My 14 best advice to a friend starting working remotely
One of my friends asked me if I had some tips regarding remote work, as he was about to start a new position in a remote environment (mainly). I read a lot of articles and blog posts about the topic of remote work, and somehow the issue even started to inflame me. In addition, I am often thinking about what this remote work means for us and how it could be a meaningful future of work. So I definitively had a lot of relevant aspects in mind. However, I thought that instead of sharing 3-4 recommendations with my friend through Whatsapp, I could share my insights with a broader audience. Indeed, the remote work topic is a reality for many of us, and for some, it even turned into a long-term decision. So, let's embark together on the remote work journey with my best recommendations.
First, a remote mindset, please!
1> Work doesn't mean laptop.
Don't think you are working because you are in front of your computer. You can be sitting on your sofa looking at competitors websites, and it is work. You can meet your target group spontaneously in the street and talk with them about their pain points, and it is work too. You can listen to a podcast related to your industry, and it is still work. If you work remotely, work is not related anymore to an office, but it is neither the case with your laptop. Don't identify your computer with your mental image of the office. Your brain (and your eyes) will thank you.
2> Define the positive aspects of working remotely for you and act consequently to live these advantages.
If it is to spend more time with your children, make sure you bring them to school or take them back, for example. If it is to have schedule flexibility, avoid the classical office day from 9:00 to 18:00 and define when you work. I often see people thrilled to work remotely, but for wrong reasons ("I won't see this person I don't like working with anymore!", "I am away from my boss!" etc.). These reasons are especially bad because they are reactive attitudes. They are not around building a new way of life or at least that are nearer to what matters for you. And this nobody can know it excepting you. The most challenging aspect of working remotely is defining the games' rules. But to do that, you first have to decide what is game you want to play at. And believe me, it is a very complicated thing because there isn't any more excuse for living in a city you don't like or not having time for one of your hobbies or something you tell it is essential for you. You are suddenly free to decide and adapt your life in a pretty independent way from your work.
3> Hide your work material when you are not working.
Laptop, headphones, notebook, etc., should disappear from your eyesight during weekends and ideally evenings. This is not to avoid sending the last email. It is about forgetting about work, clearing up your mind, resting. Don't let the FOMO (fear of missing out) run your thoughts when working remotely.
4> Define routines... and follow them.
When you were going to the office, you had habits: you were taking your car or your train, listening to the radio on the path, greeting your colleagues at your office, taking a coffee before checking emails. These actions were a transition time, and they were a moment to go from the home mood to the work one. But when your home is your workplace, this transition suddenly disappears. And we need clear separation to focus more. So, follow some predefined steps every day.
5> Take training or read books and articles related to remote work.
Working remotely is more about a mindset than a workplace, to be honest. So the soonest you have mature thinking about what working at distance means, the best it is for the quality of your work but also your well being. In my opinion, your company should also provide you with some support in the forms of training, events or dedicated colleagues. If you notice, there isn't anything particular done, in my opinion, it is a wrong signal. However, don't hesitate in raising the topic and suggesting initiatives. Remote work can be the future of work only if it is organized and deep thought. Approximations and spontaneity won't bring your company far. In general, dare mention the topic of remote work and ask for support or best practices sharing if you need any. This will help your company as a whole.
Collaboration made real
6> Define rituals with your colleagues, especially those working in your team or on a project.
For example, in my team, we decided to meet each morning at 9:45 to catch up on the day's most important topics. We use the 15 minutes slot to socialize because we agreed it was necessary. We also decided that this meeting won't be mandatory; however, we are almost always joining, except when some have dentist appointments or exams. This mini-meeting helps us to get started in a human and uncomplicated way. It is like a light tower in our busy schedule, too, a moment we know we will meet and when we can share if something is turning wrong or be sure we are not alone. I think it is essential. It unconsciously creates a sort of safe feeling.
7> Communicate more often in an asynchronous way.
Or, in other words: ask yourself if this meeting could be an email. With remote work and colleagues having another rhythm as yours, it just doesn't make sense to meet and share status. It is blocking the agenda of everyone without adding much value. Asynchronous communication is a massive shift in the mindset, but it is challenging because suddenly, writing becomes a key "tool" to transport ideas, opinions, or feedback. Some will have it easier than others, like in meetings where some dare to speak up when others remain silent. Suppose you are not used to communicating in a written way. In that case, I recommend consistently placing the goal of your communication in the first sentence and adding bullet points to develop your idea, your arguments, or the next steps you are suggesting. Clarity, conciseness, structure and goal-setting are essential to make your asynchronous communication efficient, convincing, and helpful.
