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Overcoming challenges while Working Remotely

Working remote for most people always seems like a simple task, stay at home, get stuff done and avoid interruption (most of the time). However, working remotely can be completely different then what most people perceive. You would think you would have fewer distractions and more time to dedicate towards getting your tasks done, but if you have some bad habits or lose track of the time you may find its the opposite of productive. I started remote work a few years back, I eased into it with one day a week, then progressively started working more days remote. I found a few things along the way that helped me to stay more focused.

How to get others to know you’re WORKING remotely;

While you’re working remote, you may have a team that is 100% in the office all the time, and they perceive working remote as “they’re unavailable until they’re sitting in their seat.” That can be beyond frustrating when your work requires you to be collaborative with others. I found this can sometimes be due to how the culture at the office percieves remote work. While you can’t change a culture overnight, you can do a few things to help others realize you’re working remotely.

  • Firstly, if you do work in the office and you’re going to be remote a few days of the week, leave a large sign on your monitor stating, “I’m working remote.” I found this trick helps people to realize you’re not just AWOL from your desk or sick. Another option is to ensure you remind your team you’re remote during stand-ups or huddles.

  • Secondly, be and stay in constant contact with your team and other departments. Just send your team reminders or greetings throughout the day. Let them know when you’re taking a break or stepping away for lunch. These simple reminders help to let others know you’re available, just not physically present.

  • Lastly, a simple catch up chat with some of your team members on the days you’re remote help to sway their mindset that you’re working remote. A 10-minute coffee break chat is enough to send the message your getting “stuff” done.

Working remote doesn’t have to be a chore;

Watch out for those chores! It's effortless to get distracted while working remotely, especially at home. Everyone has a list of never-ending chores that need to be accomplished. If you have kids and/or pets, then the list grows. It's easy to give in to the urge to go to a load of laundry, do some dishes and catch up on cleaning. The simple truth is, that is costing you more productivity time then you may realize. I found it easier to either start those early in the morning before I begin working or wait until my lunch break and even after my day is done. Its easier to rationalize by the following; Would you do your laundry and dishes at the office? These little chores here and there add up.

Learn to break bad habits;

There are a lot of bad habits you might find yourself having to break. Bad habits can cause you to become distracted and lose out on being productive. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way to keep myself from being distracted.

  • For some, the TV is a big distractor, for others they find it calming to have background noise. If you find yourself being drawn into what's on the TV, chances are it's taking away from your productivity. Find a place to work remote where you’re not facing a TV screen (if it distracts you).

  • Keep your work machine separate from your “home” or “gaming” machines. For some, they only use one machine to get home and work done on. While this is certainly efficient, you may find yourself distracted by going through old photos, putting in some lost hours on a game, or just playing around. While this is most certainly fun, it's beside the point. You’re working remotely to get “stuff” done. So separate the two to remove the distraction.

Break up your day;

Working remotely makes it beyond easy to just lose track of time. I have been so drawn to a project that I don’t realize I’ve been sitting anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. While this seems excellent to be able to spend that much time just being focused on a single task, the simple fact is that it’s just not healthy. There is also the flip side of endless meetings, calls, reviews, etc.. The list can go on and on. Sometimes the day runs long, and other days there’s constant contextual shifting. I’ve learned a few tricks throughout my day to help break it up and seem less of just sitting at my desk all day.

  • Take your meetings or calls somewhere other than your desk. I found that taking stand-ups, conferences, and calls either standing up somewhere else in the house or sitting in the dining room to be more enjoyable. The mental trick of getting up from your desk and walking to somewhere else to have a meeting helps context switching.

  • When doing multiple tasks, take a quick break between. You don’t want to sit all day long without moving a bit. So between tasks, take 1-3 minutes to refill your water, step outside, walk between rooms to help context shifting and stand up for a bit. I found this track to be very helpful.

  • Don’t eat your lunch at your desk. I know, its just 10 minutes and I can work while eating. Sure, but you’re only cheating yourself. It’s for 10 minutes. Leave your desk, go somewhere else other than your desk and enjoy that 10 minutes of non-desk time.

Now that I’ve shared a few things I’ve learned over the years by being a remote worker, please share what you’ve learned to adjust while working remotely.

4 comments

for about seven years I have worked almost remotely, and I understand well and share your point of view and I agree with your suggestions. Especially the greeting in the morning to the team and the sign on the desk.

Like # people like this

Nice article. I've had it opened on a tab for a couple of weeks now. Coincidentally, I am currently sitting in my car on the parking lot of a hospital where I dropped my wife off for an MRI, working remotely. :-D

I am only working remotely every now and then, maybe once in two months. I get distracted easily, so I was quite surprised that the times I worked from home, my productivity was actually higher than in the office.

As for distractions: Sometimes putting on a show on Netflix actually improves my efficiency. Sometimes it does the opposite. I do tend to eat at my desk, though.

I like the idea of puttin a visible cue on the desk. Sounds like a project for my 3D printer. :-)

Like Stephen Sifers likes this

Excellent article, @Stephen Sifers - thanks! I think there is also possibly a different dimension to remote workers when factoring in what their normal task is. I have worked remotely for the last four+ years and I actually live in a different country (we don´t have any offices here). I visit the office 2-3 times a year for projects that need more intimacy or to reconnect.

Getting used to work from home took a little while. At first I had my desk on the first floor in our house, but then I found myself getting distracted by the trash collectors or mail person. So I moved my office to the basement and that really helped. Then after a while I just got into my 6am - 2pm rut. For 3 years I even had my drumset in my office and only touched it three times during work hours - literally! It´s all in the mindset/focus.

I can totally relate to the need to "Break up your day." Sometimes I haven´t even taken a bathroom break for 3-4 hours. For a while I used the Pomodoro technique and found that it helped.

Like Stephen Sifers likes this
Fadoua Community Leader Aug 09, 2019

As a full-time working from home employee, I agree with your points some of them where given to me by my Director as she is very knowledgeable with the wfh situation.

I will add to the list:

  • Make sure to have your desk somewhere not in your bedroom
  • If possible by a window(s) it is very helpful
  • Decorate your office space so that it feels appealing (as you have to stay there for hours), not too much though. Some greens always make it relaxing.
  • Also try to avoid your PJs, so that you get the feeling you are working.

These are my tips. If I learn some new ones, I promise to stop here and share them.

Until then, wishing everyone all the best!

Fadoua

Like Stephen Sifers likes this

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