10 things I've learned from working remotely
Lindsey Kopacz Oct 13
I feel like the idea of working remotely is pretty divided. People either love it or hate it. After reading a lot of posts and experiencing it for myself, I decided I wanted to write a few things I've learned to help those that are on the fence about it. I've been working remotely for 16 months now and have gotten the hang of what parts work well for me.
1. Learn how to set boundaries, even with yourself
The hardest part of working from home is the fact that if you're not used to creating a structure for yourself, it becomes challenging to set boundaries. When you work in an office, there are boundaries built in. When you are in the office, you're working. When you're not in the office, you're not working. It gets a little hairier when you don't have that built in.
Here is what I do to set boundaries with myself:
-I never work in my PJs. I always physically change into something, even if it's a T-shirt and jeans, but I find the actual routine of changing gives me the boundary of PJs = sleep and/or chill time.
-Additionally, I never work from my bed.
-I have an office that is dedicated to where I work. I don't work in common areas because those I prefer to associate that as "home."
-I observe when my meetings are. If I have an early meeting, I set an "Out of Office" block on my calendar after the 8-hour mark of signing on. Vice versa if I have a late meeting, I start working later. I am candid with my manager that I don't want to work over 8 hours. I haven't had issues with people abusing that. If you work at a good company, they should respect that your work should not take over your day.
2. Have a morning routine
Having a morning routine is absolutely key for me. I don't understand how people roll out of bed and open their computers to start working. For me, the separation between waking up and "going to work" is very important to me and has been really helpful for my mental health. I usually wake up around 7 am and get online to start work around 9:30 am.
Here is what my morning routine is like:
-Go to the gym. Pump some iron or get some cardio in.
-Cook breakfast and eat without anything work-related.
-Journal (optional, that's more on tough days)
-Work on blog
-Sign into work
3. Having a pet helps tremendously
When I got my cat, my quality of life went up so much. I actually have rejected opportunities because I don't want to leave her (which my partner thinks is silly, but he doesn't know how awesome it is). I'm sure this is also very similar if you have a pup. I imagine taking your dog for a walk is a fantastic way to take a break and stretch your legs. With my cat, she will sit next to me and cuddle, so if I am having a tough time, it really helps calm me down.
4. Take breaks, especially if you're feeling emotional and stressed
I take a 5-minute break every hour to walk around and stretch my legs. This is a short enough break to not completely have to re-familiarize myself with what I was working on, but long enough to really give myself a breather. This is something I do regardless if I am feeling great or awful, but it's mandatory in my workday routine.
Regarding tough times, one of my favorite things about working from home is if I am having a really tough time, I can step aside, cry and not feel self-conscious about someone seeing me. The fact that I release the energy really helps me let go and get back to work. This is 1000 times better than holding onto it for hours because of how much I am trying to hold back tears.
5. Get to know your conferencing software and how to use it
Know how to mute yourself and unmute yourself quickly. Make sure you're not saying snarky things while unmuted. In larger meetings, learn to use the chats within the software to ask questions.
6. Make plans to socialize outside of work at least once a week
I am an extrovert, so this is not difficult for me at all. I think working remotely is a little bit more difficult for introverts (my own opinion) because after working a long day, their way to recharge is to be alone. However, social interaction is always good for the soul, regardless of introversion or extraversion.
7. Be active in local non-work Slack communities
This is where I have met so many of my technical friends that I can actually go grab a coffee or a beer with. It's a fantastic way to network without awkwardly going to professional meetups without knowing anyone. It's also a great way to learn about meetups and events and see what meetups your internet friends are attending!
8. Set reminders to brush your teeth
Some people may find this gross, but I cannot tell you how many times I was working on my blog while drinking my coffee before signing onto work and just straight up forgot to brush my teeth. I set a reminder every weekday at 10:30 am, just in case I forget.
9. Try to set up "social time" at work
Admittedly, I am VERY bad at this. But sometimes you need little pockets of time to hang out on you conferencing software to just chat. You can even name the meeting "Water Cooler Chat." It's also really helpful for moral to do it after everyone has gone through a stressful launch of a product or website. I think the reason why I don't do this very often is that I am very much in work mode when I am at work and what I love about working remotely is not getting distracted. But some people absolutely need social time with their coworkers.
10. Do not force it if it doesn't work for you
You do not have to work remote. If it really is bad for your health and you struggle with these things, work in an office. I personally love it and plan on being remote for as long as I can. I love the flexibility that it adds to my life and the time I save on commuting. With all the things I am working on right now, it really allows me to have a social life even with all my side projects.
I'd love to hear, what are your tips for working remotely?