8> Have a plan to meet or, at least, "see" people, ideally offline.
It can be colleagues, customers or partners, or just other professionals working remotely that you will meet from time to time in a coffee shop. Collaboration doesn't spot when remote work starts. You have to find the most convenient way for you to do it. Indeed, meeting people helps you feel good. And this is a significant advantage for your productivity and the quality of your work. It helps develop meaningful ideas and find the right tool or a solution to an issue. So, don't hesitate in going to the office once a week if your company is not too far away, always relying on the same day, so other colleagues can synchronize with you (there isn't anything more frustrating than when you go to the office to meet colleagues and that you discover that you are alone), to spend some 3-4 days a month at the office (your company should support you with the expenses. If it doesn't, be suspicious regarding its remote mindset) or to meet colleagues for a brainstorming or structured workshop from time to time in a coworking space, go to fairs or events related to your job or sector, and to plan meeting customers or partners in person once at least once a month.
Well-being leads to well working
9> Do sport to unblock your body, especially your back.
Pilates, yoga, stretching exercises... It doesn't matter but do something specific for your back to keep a healthy body (and a focused mind). Doing regular short pauses will help you too. I noticed a big difference between the first weeks I worked remotely, where I had a very sharp pain in my neck (which prevented me from concentrating fully), and now where I do micro pauses and some physical exercise. It is the day and the night. Regarding stretching exercises, you will find a considerable quantity of qualitative tables on the internet that you can print and consult from time to time to get new ideas. Just spending 20 minutes will energize your body, unblock it, and you will feel better.
10> Prepare your meals in advance or, at least, list down what you plan to eat at lunch.
Yes, I know, it can sound very trivial. However, on my side, I noticed that I am either super stressed at lunchtime when I only have one hour to cook, eat, clean. Yes, I am French, so lunch is an important time in my day. However, if you are less interested in food than I am, take the time to do a decent pause at lunch. I also noticed that when I am alone, I tend to forget about lunch because I am so deep into things I like that I forget about the outside world and even about my stomach. So I ate late, which is not an issue, but I am so hungry that I eat anything fast to cook and eat. As you can imagine, this is usually not the most healthy food... I have to admit that I never prepare meals in advance, and I almost always decide on the spot what I will eat, depending on my mood. However, I noticed that this lack of preparation brings me more stress than pleasure. So, this advice, I take it with me to test it soon. I do believe it could help.
11> Go outside every day for 45 minutes.
Yes. No meeting between 14:00 and 15:30? Then, go out but keep it simple. Don't take the car or the bike to avoid traffic jams, breakdowns, delays, and stress. Rather walk. It is the simplest way to control time and avoid stress. Choose a walk near your house or flat, ideally with some green parts. Nature is perfect for breathing and getting inspiration. Do this walk and alternative walks almost every day. Listen to podcasts or just let your thoughts flow.
12> Adopt a pet if you are alone at home.
Dog, cat, fish, bird... It doesn't matter. But it will bring you indirect happiness to hear, see or touch (not for the fish!) a kind presence near you. I am not a pet lover by nature, but I think animals positively affect us.
13> Do short pauses from time to time.
Ideally, go out and take fresh air. You are going to the kitchen to prepare a coffee, going out to buy fresh bread or to take your pet for a walk nearby, put in order something. These short moments will help concentration when you are back at your remote workplace.
14> Your home don't have to be your office.
You can ideally rent a flat on the seaside and work from there. Or go to a coffee shop in the afternoon. However, be sure that you will have reliable and qualitative technical conditions, especially with your wifi access. When my boyfriend and I were studying for our respective PhD, we decided not to learn all the time at home. It would have been too sad. So we visited several coffee shops until identifying two without music but with large tables and pleasant customers. We alternate between these two coffee shops and the university library, and I can tell you it was the best decision ever. We had the feeling we were doing more than just studying: we were seeing people too. Believe it or not, it was a booster for our mood and motivation.
I hope you feel more confident about working remotely and get some actionable ideas. Most importantly, I hope you understand that working at a distance is so much more than only working from home and that it is a deep journey.