Working Remotely or Not Even Remotely Working
How to test if you are suited to working from home…
It wasn’t long ago that having a Remote Working Policy meant ensuring the batteries were charged and there was nothing in the way when pointing it at your TV. Then the world changed and we all started throwing around words like flexible, agile, smart and remote. And with any step change that affects our working world, it was greeted with a mixture of suspicion and derision.
Nothing new there though, I remember when my first company decided to use emails. We had one company email address set up on the office PC and it was my job to check once in the morning and once before we all went home. And then voicemails were the next change, and my company decided we shouldn’t have them because we should be ‘accessible’ at all times and so had to answer each other’s phones after no more than three rings. (Cue a mindless exercise in blame and resentment as you got into work early and spent the first hour taking messages for everyone else).
Next came remote working and other flexible solutions. On the surface these seem like magical cures to the problems of commuter delays, overcrowded city offices and employees wasting annual leave days waiting in for that delivery that never arrives.
But how do you know if this new style of working actually works for you? We are all different creatures of different habits, and whilst for some the idea of a quiet home office sounds like heaven, for others it can be the loneliest place in the world.
Well, luckily we can help you make that decision because Ernest Hunter Green is a completely remote working company – we made that decision at the outset and we think we’ve got it just about right. It’s not worked for everyone we’ve hired, but over the last four years we have navigated our way through the various challenges and complications that remote working can throw up, and we’ve put our heads together (virtually, of course!) to come up with a checklist that everyone who is considering remote working can follow before making that decision.
- Plan your day around completing short and tangible tasks
Working alone in a quiet room can very quickly lead to clock watching and naval gazing unless you have a tangible to do list by your side. Take advantage of the fact that you are at home and add things on there like walking the dog, preparing a nice dinner or even doing the shopping, as well as your typical work projects to break up your day into bite sized and manageable pieces. Having non-work related tasks on there will give you a sense of satisfaction and progress that you may not get with the daily work projects, and that’s important for feeling a sense of achievement – however small – at the end of each day.
- Take breaks and allow yourself to be distracted at set times
In an office there are the natural pauses of the tea or cigarette break, or simply the chat with a colleague on the way to the loo. At home it is equally important to build those ‘away from your desk’ moments of positive distraction into your day. It doesn’t matter if it’s reading a cook book to plan your dinner, completing a bunch of levels on Angry Birds or phoning your mum for a chat. Those mini-breaks will recharge and revitalise you and allow you to step away – physically as well as mentally – from your office space.
- Build personal contact into your day
Whether it’s visiting a client, meeting a supplier or colleague for coffee or just getting out there and networking, it’s critical to keep a ‘real world’ element to your remote working. Too often we can slip into a Skype-based or email/phone way of building relationships, but even in a world supported by super tech, there’s no substitute for occasionally looking someone in the eyes and shaking their hand. Besides, checking in with the city hustle-bustle now and again is a good way to keep yourself connected.
- Experiment to find your perfect working ambiance
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working alone in your home. It just means working anywhere outside of a fixed office. There are hotel lounges, coffee shops, restaurants, members’ clubs and a whole host of other environments for you to explore. So get out there and see what suits your style best. The same goes for when you are at home for the day: work with the radio on, with a concert streaming on YouTube, or with your favourite 90s revision mixtape. See what gets your creative juices going the best.
- Exercise often and eat well
Embrace the end of supermarket meal deals and liquid lunches and take the opportunity to get on top of your diet and exercise routine. Not only will it make you feel physically better, but it will do wonders for your mental wellbeing. Dust off that slowcooker that you got for Christmas but never had time to use. Wave farewell to that expensive city gym membership that you never committed to, and go for a local walk/jog/swim/bike ride. Enjoy the fact that you can see where you live in daylight for once, and build a physical routine into each day.
- Flex your hours to find your own rhythm
The worst thing you can do is turn on your laptop at 8am, stare at the screen and wait for the magic to happen. Remote working means working to the hours that suit you best as an individual. If you’re a morning person, then get on it early doors and have an early lunch and exercise later. If you’re a night owl then allow yourself some flex in when you log on, knowing that you will build momentum and work later into the evening. But don’t burn the candle at both ends.
- Respect your workspace and keep it separate from your living/relaxing space
There are no office cleaners to take away your mess or do your washing up now. It’s all up to you, so respect your workspace and leave it clean at the end of each day so you are waking up to a professional and organised environment. Make a point of physically moving somewhere else when you are taking a break, having lunch or finishing for the day. Your work station should be somewhere you use productively, but equally you need to learn to walk away, close the laptop, switch off the phone, and physically leave your home office once your day is done. Sitting at your laptop flicking through emails and LinkedIn posts late at night, whilst watching TV and pretending you’re not working, doesn’t fool anyone. And more importantly it will confuse your body and mind’s ability to distinguish between focused work time and relaxed non-work time. You need those boundaries to build the structure into your day.
- Make sure your home tech is good enough
Invest in the proper equipment in order to work as effectively as if you were in an office. Remote working doesn’t mean amateur hour, and there’s nothing worse that a bad broadband or Wi-Fi signal to kill your productivity and leave you floundering and wasting the day.
- Reclaim that saved commuting time and invest it in something that makes you happy
Take advantage of the time you are saving by not being on a train every day. In reality that can mean upwards of two hours a day for most people. Use that to either get your admin done, clean the house, take the kids to school, read the papers or exercise. Don’t let that be absorbed into your working day. There are no points for being a martyr.
In conclusion, if remote working is going to work for you, then you need to become self-disciplined, structured and self-motivating. Play around with your day until you find a rhythm and style that works best for you, and then put a daily/weekly plan together that incorporates work activities and non-work activities equally, and make yourself stick to it. Find your groove and embrace your new found freedom.