Image by Djurdjica Boskovic
It's been a little over a year since I wrote my previous post about remote working. 12 months have passed and quite a few things have happened at work and in my life. More importantly, it's been another year of very successful remote working for me: I have consolidated a position of tech lead while working away from the office, which is not an easy task.
Being a remote employee (from your own home or from the beach) is tricky business. There are a lot of technical and psychological challenges that you will need to overcome, and you will need to get in the right mindset to do it right. We recently learned that Maarten Balliauw paints his home office a different colour to help him switch from work to home contexts. I don't go as far as that, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
My commute to the office is usually between 45 min to 1h depending on traffic conditions. If I work from home, that's 1.5-2h that I save off my daily routine every day. How would you use that extra time? Play videogames? Sleep in for 1h? While they are both valid answers, I've discovered that I prefer to use that time in a more productive way. These are the habits I've been building into my routine over the last few months to successfully navigate the life of a remote worker:
I've never been a morning person, but I've noticed that whenever I start work early, I'm ahead of what's coming. On the other hand, if I arrive just in time for our daily standup I feel like I'm playing catchup for the whole morning. Cutting the 1h commute allows me to snooze for an extra 15 minutes and start work before my team. I use that time to catch up on emails and admin tasks, so that I have a clear mental image of what the day ahead will look like.
I started meditating 3 months ago and I've been suprised by the results. I was expecting it to help me handle my emotions, but it's also had a positive impact in my motivation. A 10-minute meditation session gives me the focus I need to keep up some other good habits, like going to bed early or to dropping the crappy snacks at work. It also helps me a great deal to manage some of the stress that can often happen at work.
I'm not OCD, but I like to work in a tidy environment. Before starting work, I clean the lounge and the study so that my workplace is organized. Things like washing up the dishes from last night's dinner or picking up the clothes I discarded before going to bed. This allows me to focus on work with fewer distractions.
This is very related to the step above. As a home worker I can be very efficient with my househould chores. I can put a load on before I start work, and when I have my midmorning coffee break I can hang up the whole load. You may not have a watercooler at home, but you still need a 5 or 10 minute break here and there to clear your mind. You can use that time to complete some chores, so you can have more spare time in the evenings.
Cook my own food
I'm a huge fan of healthy eating. The best way to ensure that what you eat is healthy is to cook your own meals. I'm an expert in "survival cooking", which allows me to prepare something healthy and yummy in 10 min. In a usual 1h lunch break I can cook my own food and eat it.
I'm also a big fan of fitness and exercise. This does not mean that I could work as a fitness model, but for a person of my age and in my line of work I'm not doing badly. This allows me to do fun activities like kitesurfing or snowboarding, which then allow me to bring some positive energy to work. Cutting the afternoon commute allows me to sneak in a quick run or gym session after work.
I don't know about you, but my house is considerably smaller than my office. In a normal medium-sized workplace there are several spaces (including meeting rooms and a canteen) that offer a change of scenery during the day. When I work from home I'm mostly in the lounge, so after a full day's worth of work I'm in need of fresh air. I usually go for a 30-min walk right after work so that I can "decompress" from being in an enclosed space for the whole day. I also use that time to catch up with friends and family over the phone.
The Fun Zone
Remote working does not mean just "working from home": I try to work from beach towns a few months per year when I can. This allows me to go and play right after work. If I start work at 8 am and work through lunch I can leave work at 3:30 pm and hit the waters for a good kitesurf session. Priceless! I'm not saying that you should take up watersports to be an effective remote worker, but try to find a passion that motivates you, and blend it in with your work schedule. This will give a huge boost to your work-life balance and your motivation.
The steps above have given me a much more fun and effective work environment. Are you a remote worker? What are your tips?