“If you are working effectively as a flexible worker, you may not be physically seen as much as you would do if you were working full-time in the office, but that doesn’t mean your results are actually any different.” -Katie McQuaid, Fulfillment Director at Amazon UK
The days of working in a cubicle with glaring fluorescent lights overhead are quickly disappearing. As menial office jobs evolve into more creative, hands-on careers, workplaces are reflecting these changes—open spaces, indoor greenery, and large windows are becoming the norm. Arguably the biggest change, though, is the ability to work remotely. For the remote employee, the office can be anywhere at any time of day or night.
Of course, the freedom to work remotely does bring with it a lot of distractions and possibilities of losing out on valuable time. For every remote worker, establishing good work habits outside the office is essential for professional growth and success. Effectively working remotely is a balancing act between freedom and responsibility—the trick is to use your freedom responsibly.
This compromise between independence and obligation starts with your attitude. Without the confines of an office, it can be difficult for some people to get in the work mindset. Many people use their freedom to dress down from stiff work attire. “Working from home in your PJ’s” is a popular trope, but it’s not really helpful for productivity. Dress comfortably, but get yourself ready for the day. This will increase motivation, allow you to leave the house if you’re not good with the confinements of a home office, and help prevent you from lounging around and procrastinating.
You’ll also be free from the rigid 9–5 workday schedule, so it’s a good idea to use your morning to prepare yourself in some way for the day’s work. Go to the gym, take a yoga class, shower, or cook and eat a good breakfast. Whatever you choose, do it in a timely manner and then get to work.
Before you begin working remotely, you’ll need to separate a space in your home that’s as free as possible from distractions. Even if you prefer not to work from home often, this place will come in handy if you need to burn the midnight oil. You’ll also want to personalize the area in order to keep up your motivation. You can check out a guide to creating an effective workspace here.
The great thing about working remotely is that your office can be anywhere: a coffee shop, a library, a park, maybe even a museum. You can also take advantage of working during commute times on a subway, train, or airplane, when you wouldn’t normally be able to get work done. Regardless of whether your work is done on-the-go or in your favorite coffee shop, it’s a good idea to bring headphones to drown out background noises and keep you focused. And since remote work is generally done on a laptop or tablet, you might want to check out some protective cases for your tech so you can confidently take it anwhere.
Wherever you conduct your business, you can eliminate all distractions and still have a hard time getting everything done. This is where you’ll need to really commit to protecting your time. Set aside specific times each day for working, and during those times, make sure that’s what you’re doing. It might help to set a timer—maybe you work for four hours and then give yourself a 15-minute break.
Conversely, when it’s time for you to take a break or be done for the day, really do it! Don’t take your work home with you (figuratively, of course, if your workspace is in your home). Have a healthy mindset of leaving your work at the door so you can relax when you’re done.
Working remotely allows you to have a lot of flexibility with vacation time, since you can work from anywhere. You might need to bring your work with you on vacation. If so, the same principle of protecting your time still applies here—don’t let the vacation creep in and push your work aside, but don’t let your job stop you from enjoying your travels. Separate your time effectively and leave your work behind you when it’s time to have fun.
Chances are that as a remote employee, your schedule won’t always align with the typical 9–5 workday. You’ll still need to meet your deadlines and keep your communication with your clients, coworkers, and superiors open. That’s perhaps the most overlooked part of working remotely—keep those who need to know in the know. Make sure they know that even though you took last week off to spend with your family, you’ll still be prepared for that phone call tomorrow and for your deadline next week. This might mean that you’ll need to be up at odd hours of the night sometimes, and that’s okay! Being flexible with your time is essential to remote work.
Above all, if you’re going to be successful as a remote worker, you need to be committed. You’ll have to be comfortable with working anywhere and potentially anytime outside a typical work day. You’ll need to keep your motivation high and your communication at a maximum. And your work will need to be just as high-quality as it would be if you were working in the office each day. It’s not for everyone, but if you have what it takes to work remotely, you might find a whole new level of satisfaction in your career.