WEEK 2: Working Remotely From My Home Office #EDUBLOGSCLUB
Last October marked my fifth year of working remotely. I didn’t initially plan to work from home. One opportunity just led to another. After college, I took a remote, part-time gig transcribing academic research interviews while looking for a full-time job. Then about four months later, I accepted a field interviewer position that required a lot of regional travel but let me continue working out of my home office. After three years in the field, I acquired a client and decided to start my own agency. Taking stock of my work life now, it’s clear that five years of travel, flexible schedules, and uninterrupted creative time have worked their transformative magic on me. Untethered from the old-school 9 to 5 job, I’ve become irredeemably feral and happier in my work.
My work happens in my bedroom/office. It’s the sunniest room in the house. I work on a mahogany table that I painted purple a decade ago. Wall hangings and paintings cover the walls. Art supplies and books fill the shelf beside my desk. My Audubon Society bird clock calls the time with a different bird song each hour. Noon is the Great Horned Owl. I use two 21" iMacs, an iPad, and a scanner for the majority of my work. My workflow is paperless, except for scratch paper and large sheets of butcher paper for drawing out formative ideas. I keep a small altar with a statue of Guan Yin in one corner of the room and an arm chair in the opposite corner. My cat Joshua regularly sleeps on the arm chair while I work. I love the hum of the space heater at my feet and the freedom to wear sweatpants all day. Self-care no longer competes with productivity. A flexible schedule allows for naps, meditation, good nutrition, and slow, iterative creativity. My quiet work space affords long stretches of deep concentration. I’ve noticed over the years that in solitude I create from comfort, relaxation and well-being.
Isolation and the loss of networking opportunities are frequently mentioned as drawbacks to working remotely. I’ve experienced these myself. I’m not a big coffee shop frequenter and co-working locations have never appealed. So socializing during “office hours” happens mostly on Slack, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. Formal networking takes place at professional development seminars and retreats. Volunteering, social media, video meetings, and online courses, including MOOCs, also provide great opportunities to connect with others as well.
Working remotely suits my introverted, self-directed temperament but procrastination and loneliness do sometimes happen. To stay productive and connected, I schedule formal online work sessions with a friend. I call our sessions micro-sprints. We open a video call using Facetime. We start each micro-sprint by sharing what we are working on and setting our goals for the session. Then we keep the call open for the next two hours while we work on our respective projects. The accountability factor of having to show up at a scheduled time really helps when my motivation is flagging. We may not speak to each other much during a session but the open video call maintains a sense of shared space. We can see and hear the goings on at each other’s location. If we get stuck, we can do a bit of brainstorming together or ask each other for feedback. The first time we did a session, I was amazed at how much I got done on a project I’d been struggling with for over a week. I now regularly schedule micro-sprints and use them to work on difficult tasks.
If you work remotely, what tricks do you use to work through occasional bouts of loneliness and foot dragging?
Post Revised: January 19, 2017