The typical work environment is evolving. More and more companies are relying on a distributed workforce to meet their goals. Remote work is the trend of the day and the future. But it’s more than that, really. Setting up a work-from-home company culture has been proven to increase productivity and foster a sense of happiness and balance among employees. And we all know that happy employees are loyal ones. Nowadays (and moving forward), remote work is just the new norm for conducting business.
I work for a web design and development agency that is 100% distributed. We have a talented team that spans coast-to-coast across the great US. So, each and every one of us, including our CEO and COO, all work from home. For us, remote work is our lifestyle.
Many of my coworkers are quite familiar with this type of life and career. But for me, it’s a relatively new experience. As a writer, I am naturally creative. However, I also crave structure and order—two things that can be difficult to attain when working from the comfort of your home. With diligence, it can be achieved, though. After a year of working from home, here are the things I have discovered that make remote work work for me.
1. I prepare for the workday in advance. I set my coffee maker the night before so I have fresh Joe ready for me each morning. I’m one of those people who needs it to begin my day on the right foot. I also set out my laptop, notebook, and pen so they’re readily available. And, I keep the speaker I use to listen to Pandora all day charged and ready to go. It’s like I’m office-ready each morning, so there is no scramble on my part to get myself together as the day begins.
2. I get dressed. While it would be perfectly acceptable to work in my pajamas, I don’t. Good hygiene and a cute outfit help me feel productive. I say cute, but really, my daily remote work outfits are nothing more than athleisure wear. That means that yoga pants, joggers, and blousy T-shirts are my go-to pieces. Keeping athleisure looks handy in my wardrobe allows me to remain around-the-house comfortable and public-ready for those times when I need to run errands right after work.
3. I set boundaries. If you have a family, pets, or even roommates and work from home, you had better set boundaries with them. Create office hours and limit interruptions. I live alone, but my friends and family know I work from home. In the beginning, not all of my relatives and friends caught onto the fact that even though I work remote, I’m still working. And I can’t take their calls and texts during the middle of the day. But they realize it now. It helps to turn my phone off and just check it intermittently for messages. I have to set boundaries for myself, too, not allowing for flash sales or daytime TV to distract me. Boundaries provide the structure a remote worker needs to focus.
4. I move around. I don’t have a set office space at home. Because my bedroom is upstairs, I keep the entire second floor off limits. I don’t believe my bedroom should ever be used for work, even on those days when I feel under the weather. But downstairs, I work while lounging on the sofa and at the coffee table, sitting or standing at the dining room table, or outside on my back patio when the weather is nice. I prefer standing at the dining room table the most. I burn calories that way. Remote workers also have the option of leaving the house and working from a favorite coffee shop or coworking space. I may do that from time-to-time, but I don’t make a regular habit of it. I find these types of working environments too social and distracting, but they might work out for you.
MUST-HAVES FOR STANDING AT WORK
5. I stay in contact with my coworkers. Remote work can be lonely and make you feel disconnected, but if you take a proactive approach, you can avoid all that. Recently, a happiness expert explained to Business Insider that having a best friend at work can make a person happier. At my job, we use Slack to stay connected, and I have a few good friends who I joke around with throughout the day. Additionally, we have specific channels set up for clubs and special interests. I love sharing funny articles on our Random channel and I joined our Book Club. Sporadic chats with my coworkers and bosses keep me feeling a part of a winning team.
6. I set reminders for everything. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I am innately unorganized. It’s not my fault. I was born this way. But, I am also self-disciplined. I learned as a child the tactics I need to employ in order to be organized. Until somewhat recently, I used to have to depend on notebooks and spiral bound calendars to remember deadlines and prioritize projects. Nowadays, I can rely on Slackbot and Siri to remind me of which projects I am working on and when I need to have them completed. When you’re working in an on-site office, daily interactions and conversations with your coworkers can spur reminders of tasks that need to be done. But when you work at home alone, it’s helpful to count on artificial intelligence to keep you organized.
7. I treat myself to a work environment that is nurturing. I mean, I’m at home. Why not take advantage of it? I normally have fresh flowers and a sandalwood candle near my laptop. I keep my kitchen (aka the breakroom) well-stocked with healthy snacks, tasty coffee, and Vitamin Water. In my bathroom, I keep available an indulgent hand scrub and lavender lotion. My job feeds my mind, but I make sure to do what is necessary to feed my soul.
COMFORTING WORK-AT-HOME MUST-HAVES
8. I take breaks! Seriously, you have to step away from the computer once in awhile. Sometimes, I walk on the treadmill for five minutes or do some planks on my yoga mat. My eyes get tired. My brain gets tired. Both need a rest now and then. I feel refreshed afterward and better able to focus when I’ve taken a bit of a break.
9. I put away my laptop and work stuff at the end of the day and on weekends. At the end of my workday, Mondays-Thursdays, I close my laptop and fold up my stand, allowing them to remain out for easy access the following morning. But nonetheless, they are closed up for the night. And on Friday evenings, I completely tuck away both, my standing mat, and any other office supplies—all of which remain out of sight for the weekend. Of course, I do pull out my laptop some week evenings and weekends for online shopping, blogging, or research. But the ritual of putting things away when I’m done working helps my mind understand that it’s time to switch my mental mode from work to play. If you’re like me with no designated office, use a storage bin to stow away your work. But if you do have a home office, close the door when your workday or workweek is completed.
All the effort I put into making my remote work life work for me is worth it. I am productive and focused at work. I am balanced and relaxed in my personal life. I have harmony, but it’s an ongoing effort. Remote work can work. And it may be something you will have to do someday, regardless if you work in the tech industry or not. Keep my tips handy. Familiarize yourself with the concept of remote work now, and you will be prepared for your possible future.