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Five Ways to Win at Working Remotely
Working remotely seems to be all the buzz. Apparently, 70% of professionals work from home at least once a week. Similarly, 77% of people work more productively, and 68% of Millennials would consider a company more if they offered the option of working remotely. It seems to make sense: technology, connectivity and culture seem to be increasingly setting the world up for working remotely.
However, here’s the stark truth: working remotely isn’t for everyone. Some people need the structure or the social element of an office. Some people need to get out the house. Some people lack the discipline to stay focused at home.
To make it work for you, understand that working remotely is like a muscle: it can bring enormous strength and capabilities if you train and maintain it. If you don’t, then your results are going to vary.
Here are five recommendations to effectively work remotely:
1. You Need Discipline and Routine (and to Understand Your “Waves”): Working remotely really is a muscle that needs to be trained. Just like building actual muscle, there needs to be a clear routine and a healthy dollop of discipline mixed into it.
Always get dressed. Set your start and end time for your day. Choose your lunch break. Choose your morning ritual. Decide where your main workplace will be.
Design a realistic routine and do it for 66 days. It takes this long to build a habit. Try not to deviate from the routine. The more you stick the routine, the less work it’ll seem to be further down the line. By the end of the 66 days, it’ll feel natural, and you won’t have to think about it.
However, we all have waves. A wave is when you need a change of routine. For instance, in the summertime I generally want more sunlight. I will often work outside in the garden as opposed to my home office. Near the holidays I get more distracted, so I need more structure in my day. Sometimes I just need more human contact, so I’ll work from coffee shops for a few weeks. Sometimes I just fancy working in the kitchen or on the couch.
You need to learn your waves and listen to your body. Build your habit first, and then modify it as you learn your waves.
2. Set Expectations with Your Management and Colleagues: Not everyone knows how to work remotely, and if your company is less familiar with this, then you especially need to set expectations with colleagues.
This can be pretty simple: when you’ve designed your routine, communicate it clearly to your management and team. Let them know how they can get hold of you, how to contact you in an emergency and how you’ll be collaborating while at home.
The communication component here is crucial because you need time away. You need to eat lunch without one eye on your computer. Set expectations that sometimes you may not be immediately responsive, but you’ll get back to them as soon as possible.
Similarly, set expectations on your general availability. For example, I set expectations with clients that I generally work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Sure, if a client needs something urgently, then I’m more than happy to respond outside of those hours, but as a general rule I’m usually working between those hours. This is necessary for a balanced life.
3. Distractions Are Your Enemy, and They Need Managing: We all get distracted. It’s human nature. You need to learn what distracts you and how to manage it.
For example, I know my email and Twitter distract me. I check them religiously, and every check takes me out of the zone.
The digital distractions have a simple solution: lock them out. Close down the tabs until you complete what you’re doing. It requires discipline, but all of this does.
The human elements are tougher. If you have a family, then you need to make it clear when you’re work, you need to be generally left alone. This is why a home office is so important to set boundaries, outside of an emergency.
4. Relationships Need In-Person Attention: Some roles are more attuned to working remotely than others. With any team, though, having a strong relationship is essential, and in-person discussion, collaboration, and socializing are essential to this. This is especially important if you’re new to a company and need to build these relationships, you’re new to a role and need to build relationships with your team, and/or you’re in a leadership position where building buy-in and engagement is a key part of your job.
What’s the solution? A sensible mix of remote and in-person time. If your company is nearby, then work from home part of the week and at the office the other part. If your company is farther away, then schedule regular trips to the office, and set expectations with your management that you need this.
5. Stay Focused, but Cut Yourself Some Slack: This is all about building a capability, and developing a remote-working muscle. This is as simple as building a routine, sticking to it, and having an honest view of your waves and distractions, and how to manage them.
– Jono Bacon
About the Author: Bacon, jonobacon.com, is a leading community and management strategy consultant, speaker, and author. He’s the founder of Jono Bacon Consulting, jonobacon.com/consulting, which provides community and management strategy, execution, and coaching. He’s also previously served as director of community at GitHub, Canonical, XPRIZE, and OpenAdvantage, and has consulted and advised a range of organizations. Plus, he’s the author of People-Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand and Teams.
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