4 Learnings from a Year of Remote Working
This time last year, I started working remotely full time. I found it incredibly difficult, especially for the first couple of months – going from working in a busy office full time to a small lonely flat was quite the culture shock…
So what has a year taught me?
Office space IS EVERYTHING
Recently, my spare room was renovated into an office; my new desk now sits under a window overlooking the river, an extra screen was added to the mix, pen pots and notebooks are all readily available, and a shelf is home to some motivational books for when procrastination hits.
When I began home working, I would work from my kitchen/living room which gave me no escape from work – my day would begin and end in that room. No work stress was ever left behind to completely relax in the evening and it was all too easy to answer emails while eating dinner. Having an office space has helped me separate my home life from work - when I have finished for the day, I can shut the door (literally and figuratively!) from work.
Giving myself manageable 'office hours' and having a space where everything has been placed to purposefully help with my productivity, has made me so much more focused and happier.
Remote working doesn't necessarily mean home working
When I first started working remotely, for fear of dodgy internet and losing productive hours, I spent most of my year at home. But throughout the year, I’ve been more comfortable owning my own schedule and more confident in not only the amount of places that have good WiFi, but the tools I'm using to communicate with colleagues. I’ve started working from different places – coffee shops, shared work spaces, and hope, in the future, to join colleagues in other countries in their environments.
It's sometimes incredibly hard to get yourself out of the home office (it's cheaper being at home, more time efficient and a lot less effort!) but it's something I keep pushing myself to do. As much as my home office is efficient and peaceful, I want to make sure I’m keeping creative and for me, a big part of that is changing up my environment.
You don’t have to work all the time!
I was convinced, at the beginning, that someone would notice I wasn’t chained to my laptop – I’m ashamed to say I would even bring my laptop to the bathroom for fear of missing something whilst in the shower…! Aside from being a health and safety nightmare, this wasn’t healthy. I’ve spoken at length previously about Working from Home Guilt (check out my previous blog for more on this) and this was something not to be underestimated. It was a HUGE learning curve realising that I can plan my days to help myself out, I don’t just have to be a slave to my laptop.
Getting myself out, even for a coffee, is still sometimes a challenge (the nice new office environment with everything I need probably doesn’t help that one) but I’m a lot more flexible with my schedule – whether I’m on an early call, allowing myself some time mid afternoon to relax with a book or getting that training session in, during what would otherwise be my commuting time.
Last year I did feel lonely, I wanted someone to turn to after a difficult call and have a quick moan to. But after a year of forming relationships with colleagues, I now have a number I can call to have a moan over the phone (with video if faces are needed!) I really think loneliness can be the most difficult part of remote working, but if you proactively go after the amount of human contact you need, it is easily countered.
The one thing I do miss from the office was the community found in sponsored challenges, the fun of a team building workshop and the interesting facts you learn about colleagues- the food they like, their evening plans, pictures of their dog! So I am going to endeavour to make more time for these things; I imagine lots of my colleagues would enjoy a step challenge to encourage us to leave the house a bit more, scheduled coffee breaks to chat about things unrelated to work and maybe even a drink over Circuit on a Friday evening!
A lot has been learnt in a year, can’t wait to see what next year’s findings will be! I’m interested in hearing from other remote workers, especially if you’ve been organising any remote social events – let me know if your experience is similar to mine or completely different!