“Working from home will be a dream,” they said.
“You’ll have more time for your kids,” they predicted.
“You won’t ever sit in traffic again,” they claimed.
Well, yes. And no.
Working remotely is dreamy. It’s easier to carve out work hours based on when you’re most productive and set up a workspace exactly how you like it.
But here’s the kicker:
It can also be a bit isolating at times. There’s no heading down the hall to see who’s ready for a coffee break or calling the IT guy when the printer jams.
As a contractor, I’ve worked with many remote teams over the years and can confirm that much of what “they” say is true: Remote employees tend to be happier, healthier and more engaged than their in-office counterparts.
Many of today’s fastest-growing brands are building successful businesses by offering people the flexibility to work where, when and how they want. The key is finding ways to capitalize on newfound freedoms to stay motivated, productive and engaged.
I’m not talking about donning a three-piece suit that no one will see or posting work hours to the door of your home office. Yes, some productivity authorities swear by those tips. I say they’re far less effective than these atypical tactics:
“Work” at Your Gym
Or on nearby running trails. Or during a seven-minute workout. Making exercise an integral part of your daily routine isn’t just good for your wellbeing. It releases chemicals to the brain that boost productivity as well. When you hit a wall, take an exercise break to recharge and get re-inspired.
Trust me: This works.
So well, in fact, that I sometimes think smartphone voice recording apps were created specifically for mid-afternoon jogs. They’re a great way to cure writer’s block. I often have some of my most creative brainstorming sessions when I step away from my home office to take a running tour of the neighborhood.
When you work remotely, you can break from your seat for 30 minutes and no one will care.
In fact, the remote companies I work with all welcome it. If you employ remote workers, you might even consider supplementing a percentage of pre-qualified exercise-related memberships or gear.
Pick Your Best Schedule
With remote work, there’s no rush hour to endure. No supervisor watching your seat. You can power up your PC and fire through the day’s goals at the time you are most productive.
But you’re probably wondering:
“Won’t my job require set times?”
Probably not in the conventional way you’re used to. Remote teams can adjust schedules so early birds overlap night owls and time zones line up for at least part of the day. So even if you choose to work at coffee shops and coworking spaces, you can show up where and when it works for you.
When I first started working from home, I stuck to a typical 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Then one afternoon I found myself totally blocked on a big project. After three hours of painstakingly plowing through mediocre work, I powered down my PC. I got a good night’s sleep and when I woke at 6 a.m. the next day, the ideas were suddenly flowing.
I went straight to my home office and was done in an hour. Now I rarely worked conventional hours. Because I’m transparent about my availability and communicate daily on goals, there’s never been an issue with my early morning work hours.
Get Creative with Childcare
Don’t get lured into thinking you can work from home while the kids quietly entertain themselves in the background. It. Won’t. Work. Even as an independent contractor or freelancer, it’s important to separate work and personal hours.
On the other hand…
Remote workers have a huge advantage in-office staff don’t:
This means you not only have the freedom to work during the hours you’re most productive, but can arrange for flexible childcare during those times as well. And as remote working increases, so do childcare options that go beyond traditional daycare, nannies, school and summer camps.
Where I live, it’s easy to get in a 40-hour work week with a combination of drop-off playcare, preschool, learning centers and part-time babysitters. Even my gym offers weekday drop-in daycare from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And in some cities, a new coworking with childcare trend is starting to take shape.
Make ~~Meetings~~ Collaborations FUN
A worker who feels isolated from a team isn’t going to be happy or productive. There may be times when you think:
“Do my in-office coworkers assume I slack off all day?”
“Do they think of me as part of the team?”
“Do they think of me at all?”
Contrary to what you might think, the key to steering clear of these potential fears is not adding more meetings, emails and regularly scheduled check-ins to the calendar. That’ll get really old, really fast.
Instead, find fun ways to stay socially connected with your coworkers and managers. At Formstack, where Jell was founded, the entire team relies on tools like Slack in addition to the company’s own daily standup software. Formstack also holds monthly remote lunches via Zoom and leverages tools like HipChat to keep inter-office chats and messaging fun.
It’s all about discovering what works best for you, your team and your dream of what’ll make working from home, well, dreamy.