Even though working remotely might not be as common as you’d think during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people who are working remotely has increased over the last year and a half.
And that group of recently remote workers includes me.
Before my job at Agileana, a fully remote company since 2017, I worked at the National Cancer Institute and would go into the office every day. So, when I took my current job as a Drupal developer here, there were a lot of adjustments I had to make … and am still making after working from home for more than a year and a half.
Working remotely will always be imperfect. Of course, long hours away from home when you have kids and a wife are difficult, but creating separation between your work and home life without an office and with that family presents its own challenges. So, I came up with a list of 10 tips that won’t solve all of your work from home problems, but will at least make things a little bit easier.
- Remember to Stand: There’s a tension between sitting all day and how it impacts your body and standing and getting distracted. Schedules can get blurry, a work day can sprawl out into 10 hours, so try to stand up a couple times. You can set up reminders to take 10-15 minute breaks every couple of hours just to walk around the house or stretch. Your muscles and eyes will thank you later.
- Leave your Bedroom: It’s important to have a space to work. When I lived in an apartment, I would work at a desk in the middle of the living room. This wasn’t great. So, I moved to the bedroom, where I achieved privacy but I also ended up staying in the same space all day. This was taking a toll on me. There’s a lot to think about when trying to maximize space and, when living in a small apartment, it’s more difficult to find the right space. So, get a small desk, an external monitor, put it wherever you can, and go to that dedicated work space. If you have the means, you could even get the ultimate work from home setup. Having the right space isn’t about size, it’s about having the tools to make your day better. Being comfortable and able to do your best work positively impacts your efficiency and that has a big impact on your day.
- Avoid Getting Distracted … Sometimes: I’m the type of guy who, whenever I start dealing with a task or problem, I won’t leave my desk until I finish that task or problem. That’s tricky, sometimes problems are small and I can deal with them in an hour. Some tasks could keep me busy for a week. I don’t get distracted easily and this usually helps me finish my work. But sometimes the best way of dealing with a challenge and being as efficient as you can without stressing involves distraction. Embrace the fact that distractions are not always bad. Sometimes, when I’m stuck in a task, a distraction can be beneficial (and even necessary) to have an “aha moment” that allows me to find a solution. So, follow that errant thought for a moment, just remember to come back to work afterwards.
- Don’t Get Carried Away with Procrastination: I now have two monitors, so sometimes I want to stream a soccer game on one of those monitors while I work. I open a window and pretty soon, I’m looking up the roster for Mexico’s U20 squad. There’s email and social networks, videos, music … a lot of stuff to get lost in. So, how do you actually close these tabs or avoid being sucked into the procrastination void? Just close those tabs! With great power, comes great responsibility.
- Schedule your Lunch Breaks: I had surgery a few months ago and, during recovery, I was working, too. I had a lot of trouble handling my schedule and was eating lunch and dinner whenever I had time. I gained weight. All it takes is a month or two to get off the rails and gain weight if you don’t have consistency in what you eat and when you eat. I felt like I was dragging my feet. Having a solid schedule with a breakfast, lunch, and dinner included will not only have a beneficial impact on your health but will also allow you to plan your workday better.
- Don’t Forget about your Social Life: I’m constantly forcing myself to see people. It could even be something small like inviting friends over for an hour. When your home is your office, you need to distract yourself from work, you need time out, and you need to touch base with non-coworkers. I like the people from my team, but it’s not the same as leaving the work world all together, connecting with friends and getting a breath of fresh air… remember, there is a world outside.
- Spend Quality Time with Family and Loved Ones: It’s important to see your family, whether adopted or biological. These are the people you’re closest with, who you share the most with, your tightest community. Some people work to support their family but that’s not the same as connecting with them. I have kids and spending quality time with them is is essential for our relationship. I need to constantly connect with my loved ones… life goes by so fast, enjoy it while it lasts!
- Don’t Stop Moving: We think of exercise as going to the gym and sweating on a treadmill. But it doesn’t have to be that. I have a co-worker who walks a few miles every day — but if that’s too much, even a 20 minute walk is nice. Get away, get out of here, go yell at some birds.
- Keep Motivation Going: It’s easy to get lost in doing the same thing day in and day out. Maybe you’re on the same project for a year or more. Maybe you do the same tasks constantly. You need to find happiness somehow. Whenever you have a negative attitude towards teammates or clients, you’re going to have trouble working every day. And it will spiral from there. If you can find a way to stay excited about something, that’s good, keep it going.
- Pick a Hobby: Anything is better than nothing. Staring at the walls, watching birds, whatever. You can be an obsessive record collector like myself, or play guitar or piano or draw (that just requires some paper and a pencil). Having a hobby gets you away from the stress of working from home and lets you focus on something new. Sometimes, you need to feel in control of even one small thing. A hobby can do this and, personally, helps me to be more zen.
Working remotely has changed a lot of the boundaries I kept around my life. I used to take some things for granted, like a dedicated space to work, and now I have to recreate parts of that office experience in my home. A remote job is a blessing as long as you can adjust to this new way of work, with all the pros and cons. I’m just grateful for the new challenges I’m facing and the new perspectives I have about work, family, and friends.
I always wanted to work from home, I figured it would be nice. And it is, I don’t commute, I spend more time with my family, and I can spend more time on hobbies. But, I also run into new stressors and new issues to find a balance with.
So, be careful what you wish for, it might just happen.