Work culture is changing. Maybe not for everyone, but more and more companies are embracing distributed teams and employees working from home. It can be a great opportunity for both sides — companies can hire amazing people wherever they live and employees can have more flexibility in their lives. However, with the increased autonomy comes the challenge of timezones, technology hiccups, miscommunication and potential for burnout.
After working on both sides of the distributed team dynamic, both at the headquarters working with a remote team and working from home away from the main office, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. If you’re considering a transition to this type of work environment I’d love to pass along a handful of tips that I believe are important.
Set a schedule. Timezones can dictate your schedule and often make it easy to lose track of what a normal working day should look like. It’s too easy to wake up for a 7am call, work til noon and completely forget to shower or eat breakfast. Even if you’ve been super productive with work, it’s hard to feel like you’re having a good day if the essentials like eating and bathing haven’t been accomplished. Whether you’re a morning person or night owl I’ve found it helpful to set designated work hours so you have some guidelines built into your day.
Offline means offline. This goes hand in hand with #1. If you’re living in Europe and communicating with a team and clients in the United States it’s very easy to wake up to a full inbox and end your night with a flurry of instant messages or meeting invites. Let others know your hours of availability and consider marking your working hours in your calendar. More often than not people will be respectful of the time difference, but they may not remember or take the time to do the math. If you make it clear when you will and will not be working, you can have the mental freedom to stop checking your email and messages when you’re supposed to be spending time relaxing.
Have a designated work space. It doesn’t matter if it’s your couch, the kitchen table, a designated office space or a local coffee shop. Wherever you choose to work make sure you make that space your own. Maybe it’s an extra monitor, a comfy chair, or a stockpile of your favorite pens — these subtle changes enable you to focus directly on the work rather than trying to get comfortable every 10 minutes.
Get outside. For anyone working from home full-time, this is a requirement. Even for introverts like myself, staying in the house all day is not healthy. Whether it’s going to the gym, having coffee with friends, or just going grocery shopping — ensure you get out of the house every day!
Lastly, remember that it’s a process. Figuring out your optimal work environment won’t happen overnight. Some weeks you’ll do great setting a schedule and keeping in touch with friends, and other weeks you might feel like a recluse. I still struggle with this often. But if you stick with it working remotely can be worth it. Take the necessary time to prepare and then dive in!