Oh, working from home, so comfortable and easy. Well… not quite!
If you think that working remotely means working from the couch in front of the TV with a snack in your hand, forget about it! It’s true that it has several advantages, like skipping morning traffic, avoiding getting all soaked in a rainy day or, my favourite, working from a terrace in a beautiful day. But, on the other hand, it means that you have to work harder to stay in tune with your colleagues, hoping they will be willing to cope with you in order to overcome some “distance-caused” obstacles. And there’s also the loneliness issue to face. In other words, working remotely is not for everyone.
I’ve been working remotely for 5 years now and I do think that this is perfect for me. But I know there are disadvantages and not just benefits.
Before we dig into its pros and cons, let me start by clarifying what remote working is. It’s more than working from home because you have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day or because your kids are sick. Working remotely is a lifestyle and it’s not that different from a regular office job. You still have to work 8 hours a day (or the number of hours defined in your employment agreement) and you will still have to manage your work-life balance like everybody with a so-called “normal-job”. Some days it’s easy and you feel that your quality of life is excellent, others you will second guess your choice… With this article, I hope my experience working remotely will:
1. Have a better understanding of what it actually means, if you are considering remote work;
2. Share some tips on how to be more efficient in this format, if you already work remotely.
Let’s start with the main advantages of working remotely.
There are several reasons why companies are shifting to a remote work culture. However, I would like to share the direct benefits for you, in terms of improving your work-life balance. Let’s see:
Time saving: there’s no need to wake up 2 hours before work and you won’t spend another hour (or more) commuting. This means, you gain at least 3 hours a day. You can sleep more, go to the gym, read more, spend more time with your family, recharge your batteries… do whatever makes you happy! Feeling happy and well-rested are essential to work efficiency.
Silence!: it’s true that most of us can work in a noisy environment, but it can make us slower and stressed. When working in an office, there’s always someone asking a question, distracting us, and this can be a problem when we want to be focused. I’m the type of person who needs silence to be focused. I’m more productive this way. What about you?
Money saving: when you’re at home you can save a lot of money on lunch and other snacks. And you don’t have expenses with your car or other transportation.
As for the downside…
Loneliness: sometimes, you will feel alone. There won’t be a team-mate sitting next to you with whom you can share a joke or ask for help when you have a doubt. While your colleagues at work are deciding where are they going together for lunch, you are probably cooking alone. You may also feel disconnected when your team laughs at a private joke or talks about something that happened earlier at the office.
Miscommunication: we all know that human communication is beyond words. We can communicate when silent. Our communication mixes verbal and nonverbal expressions like posture, gestures or facial expressions. So, this is a big issue when you want to work efficiently in a remote way. Even when you have great communication skills, you may need to work with a colleague that is not used to having a remote worker on the team and doesn’t know how to manage distance communication.
Distractions: well, you might not have the office noise or that colleague that is always interrupting you, but you will have temptations. It might be the latest episode of your favourite show, the book you’re in love with or, a not so glamorous option, laundry to do. You have to fight that temptation and stay focused on your work.
Lack of confidence: there are people that think that working remotely means doing nothing all day, so you might feel that you are underestimated or that your work may not be good enough.
We’ve seen the “dark side” of working remotely, but don’t feel discouraged! Next, I’m going to share with you how I overcome these disadvantages and share some tips that will help you tackle the challenges of remote work.
Fight loneliness: every time I feel alone or isolated, I arrange a lunch with a friend or family member or go for a walk to see people and feel connected to the world. When I really miss my team, I go to the office (I’m only 300 km away so it’s quite easy to do it😊). And I never miss a team building event. Find out what works for you, what makes you feel part of a community and do it. Is it meeting friends? Going to the gym? Going to the office once a week? What about working in your favourite coffee shop?
Improve your communication skills: my advice to you is over-communicate!!! Talk to your colleagues not only about work-related subjects but also about personal issues like hobbies or travelling, trying to find points of interest between you and them. By doing that you will feel part of the team, you will be remembered by the team (this is important!!!) and you will get to know the communication style of each team member in order to adjust your communication and avoid misunderstandings. Do video calls. You will be able to see and share nonverbal expressions and you will actually see the human on the other side of the computer. Be present whenever you can: team building activities, international gatherings, you name it. Get to know the work culture of your company. Bonding is essential when you are part of a team so you really need to relate in order to work efficiently and be successful.
Get focused: to avoid distractions, set a strict schedule and don’t ignore it. Everyday, as soon as you get into your workspace, get into work mode, close your social media apps and focus on your tasks. Don’t procrastinate or you will be tempted to do everything else except work.
Have confidence!: If you care about your work, you are doing it on time and it answers to your company quality standards, there’s no reason to worry about other people’s comments. I can assure to you, in my own experience, that if you stay focus and work in the same way you would if you were in an office, people will respect you and your work. Still, just to be sure that you are doing everything right, you can use work management tools, like trello, or time tracking apps like weworked (the one we use at bugle) or toggl. Do some research and you will find many freeware that you can use to increase your productivity.
You see? The disadvantages are not as unpleasant as they seemed. Here are a few more strategies to make your remote job smoother and improve your productivity.
Separate home from office: this means creating your workspace and adapting it to your needs, even if you are working from home. If something is missing or there’s something you dislike, you will have an excuse to avoid working. So, be sure that you have all the devices and stationary you need at hand, that your Wi-Fi is working, that your computer is updated (remember that unless you’re married to one, you will not have your IT manager near you for tech support), and that the room is comfortable for you. Then create a gap between home and work. This can be leaving the house for a coffee or, in my case, to take the kids to school. And do the same at the end of the day. Disconnecting is mandatory! It is important to change from “home life” to “work mode” and vice-versa.
Set a strict schedule: defining specific work hours will help you be more efficient. To improve collaboration and optimise communicating try to align your work schedule to your office’s. You can break this routine occasionally, and of course you can take a few minutes to just relax (no one works straight for hours without a break, even at the office), but this will increase your productivity.
Stay connected: adjust your schedule to team schedule or clients. I know, sometimes it means working when you’re supposed to be sleeping, but it’s worth it. And it’s just once in a while. If you’re not working in a different time zone, stay connected to your team in real-time. Besides using the email account and the smartphones, at bugle we use a cloud-based instant messaging platform named Slack (there are others you can use) and we are always connected. We can make video calls, screen sharing (perfect to collaborate!), share documents or simply talk about what we have done last weekend. It’s perfect to improve communication and collaboration.
Create processes and standards: this is a shared responsibility between you and your company. It will make your life easier as you will always know what to do and how to do it.
Use collaboration tools: there are numerous cloud-based tools for online document creation and editing, where team members can write, edit or leave comments in real time. Google is the most popular, but there are others. For example, if you’re a designer, try InVision, if you’re a programmer, go for GitHub, whatever your job is, there’s an app tailored for you.
There’s not a universal recipe for productivity. I’m sharing the strategies that work for me and that might be handy for you as well when approaching remote work and efficiency. At the end of the day it’s up to you to find the best way to handle your daily work, according to your company’s rules.
Share with us your remote work experience. I’m certain that your story will be inspirational for other remote workers out there.
You may also find interesting:
12 tips to be more agile at getting things done (article)
12 Tips to choose the right training platform (article)
Free tools for low cost professional looking video production (article)
What is instructional design and why you should care about it (article)
8 Common Misconceptions about Video Training (article)
Would you like to learn more about how bugle can help you onboard and train remote workers?