I’ve worked remotely for almost 20 years – primarily doing my work partly or completely from the same places I sleep and get mail: home. I have also taken online courses and even taught a couple. If you are tackling this for the first time, here are some thoughts and pitfalls that might help you avoid some of the minor pain I had at times. If you are a seasoned remote worker, maybe you will find humor below!
Let’s toast the good life! No commute, no dress code unless you are on video conference calls, and unlimited time with the ones you love – right?
- Animals – “man’s (people’s) best friend” loves having you home all the time! The problem is that he does not realize you are not in “friend mode”. They will want to play, eat, or go for walks as long as they see you not doing anything important – and to them, you are never doing anything important! My favorite solution for this is to bring them closer to my work. In my office at home I make a space for our dogs by laying blankets and bring their crates or houses near me. I want them to be comfortable and able to enjoy their favorite activity: sleep. Cats are more complicated and in my early days as a “remoter” a cat I owned spilled water onto my computer destroying it. Lesson learned!
- Food and drinks – I am a constant “sip and snack” eater. Confession time: I often have water and coffee or water and a caffeinated soda on my desk. Sometimes I have all three! My first piece of advice comes from #1 above: keep food and drink on the side where a spill will not bring your work life to a halt! I have a small, old-time fold-out table I use only for this purpose. Try to get away from your desk if you are eating a true meal. It is too easy to eat breakfast while ramping up on emails or fielding calls. Manage that 15 min break into your schedule and even eat with your spouse, partner, kiddos or pets. The different conversation and scenery will help!
- The humans you live with – your family and/or roomates may not understand that you are physically there but not mentally or emotionally available during certain times. This can be heartwrenching if you are caring for younger children who like to crawl on you in random ways. Set expectations that are clear. Enforce them. You can be kind while doing that but even the act of setting and enforcing boundaries is a form of kindness. Reinforcing these boundaries are key. I set up a small desk and chair in my office so my wife feels free to come in and work with me any time. Below is a video that may resemble our worst nightmares:
Maybe the most important message is that everyone who works remotely understands it may occasionally be less smooth than working at “work”. Meetings have more interruptions because the technology may be inefficient. Even without that, working remotely means we are within talking distance of animals and people who may not know nor care about us as workers but who love us as people. Most others are tolerant of the minor glitches and circumstances you may be going through.
I could share many stories about my remote working experience but will save that for another blog. What about you – what are your stories or remote working bliss or horrors? Do you have a certain problem you find it difficult to solve? What are other tips – what works for you? Let’s hear from you in the comments below!