Wear Pants and Don't Work at Coffee Shops: Tips for Remote Workers
The week has been the opportunity to catch up from several weeks of heavy traveling. Except for a few local meetings, I've been slugging away in front of my computer screen this week - which means no local coffee shop visits.
So, instead of my regular Saturday coffee recommendation, I'm thinking about the realities of working from home.
Globally, remote work is on the rise. Today, more people have the opportunity to work from anywhere than ever before. Technology is such that most creative work can be done from any place there's wifi (and, for me, a power source. My MacBook Air is pushing 10 years old and the battery has seen better days). Many companies offer workers a day or two for working remotely. Some jobs are 100% remote.
I've been a remote worker for almost four years, and I must say I can't imagine going to a "work in an office" situation. Ever again, really. I love it. The freedom is great. I can get away with minimal people interaction.
But it's not for everyone.
In fact, I'm guessing a lot of folks would HATE remote work. It has to do with personality, capacity for ambiguity, and need for people interaction. But, if you have chosen remote work - or if remote work has been chosen for you - I have a few tips.
Pick a Spot.
While it may sound great to say, "I can work from anywhere" - your brain is responding, "No you can't, you lazy slob." Depending on how mean your brain is, its response may be more or less harsh. There is something about being at a certain place, at a certain time that causes your brain to click into work mode. It has to do with ritual and triggers. (This is science. See Duhigg's book about habits, among others). I've made my coffee, I turn my "Focus@will" app to "Alpha Chill," and sit at my desk. My brain immediately goes into work mode. Sure, there are times when getting out of the house is great. I can be super-productive at coffee shops. But the regular, daily grind needs to happen at one place. Your brain is insisting on it.
When I first started remote work, my first thought was, "Hm. I don't have to wear pants." It's true. Technically. But, I highly recommend getting dressed. Again - it's a brain science thing. I may not be business casual, like my colleagues in the office. But I am dressed and have practiced all of the personal hygiene things, etc. that normal people do every day. The caricature of the disheveled remote worker in boxers who hasn't showered in days is not real life. I work in a professional environment (as most remote workers do) and it's therefore important to act like it. Even if I "technically" could get away with more base behavior. Plus my wife appreciates the hygiene thing. Rightly so.
Work Normal-Person Hours.
If you're lazy and don't have a lot of self-discipline, remote work is definitely not for you. Don't bother. You'll either be frustrated or fired. Or both.
I'm suspicious the problem for most remote workers is at the other end of the spectrum. Work can begin with a check of the phone when rising and not stop until bedtime. That's not healthy. I love the fact that there's flexibility in my day. But flexibility does not warrant 16 hour days. It's important to establish a routine and to stick with it. Have set hours where you're working. And set hours where you're NOT working. Sure, don't Netflix binge when you're supposed to be working. But, don't check email while Netflix binging. Working at home doesn't mean you're always working. Margin and boundaries become even more vital for the remote worker.
Sitting all day is actually bad for you. Again, science. Normal office workers get up. They move around. They talk to colleagues. They take breaks at the water cooler. For remote work, that looks a little different. I have a ritual walk with my dogs every afternoon. I break for coffee mid-morning, and usually mid-afternoon. Drink water. Eat lunch. Stand for phone calls. These are all things remote workers should be conscious of doing (or not doing). The key is to be sure movement is incorporated into your day.
I would be hard-pressed to ever do any work that doesn't give me the freedom I have as a remote worker. That said, it has its challenges, as well. Be aware. Work hard. Be healthy.