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Cover image for Over a year of working remotely; These are the top things that I have learned about thriving as a remote worker.

Over a year of working remotely; These are the top things that I have learned about thriving as a remote worker.

wilsonrc profile image Wilson Reyes Collado Updated on ・8 min read

Working remotely can be a blessing or a curse. How much you can make out of it will depend on your approach. Recently, many people have been pushed to work from home without the necessary preparation or the right mindset.

I have been working from home for over a year, and I think that I can share with you some realizations about remote work that I’ve learned through experience and research that could help you thrive as a remote worker. It doesn’t matter if you are doing it voluntarily or as a consequence of the circumstances.

Let’s begin to talk about what you came here for; there are many things that I can address about working on this modality, but I will focus on the top things that I think can make the most impact.

Focus!! 🧠

What am I talking about? It can be kind of obvious, but this is an essential aspect of effective remote working; People are not designed for multitasking, so the best thing that you can do is modify your habits to address one thing at the time.

The goal of addressing one thing at the time is to achieve what Calvin Newport calls deep work, but what is that ** “Deep Work”** thing?

“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. “

as this quote says, our goal with trying to focus is to achieve more results in less time.

That’s easier said than done. It can be challenging at the beginning to maintain a high level of concentration for long periods of time. But practice makes masters.

Which actions can you execute to improve your focusing skills and begin to be more efficient?

  • Make a to-do list, sort the list from more straightforward to more challenging.
  • Turn off the internet connection of your phone or turn on silence mode.

  • To improve one step by step the amount of time that you can focus, use some time distribution techniques like Pomodoro to define the concentration-time and the break time. I recommend you to play with this methodology and begin with smaller periods of focus and then increase the time progressively. (e.g., 25 minutes of focussed work and 5 minutes of rest, and then rise to 50 minutes of concentration and 10 minutes of rest and so on)

  • Save Calls and meetings to a specific time of the day ( if possible ), meetings tend to disrupt your rhythm, and usually, you won’t be able to make the most out of your deep work time if you interrupt yourself constantly. Regaining your concentration can take some time, avoid distractions!

Keep your skills sharp. 🪒

Skills are the most valuable knowledge asset you have. As a remote worker, your skills have to be outstanding because it’s not enough to be excellent in comparison to your local community; you have to be exceptional in comparison to all the professionals in the world that can apply to the same positions that you can.

So, if you want to maintain yourself relevant, you have to take the time to improve your skills and acquire as many relevant new ones as you can. As you may guess, this is not remote specific; if you want to thrive on any professional endeavors, you have to sharpen your skills. This will increase your probabilities to maintain your job and continue advancing in your career.

But how can I do that? You can take a look at my previous article to know how you can build new skills efficiently. 😉

Be Proactive! 💡

Being proactive is an essential characteristic of great professionals, especially remote workers. The fact of addressing things passively or proactively can make a pretty big difference in your outcomes. But, what do I mean by being proactive in this context? I think that it is necessary for all of us to cultivate our ability to predict future needs, anticipate problems, and seek new solutions for these needs and concerns.

However, conceptually identifying future needs and solutions isn’t enough; you have to make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen. Take action, begin to solve the things that you already identify as things that you can solve, propose you to address that issue that the team needs to solve, but nobody has taken the initiative to do it.

Don’t let your comfort zone to establish how much you can accomplish, neither for fear of failure nor for being comfortable with your current situation. “Just do it!”

Work and Life Balance 💻❤️

An essential part of being able to be productive and excel as a remote worker is to maintain your physical and mental health in peak conditions.

Working from home can make these issues pretty challenging. Why? because when working remotely, the difficulty of drawing the line between your job and your personal life increases. At first glance, It doesn’t sound as serious, but not handling this effectively could lead you to catastrophic results. Some people may experience things like burnout, isolation, depression, and many other health issues related to being exposed to stressful situations for long periods of time without taking time and actions to relax.

There are some actions that I think could help you to have a better work-life balance and, as a consequence, increase your probability to stay physically and mentally healthy over time:

Working out: When working remotely, we can become even more sedentary than in normal circumstances, and even when most of us know that working out can positively impact our physical health, we tend to let the laziness or excuses beat us. Working out consistently will not only contribute positively to your physical but also your mental health.

