Are you one of the many forced to work from home due to the new coronavirus pandemic? What do you do if you don’t want to work remotely? While most people feel that working remotely is a major benefit, some don’t. These individuals prefer the social interaction, structure, and feedback that working in a traditional office provides. If this is you, read on for practical strategies to help you embrace remote work and enjoy a happier and more productive experience. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide you like it after all.
Embrace Remote Work With These 10 Tips
The majority of people who work remotely, either as an employee or a freelancer, are happy with their choice. In fact, according to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Report, an astounding 99 percent of remote workers indicated they want to work remotely for the rest of their careers. Frequently cited telecommuting benefits included the lack of commute, flexible scheduling, and geographic mobility. In some situations, working remotely may even be forced upon employees, as a result of relocation, reducing company overhead, job loss, or even a short- or long-term disability.
In contrast with the overall increasing preference for telecommuting, people tend to react more negatively when remote work is forced on them. If you are experiencing difficulty adapting to a new remote work arrangement, have no fear! Below, we will address some common concerns regarding working remotely and provide some tips on how to embrace the remote work lifestyle, even if you didn’t choose it.
With no set hours, how will I know when to unplug?
Undefined hours can be a real challenge for remote employees. In fact, 22 percent of respondents to Buffer’s survey indicated this was their biggest issue as a remote worker and also reported struggling to establish boundaries between work and family life.
Another comprehensive study of workers from 14 countries showed that working remotely often led to an extension of regular work hours, especially if they only worked remotely part of the time. Reported reasons for this addition of work hours varied, with participants noting issues such as wanting to make sure the boss was aware of their contribution, needing extra income, and even loving their job.
Tip 1: Set and follow clear communication boundaries.
Much of the stress that arises around unplugging from work is due to feeling obligated to respond to after-hours communications right away. Take the pressure off by working with your supervisors and co-workers to clearly establish communication expectations, including timeframes for responding. For example, an email received over the weekend will be responded to during work hours on Monday, or an email received during regular office hours will receive a response within 24 hours.
Tip 2: Set and follow a schedule.
In many cases, overworking can be more detrimental than helpful. As noted above, many new remote workers feel a need to prove they are working hard and as a result put in too many hours. Take control—set your own hours and stick to them. It is also important to let your family or housemates know when your work hours are so they don’t expect you to be available for other things (like household chores or pick-up duties).
I enjoy getting out of the house and socializing with my co-workers. How can I embrace remote work if I’m going to be bored and lonely at home all day?
According to the Buffer study, next to unplugging after work, respondents reported that loneliness was the biggest struggle to working remotely. For many, work is the nexus of their social lives and they have made close personal friends of co-workers. This doesn’t have to end solely because you’re working in different locations. It simply might look differently.
Also, if you’re not used to spending time physically on your own, you’re bound to feel uncomfortable when you start working remotely. Luckily, there are many strategies to address this concern.
Tip 3: Create new ways to socialize with your co-workers.
Pick up the phone, put together a text group or email list, create a Facebook group—there are tons of ways that you can keep up with your work relationships. Just because you’re not bumping elbows, doesn’t mean that you can’t carry on with water cooler conversations. Be creative!
Tip 4: Reach out and create new social connections.
Turn that frown upside down, and use this opportunity to meet new people. Try getting involved with the local chapter of a professional association or Chamber of Commerce. Most organizations operate online forums and social media accounts that encourage connections and conversations between members. Networking in this way can help you to make lots of valuable professional contacts.
Another option is to set up a membership at a local coworking space. While these organizations focus on providing a work-like atmosphere for in-person visits, many also offer virtual opportunities to interact and network as well via members-only online channels and forums. Many coworking spaces offer specialized services and amenities, so research a few local options to see what suits you. Most offer free trials so you can test them out before you commit to a membership.
Teamwork is important in my job. How will I maintain relationships with my co-workers?
Professional isolation is a real thing. Research has found that relationships with team members and former officemates can suffer when working remotely. As a remote worker, you may find it more difficult to communicate with co-workers and receive timely information that you need to do your job. In addition, because you are not being “seen” in the office, you may be unintentionally overlooked for special projects and promotions.
Tip 5: Develop a communication strategy.
