Working in a remote bubble
Working remotely is for me. I know it is. I’m never happier or more productive than when I’m working on my own, in my own bubble. Don’t get me wrong, I can get a lot of work done onsite, in a client’s office or sitting together with developers, however in order to keep that productivity at a high level I need to spend most of my working time in the bubble.
Chatting with people about working from home usually generates polarising reactions. People either see it as ‘living the dream’ or ‘a living nightmare’. Working from your sofa in your pyjamas isn't for everyone, but if you think it might be something for you, here are four keys to surviving and remaining productive in the remote work bubble:
Keep the communication channels open with your client or the other members of your team. If you’re working in the same office, shooting a quick question to a developer about a bug or grabbing an icon off a designer is quite easy. If you’re floating out in your remote bubble on the other side of the world, it’s not. I feel the pressure of being removed from the buzz, so I make the effort to get back to people as soon as I can, even after-hours. Now, that’s not saying you can’t have any free time and you always have to be on the clock, however I’ve found being a bit looser with my reachability and answering emails in the evening and weekends to be vital to my remote work. If I’m really not available, that’s fine and I think it’s important to clearly communicate your working hours, but flexibility helps when you’re a remote worker. Just as communication with your colleagues and clients is vital, so is communication with your industry. Make the effort to go to meet-ups and conferences. Have a coffee with some real people in real life.
Gain trust as a remote worker. Sometimes clients can be hesitant to work with someone if they can’t keep an eye on them. Dispel these worries with results. Show them you’re a good communicator, exceed their expectations and highlight the advantages of engaging with a remote worker. As long as you show that you’re getting the work done, that’s fine for most clients. Make your work a goal based one. Know that your client needs that design in two weeks and work towards delivering it in a week and a half. Under promise and over deliver.
Optimise your schedule. Time works differently in the bubble. Put your efforts into meeting the clients goals, rather than filling in timesheets. Embrace the freedom of choosing your own working hours. I know I work well really early in the morning, with a few hours break around lunch and then blasting through some more work in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll throw in a working evening to break it up a bit. It’s your business, so if you work better in the evening, consider changing your schedule around. Timezones can be tough. If your clients or colleagues don’t get up until your lunchtime, consider dedicating the mornings to working out, working on a pet project, whatever. Figure out a good routine so that you’re not sitting waiting for a one word answer from your client so you can continue. Make sure you can do enough, sync up with them and then they can work on while you’re sleeping.
Lastly, escape the bubble. Let’s face it, no matter how productive you are, it can get lonely in the bubble. Moving from working in an office to working from home means you’re cutting out your commute, work lunches, coffee breaks with colleagues etc. All these moments of input need to be replaced. Make an extra effort to get out there and speak to other people from your industry and of course friends and family. It’s easy to slip into ‘the zone’ and disappear for hours, days or weeks, but short jaunts out into the real world will greatly help your performance inside the bubble. Join a gym, climb a mountain, start a side project, get a hobby, do something that scares you.
Working remotely probably isn't for most people. Pyjama-days are a rarity. I think everyone should give it a go at least once though to see how your productivity fares. If you decide to construct your own remote working bubble, the above four points might come in handy. But what's most important to remember is that it's your remote working life, so anything and everything can be customised to what works for you.
And with that, I’m away out for some fresh air...