There are plenty of studies out there that stand out how physical exercise can increase our cognitive performance and also act as a stress reliever. Take some time to work out!

Socialize: It’s effortless to feel isolated when you are working from home because your social interaction with your work partners is pretty limited in comparison with working in an office. As a consequence socializing will need a conscious effort from you.

Which things can you do to socialize? (If possible)

  • Go out with your friends, family, or significant other.
  • Work from coffee shops or a Co-working space
  • Meet with other remote workers sometimes.
  • If you can’t go out, make some video calls, or organize some video game parties.

Designate a work Schedule: a work schedule can be really helpful when trying to effectively establish the end boundaries of your work time and the beginning of your personal time. This can help you to be more productive while maintaining your stress levels on check. You need to focus on achieving as much as you can while working and relax as much as you can when you’re not.

However, your work schedule shouldn’t be written on stone; you can be flexible if you need it. But remember that if you continuously overwork with the intention of achieving more results, the price will be that over time you will achieve less. For this matter, Consistency > Intensity.

Establish realistic expectations: your expectations for a workday should be proportionally similar to your actual capacity to get work done. You need to establish an achievable to-do list at the beginning of the day. If you don’t do this, you will end working more time than you expected, not achieving what you planned to achieve, and with a feeling of deception. That, over time, can lead you to feel more and more unhappy.

Get your own workspace: 👨‍💻

Getting an established workspace doesn’t look like something essential at first glance, mainly because it can be expensive, could need extra space, and would need some work to get it done. The ergonomic of your work environment, and also how enjoyable it is to work there, play a major role in your long term well being and productivity.

There are many things that you can do related to set up a great workplace environment, but let me tell you some things that you can do begin with:

  • Establish a designated workspace in which you can work comfortably, and this preferably should be a place in which you can avoid noises and interruptions.
  • Invest some money on ergonomy, buy a good working chair, some monitors placed at the correct high, some noise-canceling headphones, etc. You have to take care of your body long term and also make working as comfortable and enjoyable as you can.
  • If you live with more people; Let them know your expectations about how they should communicate with you when you are working; Something that you can do is to agree with them with a set of rules on how to approach you while working. For example, if I close the door, please don’t interrupt me unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Communication 💬

Maybe one of the most significant subjects when it comes to working remotely. As you may guess, effective communication plays a significant role when working through digital tools because we are more limited than we are communicating in person due to the lack of non-verbal cues. As a consequence, you have to invest time to think about how you are communicating both verbally and written.

When communicating through digital tools, you have to make a conscious effort to be as clear and concise as possible with what you want to share and also on how you want to do it.

There are so many things related to communication while working remotely that this little section of this article is not enough to begin to address the matter. But at least I will share with you some actions items that you can execute to improve a little bit your overall communication:

  • Be kind, treat people with respect.
  • Be clear and concise with your text messages. Provide as many details as you can when you are explaining something or reporting your progress. Bonus: Use emojis to give some context to your text messages 😉
  • Take into account the time zones and working schedules of people which you are working with. Don’t expect someone to get back to you immediately.

  • Be transparent with what you do and what you are working on.

  • If you have to discuss a complex issue, use audio or video calls to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Use quality devices to improve audio/video communications, like a good microphone and video camera.

  • If you are not a native speaker, You can invest in tools to help you improve your writing skills. (Grammarly or any other grammar correction tool )

  • Communicate your progress effectively and your availability to work on new things.

  • Be available; try always to respond as fast as you can messages that are requesting information from you. It doesn’t mean that you should be working all the time, but at least you can provide feedback if needed.

There are plenty more things that you can do to improve your communication, but I think these are a good start.

Maintainability of you work-ability 🛠️

If you are planning to work remotely long term, or if you need to do it. It’s necessary to take long term measurements. As usual, your income is your primary source of wealth, and you will need to take the steps required to ensure that you can continue producing value in the majority of the circumstances.