As noted above, it’s a good idea to set expectations and boundaries around work communications. It’s also important to establish a schedule of frequent check-ins and discussion opportunities with your co-workers and supervisor. This can include weekly phone calls, video conference team meetings, and daily chat sessions. If possible, you may wish to go into the office periodically to meet in-person. The goal is to establish and maintain your work relationships to ensure you are seen as a person and not a disembodied voice on the phone.
Tip 6: Write down procedures and initiate tracking processes.
Since you are no longer “seen” working in the office, you need to make sure the playing field is even. First, if they don’t exist already, ask management to develop written processes and procedures that apply to all employees, both on-site and remote. With a common set of expectations for all employees, this should ensure your on-site colleagues aren’t unfairly advantaged. Second, initiate weekly or daily progress reports for distribution to your supervisor and teammates, as appropriate. If possible, the use of a centralized project space where all employees or project members can report on their progress is ideal. This strategy helps change the focus of achievement from “time-based” to “results-based.”
I’m going to sit around all day eating! How do I stay healthy?
Many people fear that, faced with the opportunity, they would lay on the couch in PJs eating chocolate bonbons all day. However, so far, the facts don’t agree. Responses to one study indicated that 35 percent of remote workers find they get more physical exercise than when they worked in an office environment, and 42 percent reported they eat healthier. If your health is important to you, don’t panic! When you embrace remote work and establish a few good habits, it’s likely you’ll become even healthier.
Tip 7: Make staying active a part of your daily schedule.
There’s no doubt you will be moving around less if you are working from home, and it’s hard to get your steps in when your commute from bedroom to office is less than 50 feet. The onus is on you to develop and stick to a consistent activity schedule to keep you fit and healthy. This is an opportunity to do your own thing. Be creative. Take a 10 a.m. yoga class, enjoy an early morning bike ride, or burn off lunch with an afternoon walk. Most importantly, be realistic. Start with something you know you can stick to, even if it’s only a 10-minute stroll around the block a couple times a day.
Tip 8: Clean out your pantry.
If you are a snacker, you may want to go through your cupboards and clean out anything that you don’t want to find yourself mindlessly eating while you work on that report. It’s true that your kitchen is a lot more accessible when you work at home, but that fact cuts both ways. If you use this opportunity to embrace remote work and get rid of your junk food and fill your pantry with healthy, whole foods and snacks, you can’t help but eat healthier.
Distractions at home make it too hard to embrace remote work. Where will I find any peace? How will I stay focused?
Buffer’s report says that 10 percent of respondents considered distractions their number one struggle while working remotely. Distractions fall into two categories, the ones you like and the ones you don’t. The ones you like might include cutting out for a walk in the middle of the day or catching up on a passion project around the house. The ones you don’t like might include frequent interruptions by your kids or spouse or avoiding work in favor of housecleaning.
While there are lots of potential distractions when you work at home, there are going to be distractions wherever you work. Many would argue there are far fewer distractions at home, especially if your workspace was in an open-plan office environment. However, a couple of tips can help to reduce your distractions at home.
Tip 9: Set yourself up for success in a dedicated office space.
To truly get rid of household distractions, you will need a space with a door you can close. While many won’t have a room where they can set up a dedicated office space, you can make do by taking over a corner in the spare bedroom, or even in your own bedroom, if necessary. If you can, set up a room divider, so you don’t have to keep your bedroom tidy (which can be a distraction). Whatever space you are able to secure, make it look like your special workspace —an office you’d like to work in. Put up pictures, and set out your office knick-knacks. Make yourself comfortable, just not too comfortable!
Tip 10: Take advantage of your schedule!
If you’re distracted because it’s a beautiful day out, embrace remote work and go for a walk. After all, exercise helps us to settle down and concentrate better. It’s important to remember that a schedule is only flexible if you’re flexible too.
A final tip…
While working remotely may never have been in your plans, this is a growing trend that is unlikely to go away anytime soon. By incorporating a few of the strategies suggested, hopefully, you can address your concerns, resolve any issues, and perhaps, even come to love the freedom that remote work affords. When released from commuting and prescribed work hours, every day is yours to invent. What do you want to do today?
iStock Photo Credit: mapodile
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