Love it, hate it or couldn’t care less about it; it’s undeniable that the practice of remote working is an more frequently-seen requirement for the modern office-based employee. A lot of workers when starting out on a job hunt will have high expectations around finding a company that is equipped and ready to support flexible working; and this is no longer just a case of flexi-time. More and more people are carving out a day or so per week where they get to turn down the volume of their open plan offices and withdraw to the comfortable, familiar surroundings of their home.
For years that’s been my practice, working remotely one or two days per week, and over this time I have run the full gamut of experiences. Some days you fire on all cylinders; starting early, finishing late, getting shit done, saving babies from burning buildings. Those days are amazing! You are unstoppable! Other days you wake up tired. You can’t shake the yawns. The dog won’t stop staring at you. The phone won’t stop ringing. Your internet is down. Utter FAIL!
Look, it happens regardless of where you are working, some days are better than others. That’s why it’s so important, if you are working from home, that you set yourself up for as much success as possible.
I have pulled together my top tips for getting the most out of your day and of yourself when you are working remotely.
Start strong with a morning routine.
Getting to the office, for most of us, involves some kind of commute or travel. It may even result in a gym visit along the way (alright, settle down…show off…) So there is likely to be time between the you who is wistfully prying your eyelids open and the corporate powerhouse who lands at your office. You should honour yourself with the same dignity when you are working from home. You can’t expect yourself to get up, slug a coffee and be ready to go at your computer in t-minus 25 seconds.
No, your body, mind and co-workers will thank you for indulging in a more graceful call to duty. You could join the thousands of folks worldwide who take part in the 5am Club, whereby you dedicate 60 mins in a 20/20/20 split of exercise, planning and study. As much as I like that concept, I don’t think you need to be putting pressure on to get up at 5am when your desk is right there! In traditional Buddhist philosophy the hours of 4am – 7am are the hours of upward energy flow, so apparently any time within those hours is ideal to squeeze in some moments of meditation…if you’re into that sort of thing! Basically, 4am to 7am is a great window to start your day with time for yourself where your energy can rise.
For me, the most effective morning routine is to wake at 6am, do 30 minutes yoga, 10 minutes meditation and 20 minutes study. I do this before I scroll on my phone! I save all distraction and influx of media until I am good and ready for it after I have had my Tammy Power Hour!
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what you do, or how long you do it for. The point is to reserve some non-negotiable “me time” in the morning before you go and dedicate yourself to your laptop for the day.
Plan the night before.
Who hasn’t opened up that laptop bag at home only to find that you’ve left your charger / mouse / notebook in the office. It can set an otherwise great day off to a really bad start, or could even see you dragged back into the office. Take 15 minutes before you bail home from the office to plan through what stuff you’re going to need to get your work done, phone numbers you might be calling etc. A little bit of thought the night before can make all the difference to your productivity levels.
I always like to note my tomorrow list at the end of today, while I am still in the right mindset. This can be a really effective tool when you are working from home, as it may take you slightly longer to switch into office mode when you’re not actually in the office.
Get your setup right.
Leaning over a laptop on your sofa or in your bed is going to get really old, really quickly. In the same way you wouldn’t expect your employer to seat you like this all day, you have to be mindful of you posture when you are at home too.
If working remotely is something you are going to do regularly then you should consider investing in a comfortable desk / table & chair set up. Your back and shoulders will thank you for it in the long run! It doesn’t have to break the bank either, there are heaps of affordable office set ups in places like Ikea.
Take a break.
This was actually one of the things I struggled with the most. I would close the door of my office, maybe drop the blinds and completely lose track of time in my cocoon. Next thing I know it would be 4pm and I was starting to go cross eyed with lack of food and no break from the task at hand! It happens so easily, so it’s important to take time out at your usual lunch hour.
Go for a walk or use this time to get to the gym. Even if you simply prepare and eat your lunch away from your laptop or put on a load of washing. Get up and moving and away from the desk. Your work will be waiting for you when you get back, and you can approach it with fresh eyes.
