Set a schedule and stick to it…most of the time. Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day helps many remote workers maintain a work-life balance.
Deciding you’ll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another.
Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space when you work.
If you work for an organization, know the policy on break times and take them. If you’re self-employed, give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer screen and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seem to be the standard for full-time US employees.
Don’t short-change yourself during breaks, especially your lunch hour or meal break.
To the extent that it’s allowed and safe during the pandemic, get out of the house and move your body. Your body needs movement and blood circulation. Plus, the fresh air and natural light will do you good. Ideally, step outside for at least a short while before, during, and after your working hours. This same advice applies to people who work in traditional office settings, too. Leave the building at least once a day during working hours.
If you’re employed by a company or organization that supports your work-from-home setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a few days of realizing you need something new.
In an ideal world, remote employees would have not only a dedicated office but also two computers, one for work and one for personal use. It’s more secure for the employer, and it lets you do all your NSFW activities in private.
Set up a phone number that you only use for calls with colleagues and clients. It doesn’t have to be a landline or a second mobile phone or even require a SIM card. It can be a VoIP service, such as Google Voice or Skype.
*Similar to some of the other tips, having a separate phone number helps you manage your work-life balance.
Use a VPN whenever you’re connected to a network that you don’t control. That includes Wi-Fi at co-working spaces, cafes, libraries, airports, hotels, and so forth. Organizations often have their own VPNs that off-site employees need to access certain servers or websites that store information meant only for internal use. In those cases, you’ll also need to use a VPN at home. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of leaving your VPN connected as often as possible because it’s always safer to have it on than not.
Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially for extroverts. Companies with a remote work culture usually offer ways to socialize. For example, they might have channels in a team messaging app, like Slack, for talking about common interests or organizing meetups for people in the same region.
Certainly, you’ll take part in video conferences and conference calls while working remotely, but it’s a good idea to attend optional meetings sometimes, too. Be sure to speak up during meetings so everyone knows you’re on the call. A simple, “Thanks, everyone. Bye!” at the close goes a long way toward making your presence known.
If your employer is lax about getting you in a room with other employees, ask to have an annual or semi-annual trip in your contract. It could be for annual planning, training, or team building. Or, tack it onto some other business event, such as a yearly fiscal meeting, nearby conference, or office holiday party. Don’t wait around for someone to invite you to the office or an event. Be proactive.
When you’re not well, take time off. If sick days are part of your compensation package, take the time off that you need. Not taking it is like throwing away money!
When you’re not in an office with your fellow employees, you might miss out on training and skills development courses that are taught in person. Your company might even forget to add you to its online training courses. It can be tempting to regard this as a dodged bullet, but you might be missing out on an opportunity to learn something useful. Speak up and make sure you’re included.
Working remotely requires that everyone over-communicate!
Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. Don’t assume they’ll remember. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Over Communicating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself. Joke about how you must have mentioned your upcoming vacation six times already, then mention it again.
Reading tone in written messages is really difficult in all-remote settings. The less face time you have with people, the more an intentionally concise message can come off as terse and short-tempered.
In remote work settings, everyone must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you’re being overly positive, gushy even. Otherwise, you risk sounding like a jerk! It’s unfortunate but true. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji. You’re going to need them!
Successful remote employees have a reputation for being extremely disciplined. After all, it takes serious focus to do any full-time job from an unconventional space.
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign-off on a business messaging app, an evening dog walk, or an at-home yoga class. Something as simple as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast will do. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.
Above all else, figure out what works best for you. Sometimes the answer is apparent, but other times you might need some inspiration from other remote workers who are in the same boat. A supportive community does exist, whether you find them in your organization’s Slack channel or online through blogs or Twitter. Consider, too, that you might need to shake up your routine once in a while, lest it gets too…routine.
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