There’s no doubt about it: there are loads of benefits to being a remote worker. The flexibility, the lack of an arduous commute, and the freedom to work in your comfiest clothes are all major plus points to any remote role.
In saying that, remote work certainly isn’t without its unique difficulties. For one thing, you need to be extremely disciplined and organized with your time to actually work productively.
Also: remote work can be very isolating. With no office buddies to shoot the breeze with over a hot cup of coffee, it’s unsurprising that remote workers often end up feeling lonely during the working day.
There are a few things you can do, however, to stave off the sense of isolation. Here are our top tips for staying sane as a remote worker.
Find a way to mark the start of your work day.
The majority of remote workers work from home. And that’s great – it means you don’t need to factor in a commute, and you can save lots of money by making your own sandwich (or elaborate risotto — you’re at home, after all).
But there’s a big drawback: it can be really hard to start your working day at home. If you’re already a remote worker, you’ll probably know how it feels. It’s tempting to find anything else to do – the laundry, the dishes, the lawn-mowing –instead of actually sitting down and working. This is essentially the same problem that many college students struggle with — except that students at least have a rigid external deadline hovering over them.
So, how do you tackle those distractions?
By sticking to a morning routine. It could be reading the newspaper, taking the dog for a walk, or even something as simple as boiling a pot of coffee at precisely 8:25 a.m. each morning.
Whatever it is, make sure you do it at the same time each day. This will help you create the illusion of a fixed structure. Like the guy who has to catch the same bus every morning, you need to find a way to imitate the feeling that it’s time to work, and there’s no way out of it.
Use a designated workspace (if possible)
Where you work can have a huge impact on your day-to-day productivity, as some places will be more distracting than others.
There’s no rule of thumb here. While 31% of remote workers are lucky enough to have a home office, not everyone does. That’s why some remote workers do their work on the sofa with their laptop propped on a cushion; it’s why others clog the kitchen table with project-related post-it notes; and why still more spend the whole day at their local cafe on the basis of a single cappuccino.
Wherever it is you work, one thing is important: try to keep that space a designated work-zone. That way, you’ll be in a productive mindset whenever you’re sitting in that spot.
Get dressed in the morning
Working in your PJs sounds like a dream — until you become that person.
In reality, pajamas and productivity don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. If you want to dress for success in your remote role: do put some clothes on! While remote work offers many luxuries, it’s still important to approach your job in a professional, organized and considered way.
Part of this is about looking after yourself, which starts with the basics like brushing your teeth and generally pretending that you’re visible to the outside world.
Take regular breaks
Sure, it’s great to get into a state of flow. Distraction-free, you can really get stuck into a meaty piece of work when you’re away from your team.
But don’t let yourself become overworked, either. After all, being stressed, tired and over-focused will only have a negative impact on the way you work.
To prevent this: remember to take regular breaks. Step away from your computer every 30 minutes. Walk around the room. Rest your eyes. Whatever it takes, just give yourself a few moments each day to completely relax and recharge your batteries.
Remote workers can also benefit from the pomodoro technique – breaking your day up into 25-minute chunks, with five-minute breaks in between. This will help you find that magic balance between work and relaxation, which is super important for any remote worker.
Get some fresh air
When your home is also your workplace, it’s easy to get to 5pm and realize you haven’t breathed a single cubic inch of fresh air all day.
To avoid this, you could head for a walk around the block at lunchtime. Alternatively, some remote workers like to start their day with a brisk walk outdoors — it helps them shake the sleep from their eyes.
Either way, you’ll get to your desk revitalized, and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Use digital communication tools to stay in touch with your team…
As we’ve already mentioned, loneliness and isolation can be a real issue for remote workers.
But there are many ways to combat this, including staying in touch with your colleagues throughout the day. Communication apps (like Slack, for example) — and collaborative working platforms (like Dropbox Paper or Google Docs) can bring a team closer together, even when they’re a continent apart.
You don’t need to stick to business all the time, either. A little small-talk among the team goes a long way to making you feel sane.
…And remember to show your face, now and then
While digital communication can be a great stopgap, there will always be a need for in-person meetings from time to time.
Exactly how often you do them – fortnightly, monthly, or bi-annually – is up to your organization, but we’d recommend that remote workers make in-person catch ups a priority.
Why? Not only does in-person time help ease the isolation of remote working, but it also strengthens team dynamics and helps to keep everyone on the same page, too.
Use to-do lists to organize your time and increase accountability
Without a manager sitting a few desks away, remote workers can easily slip into bad habits – spending more time on life admin than actual work tasks.
Whatever approach you take, one thing’s for sure: tracking what you need to do, and when you need to do it by, will help guarantee that your remote working day is a productive one.
Keep your team-mates updated with your progress
It’s all well and good to be smashing through your objectives – but you need to let the rest of your team know, too.
When you’re working remotely, away from your colleagues and managers, it’s all the more important to be transparent with your project progress. If you’re struggling with something, communicate that. If something has gone really well, shout it out.
Managing workflows can be a challenge in a remote team, and that’s why communication is absolutely key.
Remote working isn’t for everybody – don’t worry if it doesn’t work out for you
At the end of the day, working remotely isn’t going to suit everyone. If you embark on a remote role, only to realize that you’re finding it harder than you’d like – there’s no shame in switching back to an in-house position. In fact, one study found that 20% of team members working from home said they’d rather go back to working in the office.
For many people, though, remote working proves to be a game-changer for both their personal and professional lives, and increases their overall sense of fulfilment – so it’s worth giving it a go if you get the opportunity!
Let us know how you get on, and check out our guide on how to make friends as a remote worker.