When the pandemic hit in early 2020, life changed seemingly overnight. Gone were nights out with friends, happy hour after a long day of work, and the new normal left a lot to be desired. Offices went from bustling to busted and companies were forced to figure out how to operate with teams spread out over entire cities or states instead of in one location.
One undeniable fact has come out of the mess that COVID-19 brought, however; remote work will be around for quite some time. Despite the call for workers to return to America’s great cities, plenty of workers are in no hurry to return to a long commute or a 9-5 schedule that leaves them drained when they get home.
So, how do you work remotely and still get all the production without sacrificing your work/life balance? Use these 7 habits to help solidify your process so you can maximize the best of both worlds.
1) Time Management
Learning to manage your time is one of the biggest time savers you can implement to help curb wasted time and make your work more efficient and streamlined. Spica has some great tools for helping freelance and remote workers track their time and focus on work when work is on your agenda.
Learning to be an effective time manager will also help you ensure that when your work is done for the day you’re able to focus on the life you want to be living.
Be careful not to take on too much work as well. Extra money can be tempting, but even though evening part time jobs can often pay well, be careful not to cannibalize your energy from your main income provider.
2) Create and Keep a Schedule
If Time Management had a best friend, it’d be the ever-important calendar. As a remote worker, it’s not likely that anyone’s breathing down your neck to make sure every billable hour included an hour's worth of work.
This means that you are entirely responsible for meeting deadlines, turning work in on time, and smoothly operating whatever your job is with little to no interference from management.
The need to schedule your day is second only to managing your time well and goes hand in hand with being able to do so. Capterra has a list of ten great scheduling software programs that are superb for creating a schedule that works around your life.
3) Freshman 15
In college they have a phenomenon that tends to affect more incoming freshman than any other section of students; the tendency to gain an average of 15 pounds during the first semester of college studies.
Switching from office to remote work can also cause a bit of weight gain to take place. With food readily available, it can be hard not to munch all day long while you’re working.
Incorporating a workout regimen into your daily or weekly routine can help keep weight gain at bay and will also help to relieve stress.
4) Schedule Social Time
Much like keeping track of your work schedule helps you meet deadlines, learning to schedule social events helps keep loneliness and isolation at bay. One of the biggest complains about remote work, according to Zippia, is the loneliness that can set in when working from home.
“To a certain extent, your co-workers are your social circle. Sometimes it is hard to explain to others that all your friends are online.” -Cody Jones, Director of Partnerships at Zapier.
Learning to make socializing a priority isnt’ something a large portion of the workforce had to do three years ago, but with the pandemic came new ways of working and isolation brought on a slew of learning curves everyone had to learn to navigate, being ever conscious of personal mental health.
5) Communication Takes Top Priority
Talking is easy, communicating isn’t. And when it comes to remote work, communication can seem like running a marathon for someone who sits on the couch all day. Remote work made good communication a must and requires more than just a one or two-word reply.
In their book, REMOTE: Office Not Required, Basecamp founders, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier explain why communication is so important and challenging for remote teams. With the loss of nonverbal communication, comes a greater need for verbal connection.
“When the bulk of your communication happens via email and the like, it doesn't take much for bad blood to develop unless everyone is making their best effort to the contrary. Small misunderstandings that could have been nipped in the bud with the wink of an eye or a certain tone of voice can quickly snowball into drama.”
Learning to communicate well is one of the hardest and yet most rewarding endeavors you can undertake as a remote worker, especially if you’re in a management or supervisor’s position.
6) Stability Challenges
As remote workers, we all rely on stable internet connections to keep us connected and everything running smoothly. Spotty internet or an internet outage, however, can be detrimental to workflow and can even cost you a job in some cases. Dealing with technology glitches and broken or inadequate equipment is one of the most nerve-wracking and frustrating parts of a remote worker's life. Having a plan of action can save the day, quite literally.
- Mobile Hotspots/Tethering-A MiFi device or cellphone that allows tethering can save your workday if your internet suddenly drops.
- Equipment Options-a backup computer or tablet can also come in handy should you have an issue with your pain computer.
Having a way to communicate an outage or poor reception to your team is crucial in keeping everything flowing smoothly during your workday, so plan for the inevitable so everyone’s on the same page.
7) Work-Life Balance
When it comes to working at home, the interruptions to your workday can happen much more frequently than those when you’re in the office. Suddenly those little ones you miss so much during the day are coming to you for every problem under the sun. Your little angels look more like tiny monsters bent on ruining your focus and productivity.
While it’s certainly not easy to navigate work and life when they’re happening at the same time, there are some things you can do to ease the growing pains.
- Tune Out-learning how to ignore the unimportant noise in your home is one of the best tactics for getting work done well and on time.
- Sequester-Much like a jury gets sequestered during deliberations in a trial, feel free to close yourself off to everyone who isn’t vital to getting your work done. Find a quiet place, shut a door, lock it; whatever it is you do that lets everyone know that you’re working and trying to focus.
- Self-Sufficiency-explain why you need to focus and teach your children and partner to do what they can for themselves. This cuts down greatly on requests for drinks, food, clothes, shoes, and everything else your children can’t find without your help.
- Arrange Childcare-If you have young children, having childcare set up in advance can save you from the headache of trying to work when your toddlers want to play.
Take It a Step Further
Being an effective remote worker is more about adaptation than perfection. Being open to change, communicating effectively, and preparing for breaks-both physical and mental, can greatly improve your work and productivity. So, take these tips and increase your effectiveness as a remote worker.
You might even take the next leap and try to convert your remote work status into a consulting gig. If you can do what you are doing for your current company but in a part-time role, you could seek out other employers (aka clients) that would hire you hourly at a much higher rate.
Making this switch to a self-employed consultant could allow you to take business deductions against your income to save on taxes. Eventually, you may even want to learn how to incorporate yourself to save more money and protect your assets from liability.