When you think of remote work, what do you picture? Sitting in a coffee shop all day sipping a cup of joe? Stumbling from your bedroom to the office five minutes before work starts? Skipping through fields of daisies gathering nuts in May when you should be working? Two out of three isn’t bad.
Yes, remote work has its perks but it’s not all fairy tales and camp songs in the Hundred Acre Wood.
(Warning: There may be Winnie the Pooh references. I’m a father of a nine-month-old, it is my life right now.)
Don’t get me wrong, being able to work from home has been a blessing for me and my small family. I am able to work for an awesome company, doing what I love to do, and still stay close to family. That being said, remote work is not for everyone. It takes a certain personality to successfully work from home. The rest of us need all the help we can get. The following is what I’ve learned so far:
(Disclaimer: I’ve only been working remotely for six months. Any wisdom contained herein is purely accidental or plagiarized.)
1. Get up in the morning.
Like, actually get up. Make yourself ready for the day before you start work. This sounds obvious, but it’s harder than you think. When I first started, I just stumbled across the hall in time for meetings in the morning and then got to work. This lasted for a few months. Then I found that if I actually get ready for the day (shower, teeth, breakfast…) I focus better. This includes getting dressed for work. (At least from the waist up because sweatpants rock.)
Meetings happen. And sometimes they happen out of the blue, or you forgot about them. The less time you make your coworkers wait while you put on a shirt and do your hair, the better. Making them wait only reminds them that you are at home and they are not.
2. Be super organized.
It starts with writing everything down, putting dates in your calendar. Being organized will help you stay on task and will prevent you from being late to a meeting or missing a deadline. (Like, for example, this blog post that was due last Friday.)
Can you have a one-word sentence? Yes! Why? ‘Cause English.
When John first hired me as a contractor for Lemonly, he told me that I was the first developer that they had worked with remotely and that, as such, I would need to make sure to over-communicate. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. Now, six months later, I do. You are not in the office. Your coworkers can’t look up and see you across the room. They need to be able to know when they can and can’t get a hold of you.
4. Know where, when, and how you work best.
Everyone works best at different points in the day. I myself am worthless before lunch. (This doesn’t mean I’m not getting things done, John, but my best work is usually after a hearty PB&J.) If you need to work weird hours, try to make most of your hours overlap with your coworkers in the office so they can communicate with you. Make sure they know your hours. (See #3.) Also, know when to stop. It’s easy to work more than your eight hours when you don’t have a commute.
Make sure you keep to your schedule and shut down at the end of the day. No sneaking back into your office for a “quick 30 minutes.” Also, if you feel burnt out, get out of your office. Go outside. Go for a run. Clear your head.
I’m a bit of a dork. I’ll admit it. I have a dry sense of humor. That doesn’t communicate very well through Slack. I find myself using emojis to make sure people know I’m joking during our work conversations. They really need to make a Sarcastises button… emoji… something! You also don’t get as much feedback on your work as you would if you were in office. Push your projects. Show off a little bit. Then don’t expect a parade. Just know they are basking in the glory of your creation back at the home office.
7. Learn all the things!
8. Read a real article or two about working remotely.
This article by Anna Washenko (no relation) has some really good practical advice on working from home. You don’t like this one? Look up another one. After reading this, you may say to yourself, “Man! This Ryan person has it all together.”
Not true. I am still learning and still struggling with setting up the perfect environment, having just the right amount of confidence, and getting up in the morning. My wife, who is proofreading this, will agree with me on this point. But for me, it is totally worth the effort. And let’s hope my boss, John, feels the same.