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I recently was promoted to a position that allows me to work remotely- about 176 miles from company headquarters. Before I moved and the position took full effect, I did some research on working from home. I was nervous about being alone all day, being distracted by household chores and not being part of the team atmosphere at the office. I wanted to prepare and create an environment that would foster productivity. I read all about making a separate work space and how important keeping a consistent hourly schedule is. I read over and over about the benefits of getting up and taking a shower and "dressing for work," taking lunch breaks and checking in with the office. And while working remotely may sound glamorous, fun and even lazy, now, after 3 weeks, I can tell you- it's not. Here are a few things I have learned:
Waking up is hard. A couple times a week I set my alarm for 5:30am, so I have time for yoga, breakfast and a shower before I launch into my daily tasks. Other days, it's VERY easy to sleep in, roll out of bed in my flannel pajamas and fire up the laptop before I've even brushed my teeth. This is something I have to work on daily.
It's a physical and mental adjustment. I have worked in a traditional office setting for nearly 12 years. Clock-in, take a lunch, clock-out. Meetings, co-workers, office activities, a cubicle, a conference room. My home office is quiet and simple, far cries from the hum of office chatter, printers, copy machines and ringing phones. Mentally, being alone all day can be trying. No one to throw immediate ideas off of, no water cooler gossip or face to face discussions. It can be isolating. Fortunately, I have an awesome colleague who keeps me connected with daily check-ins and weekly calls. Our company also uses Google Chat, and we have a group thread to share information, jokes and keep everyone on the same page. I also plan to make the 176 mile trek to the office once a month to share my work more broadly and keep in the loop.
I'm pretty productive on my own. My biggest fear was productivity, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how focused and productive I am. Sure, I throw in a load of laundry and do the dishes during the day, but I'm also cranking out a lot of material and meeting regularly with my colleagues over the phone. My flexible schedule has given me time to research for articles and campaigns, expand my knowledge on some of our software systems and stay in tune with my professional development.
Remote employees is a growing trend in the workforce. Gallup conducted a 2017 survey of over 15,000 adults in which 43% of employed Americans have spent time working remotely. My decision to work remotely hindered on two factors- living in my desired area- close to friends and family and removing myself from the rat-race- traffic, the cost of gas, etc. Working from home is allowing me to find a work-life balance, allowing work to be part of my life and not running my life. It provides me with boundaries, while at the same time giving me flexibility in how and when I use my time. I can work when I am most productive, which is long before the office opens and long after everyone has gone home.
If you are considering a remote position or open to the idea of creating remote positions in your company, here are a few things you might consider:
1. Remote is not for everyone. Some thrive in the work place environment and like the structure the office can provide- be selective about the position and the person filling it for best case results.
2. Test it out. Work a few days from home once in awhile and measure your productivity compared to your days in the office. Hire a temp to work on a project from another location- there are hundreds of temp and remote employee sites that can assist with this, like Remote.com and Flexjobs.com.
3. Set yourself up for success. Remember all those things I mentioned about creating a separate work space in your home, sticking to a consistent hourly schedule and keeping in contact with your colleagues? These are all very important. Don't work from the couch. Don't get lazy and procrastinate because you think you have "more time" and keep informed about what is happening in the office as best you can.
While working remotely is new and different for me, it's been one of the best decisions I have made. The freedom and autonomy I have now has inspired me. I am apt to ask questions, am less distracted by impromptu projects and most importantly, the coffee is better.