For years, I didn’t consider working remotely–I was happy to go into the office to work. I enjoy seeing everyone and writing in my own quiet little office–or I did until the restaurant below started playing loud music that makes it hard for me to concentrate. And then I was reassigned to a noisy cubicle. Since I had a choice, I started working from home more often, and I’ve actually come to prefer it. But staying focused can be tricky! If you have the opportunity to work somewhere other than your office, here are some tips for successfully working remotely:
Find the right job. Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual and an experienced remote worker, cautions against taking a job working remotely just because it has good benefits or a high salary. The right job will be a combination of what you like to do, what you do best, and what contributes value to an organization. Loving what you do will increase your job satisfaction, reduce your stress, and improve your performance.
Choose the best spot. I prefer the silence of our home office with a clean counter, an extra monitor, and a drawerful of pens and Post-it notes. The extra monitor allows me to research on the Internet and write at the same time. But it can be a little gloomy, so I often opt to work at our kitchen table next to the window. It just feels more energizing and helps my creative juices flow.
Minimize distractions. For each of us who works from home, our distractions may vary, depending on what calls out for our attention. Our operations manager is a dad with an active toddler. On the days when he works from home, he often closes the door to his office to help him focus. You may find yourself deciding to ignore the ring of your home phone, or the dryer that dings to alert you when it’s time to fold clothes. I refuse to jump up every time our dogs bark unless someone actually knocks on the front door. The key is to understand ahead of time what distracts you, and decide what your plan will be to minimize it.
Work when your brain is on. I don’t know about you, but my body clock doesn’t work the normal 8-to-5 shift. I’m slow in the morning, but my brain is at its best from about noon to early evening. Oppositely, a self-employed wedding and family photographer I know finds that her peak brain hours occur mid-morning and then later in the evening. If you’re not tied to an office schedule, figure out when your brain is at its best, and work when you can be most productive.
Manage your energy. Donovan recommends establishing routines and rituals that increase your sense of well-being and give you energy rather than drain it away. I’ve found that getting up to make a hot drink is a great way to rest my eyes from the computer and get my blood flowing again. You could take a 15-minute walk, a meditation break, or any “short break [that] will get your blood flowing, increase oxygen to your brain, and fundamentally increase your energy.”
Stay connected. If you’re on your own, you may want to find a local coffee shop (our photographer friend likes Canabru) where you can become a regular and just hang out. You might even meet other people who are working remotely too. Or consider renting co-office space, advises Holly Reisem Hanna of TheWorkatHomeWoman.com. But if you have an office team, recommends Donovan, “Reach out as much as you can to the extent that it adds value to your working relationships. For example, let your manager know when you’re working on a particular assignment and offer updates. In a remote setting, your supervisors (and teammates!) will not know when you’re working on something unless you tell them.”
At Amtec, any part-time and/or remote workers try to converge in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays to touch base and collaborate where needed. This is when we also celebrate birthdays or have fun outings that help us feel more connected to each other.
Working remotely has its unique perks and challenges, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. With these tips for successfully working from home, you can be focused, energetic, and productive–and still stay connected to the human race!
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