These are some simple measures that you can take to improve your reliability:

  • Get an Internet backup ( Having two different internet providers for example)
  • If you live in a country in which it is common to have electric issues, you will need a backup power plant or any other way to ensure you have access to electricity almost all the time.
  • It would help if you had a backup computer in case of you losing your main computer. Murphy’s Law. A rule that states, “If something can go wrong, it will.” In addition to this law reads, “and usually at the worst time.” Your computer can fail at any time, and you don’t want to be unable to continue working while you repair that one you have or while you get a new one.

There are so many things that you can say about how to make out the most about working remotely; these are just the main ones that I have been able to identify. I would love to know yours. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions or questions.

Until next time ✌️

Posted on by:

wilsonrc profile

Wilson Reyes Collado

@wilsonrc

I'm an Android engineer who enjoys learning new stuff and working on challenging projects. People know me as someone adaptable and entirely passionate about continuous self-improvement.

Discussion

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Great post! I completely agree with you in all of the things.

Is nice to work wherever and whenever you want, but If don't know how to handle the responsibility you won't last long as a remote worker.

 

Thanks, Leonel. Glad you liked it.

 

Good post Wilson
Appreciate it
But I think you need to be self-motivated and having plan to do your task in a certain time.
Have you ever depressed when u have not communicate with people and co-workers like when you are in a company or whatever?

 

Hello Banji,

I'm glad you like the post.

Regarding your question: Yes, I had felt down while working remotely in the past, because as you said, there is not enough communication with people or co-workers.

That is the reason why I point out that we need to make a conscious effort on Socialize. My approach to the matter was to reach out to some old friends and begin to go out regularly and make new friends on the process. I also start to play video games with some friends more frequently than before, and before the pandemic, I use to go to some coffee shops to work from there.

Regarding the internal communication with my co-workers, I have the luck of working in a company that is focused and make the remote employees feel energized and motivated to interact with each other. Take a look here if you are interested in how they do it: x-team.com/blog/energize-remote-te...

 

There we go...

We need more people like you in the community.
Thank you so much for your fascinating post and complete reply on me.
Just Keep it up, need more posts and guides like this :)
Good Luck

You’re welcome, Banji. I really appreciate your comment. 😄🙌

 

Hi Wilson,

Great post.

Can you please help on more details on below?
Like some links from amazon, etc. will be of great help.

"Invest some money on ergonomy, buy a good working chair, some monitors placed at the correct high, some noise-canceling headphones, etc. You have to take care of your body long term and also make working as comfortable and enjoyable as you can."

 

Hey Manohar,

I think the best items to buy will depend on your personal preferences. However, I can share a photo of mine and the links.

Work Space
Chair: ikea.com/es/es/p/markus-silla-trab...
Wall Sticker: amazon.com/-/es/gp/product/B07DXPJ...
Microphone: amazon.com/-/es/gp/product/B07YC1K...
HeadPhones: amazon.com/-/es/gp/product/B01DWH7...
Hue Light Bars: amazon.com/-/es/gp/product/B07GXB3...
Monitor Desk Mount Stand: amazon.com/gp/product/B009S750LA/r...
Speakers: amazon.com/JBL-JBLCHARGE3BLKAM-Wat...
Mouse and Keyboard Pads: amazon.com/Gimars-Superfine-Suppor...

 

Looks awesome.

Will check them all out.

I am abt to start a freelancing or like.
Been out of job for 4 months, doing only aglp & ds
you can connect me if you like

 

Good post! I agree as a fellow remoter :)

 

Health is very important when you are setting up your home office as well, consider adding a treadmill desk or something similar

 

Interesting, is it possible to "focus", while you continue step forward?
Also hands, they are in a tense position, looks like.

 

I my case it took me a week to get used to it, desk treadmills can move at a slow speed. I put mine next to the window and trying to use it an hour or two every day.
dev.to/allenmiller304/avoid-damagi...

 

Pretty interesting as Igor points out in another comment. Thanks for sharing, the more options we have to stay healthy the better.

 

Great post!
I agree, when i was working from home, i learned how to focus and separate job from personal life.

 

Thanks, Martha. I'm glad you liked it.

Definitively, after you achieve to balance your job and personal life. Working from home gets easier and more enjoyable.