It is my tenth year of working remotely in various companies and teams. To celebrate the upcoming anniversary I want to share some difficulties I’ve met and ways to overcome them.
So, what I find to be difficult when working remotely?
Staying on top of the company life
If the company you are working in is not remote-first, it might be difficult to stay on top of everything. If there are headquarters where all the decision-makers are sitting, you will tend to be on the receiving end most of the time. That might be fine for some people, but if you want to engage in the company’s life, sometimes that might feel frustrating.
What I found to be helpful:
- Daily stand-up video calls. The more often you talk to folks at the HQ, the more up-to-date you are going to be
- Engaging all members of your team. The more often members of your team participate in the discussions, the more informed they are going to be, the more grounded the decision making is going to feel
- Sharing the information openly. When information is shared openly, people can see the reasoning behind the decisions and that makes your team more cohesive
- Using real-time discussion tools like miro.com was helpful as well
Lack of human contact
When I only see my coworkers on video, it starts feeling lonely sometimes. Talking on video is not the same as talking in real life, and I find that some kind of human contact is necessary. Some companies do get together a few times a year and I find that helpful to connect with your colleagues, but not enough.
If you feel lonely, here are some of the activities that might help:
- Local meetups and conferences. If your coworkers are far away, but you want to talk about your work, meetups and conferences are great places to do that
- Going to work outside of your home office. Places like coworking spaces, libraries and cafes are full of people like you. Go outside, find a place to sit and just be there
- Small-talk with your colleagues, even via the internet is humanizing and might be the activity that helps you understand each other
Lack of physical activity
Without having to commute, sometimes I spend 48 hours without leaving my home. There is no way this is a healthy pattern so I try to compensate for it as I can.
This is what might help you:
- Signing up for a gym. Find a gym near your home and do the exercise that you enjoy. Group training, weightlifting, running on a treadmill. Start small, but regularly and at some point, it might become a habit
- Going out for a walk. If you spend the whole day working at home, it’s nice to take a 30 min walk in the evening. Clear up your mind and get some fresh air
- Walking to cafes/coworking spaces regularly. You can create an artificial commute for yourself and at least take a walk regularly to a place where you do the work
If your company doesn’t have any programs to grow employees, you are on your own. Some companies might be better than others, but if you don’t feel pressure to grow from your coworkers, that might be a problem.
This is what I find helpful:
- Attending conferences/meetups and talking to people there. You can learn the latest trends and learn how things work in other companies
- Setting aside time to learn. Chose a time that you spend just for learning each week. Don’t do anything else at that time and you will do some progress each week
- Sign up for an online course. There are so many of them these days. Online education platforms like Udacity, Coursera, courses from universities like edX, MIT OpenCourseWare
- Finding online communities around the topics you are interested to learn. Communities like OpenDataScience, Cocoaheads might be a great source of inspiration and material
When you are at home, it might be too easy to relax. Just move 10 meters to your couch, close your eyes and you are sleeping. Or go do some chores, after all, it is also important to keep the house clean!
What are the tricks that can keep yourself disciplined?
- Wake up at the same time. Even better if you can go to bed at the same time. Having enough sleep each night is great for your brain and helps you focus in the daytime.
- Dress appropriately. Take off your comfy clothes and put on something more official. For me, it just changes the mood and makes me feel more oriented to work rather than to rest.
- Have a dedicated space for your work. A good table, a chair, located at the same place in your house. When you sit there means that you are going to work and your brain gets used to it.
- Turn off social networks, alerts and put away your phone. If they are too distracting for you, using additional tools to restrict yourself might be helpful. Try Limits in Screen Time on iOS
It might be difficult to be on top of things happening in the company. Some people might feel lonely. It might be more difficult to grow professionally. And I find that the most important decisions are still better to do in a face-to-face meeting.
However, remote work can be great in terms of productivity and flexibility! Stay tuned for the second post in the series.