Success! You’ve managed to convince your boss that working remotely, perhaps from home, for a portion of your working week is a good idea. Or perhaps you have started a new job full time working remotely. Or maybe you work freelance remotely and never quite managed to separate work time from non-work time.
Whichever is the case, most people find it very difficult, if even initially, to work from a place where they also do other things. You may be based at home, or on the move, or flitting between coffee shops, hotel lobbys, and sunny parks.
Let’s assume you manage your own time, within the parameters of deadlines, and assigned tasks. Let’s look at ways to ease into working remotely with ease, and improve not only your quality of work, but quality of life and the all-elusive ‘work/life balance’.
We are now going to embark on a trip while working remotely:
On the Ground – your Workspace
After a few days or weeks of lounging on the sofa in your tracksuit, or in bed still in PJs, you will notice it is not ideal for productivity or workflow. However, allow yourself the time to realise this, otherwise you will always be wondering what it’s like to work from bed, or the couch while eating peanut butter and jam toast. So, once you’re done cleaning the peanut butter off the laptop – let’s consider location.
If you do not or cannot have a dedicated office, then at minimum delegate a permanent office space. A corner of the kitchen table doesn’t quite cut it when you realise you need to hook up a second monitor or printer, and have to first remove the breakfast cereal bowls and coffee spillages. And then put the whole lot away, to set the table for the evening meal. Hamster wheel coming to mind?
Find a corner of a quiet room, somewhere – get creative, and ensure that space contains at minimum a proper desk and chair, or stand up desk. Put some thought into your lighting, where you need it the most, and possibly a side table for printers and other machinery. Next, you will need drawers, to store cables, USB sticks, cds, stationery, chargers etc. It’s productive to keep clutter on the desk to a minimum.
You will need a shelving system of some kind to store copy paper, envelopes, folders (the real ones) and other equipment not used regularly.
Now that you have your corner, it’s important to create the appropriate workspace. Having an area that looks like a working environment, whether that is an office, studio, or workshop, will help you get into working mode. Sit at your desk, does what you see in your line of vision distract you? Perhaps facing a wall or window will help, and creating a T shape with the 2 desks or tables (mentioned above) will help you to ‘come to the office’ like literally stepping into the office!
If you are in a dining room or spare bedroom, replace the painting of fruit or flowers with a year planner or calendar on the wall. This will help create a more professional environment. Ensure you have enough heating and light to allow you to work comfortably.
#3. Discipline whilst working remotely
“I’ll just throw on a quick wash”, or “I need a break, I’ll just nip down to the DIY store to get those pentagon screws I need for my weekend project”. No! that’s not ‘taking a break!’ That’s procrastination, delaying tactics, or downright truancy. Breaks are important, especially from the computer screen. But make sure they benefit the body and you get the rest time required. Take a short walk, prepare a nice lunch, or catch up on some light reading. Doing something different, but not so as to distract you from your tasks in hand, will help energise the brain, especially if a current thought process is not producing results.
Ensure you have the resources you need, and take the time to read up on better working, better productivity. Explore ways of streamlining your work, and learn the technology that is out there, to help you work more efficiently, and more importantly, more effectively. You may explore ways to reduce the time it takes to manage emails, contacts, reminders etc. Invest in some Excel training, if you use spreadsheets a lot. Watch tutorials on tasks you feel could be executed more efficiently.
#5. Tools & Technology
The biggest favour you can do for yourself, if your boss or business does not require it, is to get onto the cloud . You are working remotely, it makes complete sense to get your work and time management in a remote state also. Explore cloud computing options, whether you’re a iCloud gal or Google worshipper – there is no excuse anymore not to store and work online, having everything accessible from any device in the cloud. This may not include certain work applications, but for communication, storage and productivity, the tools are out there. Use them, learn from them, and enjoy them.
On the Move – your mobile office
#6. Secondary equipment
It is worth investing in a mobile device to keep you working remotely while on the move – whether your smart phone (or phablet) tablet or laptop. However, it is also worth investing in secondary chargers and power cables that you will need, so you can bundle them in to a carry-all and be ready and equipped when you leave your permanent office/working space.
#7. Travel & Downtime
Many business owners and remote workers use travel and waiting time to catch up on tasks, email or conference calls. Be mindful that if you are on the move a lot, you may inadvertently skip meals, downtime and most importantly, exercise. Can you think of the last time you took a long road or train trip? Or a long flight? Although you technically did very little, you often arrive at your destination tired and travel weary.
Travel causes its own stress on the body, and the mind. Near missed flights, near misses on the road and delays all cause adrenaline to be produced, putting your body under undue stress. It’s imperative that you are aware of this, and take measures to “come down” after a stressful journey. Good planning and organisation can reduce travel stress. Ensuring your travel documents are current and stored safely, and within easy access when preparing for a trip. A simple check list can ensure you are well prepared in advance and avoid ‘looking for the car keys when running out the door’ scenarios.
Ensure you can stay connected with your boss, clients or colleagues if you are on the road frequently. Checking in on a regular basis will ensure you don’t miss important updates or meetings. Lengthy travel can distract us, and with so much going on, we may forget to keep in touch with those who are relevant. Managing clients on the move can prove tricky, but again, if planned well in advance, will eliminate undue mis-communications and disconnection.
#9. Time Travel
Yes, it’s possible! When you are traveling across time zones, it can very often be an excuse to work in another time zone when it’s not ‘working hours’ at your destination. For many business people, this is truly a blessing. Also for those same reasons, time travel is the devil in disguise. It robs you of vital rest, acclimatisation, adjustment and possible connection with friends and family.
#10. Self Care while working remotely
I left this for last because it’s the final piece I want you to read, simply because it is the most important. Because of the 9 points above, you can easily find yourself worn out, jet-lagged, over stimulated, over-connected, and possibly unable to shut down or switch off. So I ask you this… what do you LOVE to do? Then, somehow find a way to take that with you. If it’s sport, find a way to do it when away from home. If it’s reading, take pre-set time out to read your favourite novels – unrelated to work.
That is the key – self care is about getting out of your “work” clothes and into your “work-out” clothes. Get active, get out, get going. Brush off that jet-lag, sore lower back, aching wrists or tired eyes. If your work is mentally tiring, then get physical. If your work is very physical, get a massage. And this is important, whether you are working remotely at home, or on the move. As long as it is very different to what you do during your working day, it will recharge you!
If you are working remotely, what do you do to look after your productivity, and yourself? Please share with us in the comments below.
Images: ”Young man at home using a computer/ Shutterstock.com“
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