at night. Knowing and accepting your body clock, or chronotype won’t change that much in a short amount of time, but it is key to discovering your most productive self. Even if you’re only able to shift your workday an hour or so in either direction, do it now and thank me later.
2. Set physical boundaries.
Separate your living and working areas. Don’t work from bed and try to set-up your workspace in an entirely separate room. Preferably, make sure you have a comfortable chair, a quiet place to take phone calls (away from a crying baby or barking dog) and reliable Internet. Let your family and friends know that you’re working and shouldn’t be disturbed for anything other than emergencies. Being strict with your time while working allows you to work less hours. You will be more productive and efficient!
3. Set mental boundaries.
When you sit down to work, actually work. Don’t check your social media accounts, don’t watch random youtube clips, and don’t call your friends. You can go crazy with distractions after work. While working, make sure you stick to your tasks for the day, interact with any coworkers you may have, finish projects and get through your thousands of emails that are piling up. If you set a mental boundary that work time is allocated to your professional life, you’ll be able to keep your work and personal lives much more separate.
4. Talk a walk or go on a lunch date: Get out.
You’re human, so you need to eat so make sure you stop and grab lunch. Better yet, if you have some extra time, invite a friend or coworker to join you. Stopping to take a short break and unplug during the day is one of the hardest things I deal with on a daily basis. I still haven’t perfected stopping enough to walk my dog, but it’s all about the baby steps. Maybe you do yoga or love to bike- so try that! Take advantage of your flexible schedule and make sure to engage socially or physically in the middle of your work day.
By far, this has been the hardest tip for me to master. It helps if you have a spouse or housemate who can hold you to your word, but stopping at a certain time is extremely important. Make sure to keep your work bounded by certain hours and not check your email during “off hours” if that’s an option for you. Unlike most people who go to an office, you’re creating your own “off hours”, so make sure you know when it’s time to really clock out. Not working weekends is a recent revelation that has allowed me to feel more rejuvenated when I turn-on my computer, excited to work, on those dreary Monday mornings.