When you tell people you work from home you often get a mixed bag of reactions. Some people would love to ditch their daily commute and the rigid structure of office life for the comfort of their couch, while others bristle at the idea of being holed up at home all day.
Of course, just like any other type of work, no remote job is the same and depending on your employer, your experience can vary drastically. But one thing that everyone would likely agree on is that remote work teaches you a lot about yourself.
For instance, because you tend to have more flexibility with a remote job, you can customize your work life in a way that can help you maximize your productivity, and most importantly, your happiness. Below are five things every remote worker needs to learn about themselves to be the most effective remote employee.
Which workspaces works for them
Maybe you prefer working from your bed or perhaps your dining room table. Maybe you’re someone who needs absolute quiet or someone who works best with a little background noise.
Fortunately, when you work from home, you have the ability to test out different work environments to see what works for you. For example, most days I work from my favourite spot on my couch, but I also have a desk and chair for the times I really need to focus. When I get a bit stir crazy, I’ll take my laptop to a nearby coffee shop.
Remember: working from home doesn’t mean you can’t leave your house. As long as you have your computer and a decent Wi-Fi connection, the world is your oyster.
How to structure the ideal workday
Depending on your employer, your work flexibility may extend beyond your physical location to the actual hours you work. Some companies are more results-oriented, meaning you’ll be able to work whenever you want as long as you’re meeting regular goals and deadlines.
I’ve also been fortunate to work at companies where I was able to start earlier or end later as long as my hours overlapped with the rest of my coworkers. If you’re an early bird or a night owl, being able to test out different schedules is great for maximizing productivity.
You might also find that you need regular breaks or that exercising at lunch helps reset your brain for the afternoon grind. Experimenting with how you structure your day in big and small ways will uncover the best patterns for focus.
The awkward balance between home and work
One of the biggest misconceptions about remote workers is that they tend to slack off and work less than their office counterparts. In most cases, it’s the opposite. With less separation between work and home life, it can be harder to know when to clock out. After all, what’s the harm in answering one more email? It’s not like you have a train to catch or traffic to beat.
When you don’t have the built-in structure of a nine-to-five, it’s up to you figure out how to best plan out your day. Personally, I find scheduling an evening workout or going for a lunchtime walk are good ways to break up my day so I don’t get overwhelmed.
Others might prefer putting a physical barrier between the home and office. Shared workspaces are becoming more popular for this reason, as they give you a guaranteed workspace with the community and professionalism of a traditional office combined with flexible rental options that suit your needs and budget.
The best communication style
When you have to rely on technology to talk to your coworkers, you really learn the importance of communication skills. For example, it can be hard to read tone through text so clarity is key to avoid getting stuck in a never-ending email chain or worse, a conflict with a colleague. Additionally, you might find that because your coworkers can’t actually see you working, they might not understand when they’re disturbing you.
Case in point: I had one coworker who had a habit of Skype calling without warning every time she had something to tell me. Not only were these calls extremely disruptive to my work flow, most times the subject matter wasn’t that urgent and the information could’ve easily been conveyed in an email or Slack message.
While a quick conversation cleared up the matter, it’s easy to see how remote work comes with its own set of unique challenges. Most jobs require strong communication skills, but working remotely calls for another level of awareness since you don’t have the option of a face-to-face chat to clear up any issues or misunderstandings.
A good way to get ahead of situations like this is to set expectations. For instance, if you know that you’re somebody who’s easily distracted by emails and notifications, you can block off certain times of day to check your inbox or Slack. This way, your coworkers know the best times to reach you and when to expect a response from you.
How to handle being alone (a lot)
Unless you happen to live with a fellow remote worker, chances are you will be by yourself most days. If you’re an introvert like me, this might not bother you so much. However, this might be a major downside to remote work for an extrovert.
Still, like I stated at the outset, every remote job is different. Some places embrace near constant communication with teams via Slack, Skype, or good-old-fashioned phone calls. In these scenarios, employees won’t feel that lonely because they’re always connected.
On the other hand, if your remote work situation requires less collaboration among team members, working from a coffee shop or a co-working space, or arranging meetups with other people working remotely can give you the human interaction you need to stay sane.
Remote work is a journey of self-discovery
Remote work typically offers employees a lot flexibility, which can be a huge benefit, but it’s up to you to use it wisely.
Take the opportunity to experiment with different work styles–you’ll never know what works best for you until you try it.
Find your next remote job at Authentic Jobs.