Remote Control

A person operating a drone by remote control

Photo by Wilco Van Meppelen on Unsplash

Next month will mark my fifth year of working remotely. Like a lot of people who have worked remotely, I don't know how I would ever be able to go back to working in an office. It just feels "right". Of course, I could potentially be one of the more introverted people on the planet so working from the comfort of my own house might just suit my personality. Anyway, after five years, I have some thoughts on remote working and how I've managed to do it successfully (I'm still employed after all) so here we go.

A laptop computer connected to an external display

Photo by Piotr Wilk on Unsplash

Set Up Your Space

This is the single most important thing I think I did for myself. From my first day of remote work to today, I've had "my space". Initially, that was nothing more than a desk in the corner of my bedroom but it was mine. It's where I go to do my work. When I sit there, I am working. I am "on". Some people may be able to work effectively on their couch or bed but not me. I need a space. And I need it set up the way I want.

I am quite particular about my space (now a separate office in our home). I am constantly trying to find that thing that doesn't necessarily make me more productive but makes me more comfortable in my office. I feel like if you're going to spend a lot of time in a particular place, even a specific spot in your home, you should be comfortable. So I've spent a lot of time obsessing about what that means for me. From the posters on the wall to the color temperature of the light bulbs to the peripherals to which I dock my laptop, I've gotten rid of anything that didn't spark joy and replaced it with something that does (or not replaced it at all).

I've worked in a number of offices for a number of companies and I just don't feel like the workspaces I've been provided (even my own office on location) felt like "my space". It felt like I was borrowing it, because I was. Even within my own home, having MY workspace has greatly enhanced my comfort while working which, I think, has improved my productivity as well. And keep in mind, my happy place is my home office but yours may be a coffee shop or a library or somewhere else. Just make it somewhere you're comfortable.

Communication

Since we started off selfish talking about something good for ourselves, let's talk about the single most important thing you can do for your team: communicate. As much as you can. Really. One thing that can slip your mind when you're in your home alone, staring into a computer screen day in and day out, is that you're (most likely) operating as part of a team. Teams communicate. They accomplish shared goals. So don't let yourself operate in a vacuum. Let people know when you're in and when you're out, what you're working on and where it stands. Talk about challenges as soon as you're aware of them. Be honest about progress (or lack thereof). If your teammates feel like they have to pry information out of you, that is not going to fly.

Secondly, remember that not all communication has to be serious. There are #random Slack channels for a reason. When you work in an office, you of course develop friendships. Working remotely, you have to try a little harder to be social. You aren't going to run into one of your co-workers on the way to the vending machine, right? Although if you had a vending machine in your home office that would be pretty badass. I digress... Talk to your co-workers. About work and about things that aren't work.

Don't Take Advantage

Remote work usually includes some level of flexibility not just in the location from which you work but also in the hours you work. It is easy to take advantage. I would venture to say that a lot of places will cut you some slack on a long lunch here or there or a day when you have some work being done around the house, etc. But if that stuff becomes the norm rather than the exception, expect people to notice. And I bet when they notice, it doesn't lead to good conversations. Most decent human beings probably won't ever even think about stuff like this but, just in case, don't be an asshole and you should be fine.

So that's really it. I don't think there's a ton to remote work, just a couple of fundamental things to keep in mind. Does it require some self-discipline? Yes. But I'm not the most self-disciplined person alive (I swear I'm just going to have one more cookie) and I manage to work remotely every day.