One of my coworkers will be moving and switching to working remotely. He asked me to share my thoughts about working remote and it turns out I have a lot. Hopefully, they are worth sharing.
I’ve been remote for 4 years now as an employee, and also worked remotely for about 7 years while as an independent consultant. The consulting was more solo work and less teamwork and was much more isolating, but it did help me form some boundaries around working from home. At this point, I hope never to work in an office again. Here’s what I think are the keys to being happy working from home:
- Have a separate office space. This way you “go to work” by walking through a door, and you “come home” later. That’s not to say that you can’t “leave work” to do something at home for 5-10 minutes or a few hours (which I definitely do), just that you want to make sure you’re not mixing home and work because work will eventually start intruding on home life.
- Keep “regular hours” and don’t worry about being unavailable when you’re not “at work”. I generally try to work from 7:30-3:30 or 4 (depending on school drop-offs) every day. There will still be some flexibility, but again the worry is that work will start to creep into home life if you don’t.
- Consider adding some “commute time” to your day. When you work in an office, you have some time on your commute where you transition from home to work and back again. It can sometimes be difficult to make that same transition over just a dozen steps. I just need a few deep breaths, but I’ve heard of people walking around their house or around the block.
- Ask yourself if you’re using the right communication tool. Don’t just rely on chat for all communication. Chat is a great communication tool, but you lose tone of voice and body language. If you’re in a long complicated chat, pick up the phone or consider a screen share or video chat.
- Get comfortable with your video camera and encourage your coworkers to do the same. Try to have at least few video chats a week with your people from your team. Being able to see someone’s face rather than them just being a disembodied voice helps create connections.
- Buy a decent USB camera and put it at the top of your main monitor. Then when a video chat starts put the video screen centered right below the camera. Otherwise, you’re sharing the side of your head or an up-the-nose shot (thanks for putting the camera at the bottom of the screen Dell). Remember that “eye contact” is made by looking at the camera, not at people’s eyes.
- Embrace on-site trips. A few days face to face with your co-workers goes a long way towards building the relationships needed to work effectively while remote.
- Figure out how to get your socialization outside of work. You’re not going to have as many informal chats in the kitchen and you’re not going to go out to lunch with coworkers. You need to find a way to fill this gap or it will slowly wear you down.
- Take full advantage of being remote. Take a walk or a nap mid-day, spend a bit of time with the kids when they get home from school, start cooking dinner in the middle of the afternoon. Take a conference call on the couch or out on the patio.
These are the things that I feel have made working remotely work well for me. Others may find something here completely unimportant to them or may see something I completely missed, but it’s a place to start.