Preparing to Work Remotely

Posted by Gabe Murillo – Research Associate

With all the buzz about remote and flexible workforces, a lot of people are wondering if they are well-suited to take advantage of these new work arrangements. Before you jump into the remote workforce or start interviewing for remote jobs, make sure you think through the following potential challenges.

Time management – how do you handle flexibility

Remote work can offer workers an entirely new form of flexibility. With this newfound flexibility comes an increased need for excellent time management. There are a plethora of platforms and applications that are designed to help with time and task management and those are important tools in a remote worker’s time management toolbox. Chances are any interview you have for a remote job will have some questions about your familiarity with time management tools, or what you are using today, so do your research and speak with authority on the topic. Demonstrating that you have thought about the increased demand for self-management and proactively explored different platforms and tools will show that you are ready to take on the additional responsibilities of working remotely.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with time management tools, I would suggest thinking holistically about your time. Tracking tasks is important but so is a consistent overall schedule. When you enter the remote workforce, you should be ready to set a firm schedule for yourself. This schedule should include a firm start and finish time. Working remotely can blur the line between work time and social and/or family time. It is important to figure out how you will manage the potential expansion of work time. Setting a firm disconnect time is necessary for a healthy work-life balance and can increase productivity. Knowing when you will disconnect for the day can prevent procrastination and inspire more productivity throughout the day by creating a consistent deadline. This was the most difficult lesson for me to learn when I worked 100% remotely. When I lacked clear boundaries between work time and non-work hours, I found myself working excessive hours and felt cooped up in my home office. This is a dangerous combination and can result in burnout and disengagement. As a remote worker, you must be willing to turn off notifications and walk away from your work. Consistent start and stop times will also help you communicate your availability clearly to co-workers and supervisors.

Setting a firm schedule is also an essential part of establishing a routine as a remote worker. This routine is crucial to create a separation between work and non-work time. As a remote worker, it is tempting to think you’ll have time to run errands, clean, do meal prep, or other tasks around the house while working. In addition to individual pressures, others who do not understand remote working may think that you are always free for lunch or a quick visit for coffee. Establishing a routine helps you focus on work while working. So yes, you may have more flexibility to get to the gym or grab a coffee from your favorite coffee shop, but make sure those activities are done during clearly non-work times. While it is tempting to work in your pajamas, some remote workers even make sure to get fully dressed as if they were going to work, just to clearly define their time. A stable routine will help you set clear boundaries in both directions, making sure you are focused on work during work times, and that you have personal time during off-hours.       

Work from home or work remotely

Do you plan on working entirely from a home office or do you plan on working in various locations? Many remote workers are perfectly happy setting up an office at home, but others are looking to fully embrace the advantages of remote work. The ability to have more flexibility in the workspace is tied to the type of work you will be doing. If your remote job is heavy on calls and virtual meetings you will need to create a distraction and noise-free space to work. If your work is focused on individual tasks like content creation or social media management, you can consider taking advantage of the opportunity to work from a variety of places. Even if it is only 1 or 2 days a week, or maybe a few hours a week, working outside of the home can bring some relief from cabin fever that can occur when you are working from home. Mobile work can also give you an opportunity to explore your city or travel. Some of my favorite days of working remotely were spent at coffee shops across the country enjoying an ocean view or being part of a busy city atmosphere.

Reserving time in a coworking environment can give you the best of both worlds. Most coworking spaces will allow you to buy a day pass to work onsite. This gives you some variety and assures you have a professional working space to conduct any phone calls or virtual meetings you may need to do. Working in coworking spaces can be an excellent opportunity for networking and building a community outside the office.

Workspace and technology – creating functional spaces for productivity

It is important to know what you need in your workspace to be productive and happy. When you are setting up your remote workspace make sure you have everything you need to mimic an in-office setup. Whether it’s dual monitors or a comfortable office chair, assess your needs and make sure you aren’t cutting corners in your workspace. You will also need to invest in the tools you need to effectively communicate from home. A high-quality headset is necessary for calls and a high-quality webcam will make sure you are putting your best foot forward in video conferences and meetings. Having a productive workspace goes well beyond having a laptop and an internet connection. Make sure you are setting yourself up for a successful transition to remote work by creating a welcoming and productive workspace.

If you plan on being more mobile, make sure you can easily pack all your essentials. Have a mobile work backpack ready to go so you can quickly transition to different workspaces. Do some research and make sure you are taking advantage of all the new technology for remote workers. For example, portable monitors can give you a dual monitor setup anywhere, portable chargers can extend your battery life even if there isn’t a conveniently placed plug-in. Set yourself up for success by taking advantage of all the new technology inspired by the future of work.    

Joining the remote workforce can be an exciting career transition. Working remotely brings new flexibility and freedom to your workday. But working remotely is not without its challenges. Thinking through these challenges will help you in your interview for a remote job and help smooth out any bumps in your transition to working remotely. 

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