A Guide To Remote Life
“Mum, listen. Working from home still means I’m working, I’m just doing it from home.”
After accepting a job as a Merchant Success Manager with Shopify Plus I had to thoroughly and somewhat politely explain to my mum what working from home meant. Of course, I get it, working from home back when my mum was first starting her career wasn’t a thing. She is from the generation where you started your career and ended your career with the same company. So when I explained to her that I was switching jobs, roles, and companies, it was a lot for her to take in.
As I told more and more people that I would be working from home, I started to notice that it wasn’t just my mum that didn’t get the idea of being a remote employee, many of my friends didn’t really get it either. “I could never work from home”, “Won’t you miss going into the office and seeing other people”, “You are such a social person, you’re going to feel so alone”. The more I explained my remote life, the more I realized that not everyone is suited to working from home.
Fast forward a year and a half later — I’m still living the remote employee life, and have picked up some tips along the way. If you’re currently in a remote role or are considering taking one in the future, my hope is that this article will help you towards your path of building a successful career at home.
1. Designate your personal office space
You have to find a place in your home that you can call an office. The couch or your bed is not an office. Get yourself a desk and a dedicated space that you can head to after you’ve completed your morning routine. Get creative. Design your “dream” office. Maybe you need extra sunlight, or you’ve always wanted a sit-to-stand desk, whatever the case is, make a place in your home that you can call your office. Not only will this keep you focused and away from the household tasks, but it also gives you a place to leave at the end of the day. A place that after that final email is sent, you can close the door and be at home!
2. A “normal” routine
In my previous job I worked from an office where the dress code was suits and skirts. That meant that I was up every morning to shower, then do my hair and makeup before getting dressed in my professional looking clothes. This routine told my brain “Okay, girl! It’s work time.” