When the prospect of taking a 100-percent remote job presented itself just over a year ago, I hesitated. I always enjoyed the flexibility of working remotely a day here or a day there. But working from home all the time? (I should mention my home is a studio apartment where my “office” is my kitchen table, which is in my living room, which is in my bedroom.)
Would I go crazy?
I thought long and hard about whether all the benefits of working remotely – flexibility, no commuting time, quiet, comfort, fewer interruptions, higher productivity – outweighed the negatives – living and working out of the same room 24/7, not seeing any co-workers, home distractions, the ease of giving into laziness.
I asked for people’s opinions, and the reactions were quite binary. On one hand, the supporters couldn’t believe how lucky I was to never have to go to the office or get dressed and that I could sleep in, do laundry or watch daytime TV if I felt like it. Ahh, what a dream. The others feared I might become a hermit, or wondered how such an arrangement could even be possible.
Well, a year later, I can decidedly say that a remote job is wonderful. Sure, there’s a healthy balance of pros and cons. Overall, though, it’s improved the work experience. Everyone’s situations and obligations are different, but these are some of the truths I discovered:
- I work with a supportive team. It’s important that your co-workers and your organization support remote working and are committed to making the arrangement work for the entire team. I’m lucky to work for a company where remote work, at some level, has been engrained for years. We have the right tools in place for borderless collaboration, our culture extends beyond the office, and anyone on the team – even if they’re local – can work from wherever they wish. While plenty of people still work from our office, everyone knows what it’s like to work outside of it.
- I don’t watch TV all day (no matter how badly I want to catch up on “This Is Us”). I was always one to get in the office in the morning, sit down and crank until the end of the day. I limited distractions to focus on getting work done and getting out of the office. Productivity at its best. Working from home changed that. Cooking a real meal for lunch, washing some dishes, taking a gym class – everything was within my reach, so why not continue with my outside-of-work life during office hours? Of course, that meant I would log off later at night or start earlier in the morning, but that wasn’t a bad change. I’d still get the same number of things done in a day – work and personal – only the timetables shifted.
- Sometimes I do laundry. Most days in an office setting, it’s impossible to not take some sort of break. Distractions run rampant around you, you spend a few minutes chatting with a co-worker while you make coffee, or some emergency happens and the entire office gets involved. As I started working from home, most of these situations were avoided, and, surprisingly, I had to be more cognizant of taking a break to stay productive. I found myself taking 10 minutes to wash dishes or throw in a load of laundry (bonus: I now had a clean apartment and felt accomplished for completing simple tasks) or 30 minutes to go for a run and get my blood flowing. Your brain needs time to refresh to power through a long day.
- I get out of the house. Sitting in one place all day is not easy, unless maybe you’re a master meditator. Even when I worked in an office all day, I’d leave my desk to work from a comfy chair, move to a different table or stand. Same goes when you’re remote – I can’t work from my apartment all day, every day. I work from a local WeWork a handful of times a month or visit a coffee shop for a few hours. Getting out and changing locations gives me that little extra dose of inspiration, creativity and energy.
- I get dressed – usually. I found one of the downsides of not working with teammates face-to-face was how hard, and rare, it was to be able to feed off of their energy. If I was feeling drained from a busy week or a gloomy day, it was too easy to give into it. In an office, you’ve got people all around you to help you perk up (to be fair, this can work in reverse if a co-worker’s bad day impacts the whole office). Our team has started taking video “brain breaks” to combat this and have quick, fun chats unrelated to work to mimic some of that in-person bonding. I also received this advice from many others and realized how important it is: follow a morning routine. It makes such a difference in your day and mental outlook to shower, get dressed (though, to stay honest, I’m wearing sweats right now in anticipation of a gym session tonight. It’s all a balance.) and walk outside – even if just around the block – than to roll out of bed and sit with your laptop on your couch.
In a few weeks, I’ll be taking my experience so far and testing my personal limits of remote work as I embark on a year-long adventure with Remote Year. Stay tuned…
Hopefully this has been helpful to you. Here are some other great resources from remote companies:
- Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work (Basecamp)
- How to Run a Remote Team (Zapier)
- The Difference Between “Remote” and “Remote-First” (Litmus)
- Advancing Work: A Q&A with Buffer's Kevan Lee on Remote Work (Buffer)
- REMOTE (Basecamp)
- Remote Work: The Ultimate Guide to Doing Kick-Ass Work from Anywhere (Time Doctor)