Know Thyself, Remote Employee!
For many, this is the dream: Work only when you want, where you want, and in your pajamas. But, will those concepts really work for you? Before you dive in, answer honestly the list of questions below. Yes, remote employee, knowing thyself is your first assignment.
Where will you work?
Dedicate space in your home for work. This space should be yours and yours alone. It may be only a desk shoved in the corner of your living room, but make it yours. Claim it. Mark your territory. I have all of my Half Marathon medals hanging in mine. They remind me to persist and achieve.
Design your workspace for success. All technology aspects should be ready to go on day one. Along with a computer, you will need a secure and reliable Internet connection, all necessary software, a printer, scanner, and maybe even a fax machine (because sometimes we revert back to 1995). Don’t forget power cords and a surge protector to keep everything properly charged.
Consider also if you are the type of person who actually wants to be at home all the time. If you lean toward Jack from “The Shining”, you may want to establish alternate work places for those days when cabin fever bears its wicked grin. Be cognizant of how often laptops are stolen and how easily public Wi-Fi is hacked. Security is an important factor when selecting what work you plan to attempt in public.
When will you work?
To best answer this question, identify the time of day or night you are most productive, the time constraints of your job standards, and any personal commitments you plan to keep. If you can meet your job standards and are most productive between the hours of 4–8 a.m., congratulations, you have the ability to wake up that early and actually think coherently! But, if your work is client or customer-based, you may need to establish business hours that correlate with your customers’ needs.
If you are part of a team, establish routine business hours and inform your peers and leadership of that schedule. If you know you will not be available from 3–5 p.m. each afternoon because you’ve decided to provide snacks for your kid’s soccer practice and then cart half the team to their respective homes, your team needs to know. With dependable availability, trust will grow.
Establish boundaries. Yes, the fact that your company supplied you with a smart phone, laptop, and tablet is awesome, but how will you feel when the text messages, emails, and messaging apps blow up your phone at 2 a.m. or in the middle of your one vacation a year? If this will make you want to chuck said tech package out the nearest window, establish boundaries early in the relationship. Also, be mindful that just because the message came in at 2 a.m., your immediate response may not be required.
What are your distractions and how can they be eliminated?
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that you will work in your home. When I first made the switch from a traditional office to remote employment, I was full of naïve expectations.
“Yes!” I told myself. “I will write a blog, manage all social media accounts, send all publicity communications, write two new chapters, do the laundry, go the grocery store, and cook dinner. The house will be immaculate all the time, and my kid will have incredible self-esteem because Mama will be with him all the time!”
After a few weeks of harried days — toddlers need constant attention, the house was a disaster, not a single chapter was written, and the takeout delivery guys all knew me by my voice — it was time to examine the distractions in my life and home with a keen and realistic eye. I decided to construct my work-at-home life as if I was in a traditional office setting.
In order to eliminate distractions, I first arranged childcare for the toddler. This action came the day after Baby Boy dumped a bulk-sized bag of Goldfish crackers on the floor while I was on a video call with my team. Do not forget to factor in the cost of care when you negotiate your salary, or strike a deal with Grandma as I did.
Next, I established a routine; one from which I rarely depart. I designed my day into timed blocks, setting completion goals for all regularly performed work-related tasks, i.e., one hour for this task, two hours for that, etc. I use the “Do Not Disturb” function on my laptop and silence my phone. I also schedule time at the end of the day for household tasks, errands, and the occasional urge to put on real clothes and leave the house.
The Ancient Greeks, a 7-member genius colony of scholars and philosophers, first gave us the concept of “Know Thyself.” Legend has it they carved it over the entrance of some gigantic building. That’s how important the notion was to them. So, please, for your own sanity and happiness follow suit. No need to ruin your walls, but with a little self-examination you will know thyself, and be a better remote employee for the exploration.