Show some restraint!
If your working day is carved up with 50% Instagram, 30% Reddit and 20% work then you are going to have issues. Lack of productivity while working from home is a real issue and it does nothing to allay the concerns of a possibly overbearing micro-manager who can’t fathom the idea of their team working remotely. If you can’t get the job done while you are left to your own devices then maybe remote working just isn’t for you.
You need to have the discipline to put the phone down and get some focus. Airplane mode is your friend! Remove distractions from your home-working space in general and clear the decks to allow for productivity.
Dress appropriately…or just dress at all!
The allure of the pj’s and fluffy slippers is strong, but you should resist! It’s all about mindset, and what I’ve found is that when I am in my pj’s my head is still in bed. I can’t get into my groove at all for the day as my energy is just stagnant.
I prefer to get up, have my shower and get dressed, as I would usually. I’m not talking about slipping into a pin-striper to keep the dog happy, but a pair of jeans should replace the jim-jams for me, personally. I just feel a little closer to the professional powerhouse I want to project in my work for the day.
Don’t worry, the fluffy slippers are a crucial component to my dignified home-working attire and I believe they keep me grounded…right?!
Be an advocate in the office.
Look, we don’t all work in HubSpot with their unlimited holidays, dogs in the office and flexible working. In my experience of working in Irish businesses there is an overwhelming and highly unfortunate skepticism towards working remotely. Even if you do get the grudging permission to work from home, often it can come with a sense of insecurity about how “legit” the practice is.
Don’t fan the fires of insecurity by spending the day snapchatting as you binge-watch your way through Fleabag. Become an advocate and ambassador for the policy by taking it seriously and sharing, honestly, the benefits that you enjoy as an employee.
Thank your boss, or even just reassure them that you are actually clearing through a backlog on the days you are at home. Be visible by dialling into meetings or staying in contact with your team-mates. Show them the benefits will speak for themselves with a happy, productive employee who relishes the opportunity to get some focus at home…but don’t ever let them know about the slippers…that’s between you and me….
So your boss just isn’t buying home-working…
Honestly, this probably needs a whole other blog post dedicated to the subtle art of negotiation! When someone does not see the benefits of flexible working, it is going to be a hard sell to try to get them to change their viewpoint. Maybe they don’t trust you to have the focus (and maybe they are right!) or maybe they are afraid there will be a tsunami of home-working “if you let one go, they’ll all want to do it!”. And ultimatrly you have to be prepared that they may just have a legitimate reason for not encouraging the practice. For example, in cases where there is a pervasive issue with a toxic culture or personality clashes within teams, having a policy which promotes distance can serve to exacerbate existing issues. A flexible policy that works for one organisation may not always work for another.
But equally there may be instances where your boss is just being a bit of a dick about remote working, so it’s up to you to take on the challenge and approach this as you would any other business request. You need to put some time, thought and energy into first understanding their objections, and then providing them with a well-considered business case. Instead of fighting, provide possible solutions to their objections. Maybe as a team you could come to an arrangement whereby you will agree a Remote Roster between you; ensuring staff levels never fall too low?
Try to think about it from your boss’s perspective; if you can demonstrate higher levels of productivity, which translate into financial savings for the business surely you can add them up over a period of time to demonstrate projected cost-savings? Make your boss an offer she can’t refuse!
In the meantime, if you want more tips on how to engage in successful negotiations you should definitely pick up a copy of Getting Past No.
Share your experiences of working from home in the comment section below!
Thanks for reading. Kissyface!
Tamara is the self-proclaimed Unqualified Blogger. She is a freelance Copywriter and Marketing Communications / Brand Strategist and Creative Generalist. She is available for speech writing, tattoo conventions and karaoke parties or would love to work with you on your latest marketing or creative challenges. Stay in touch on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or Contact her directly.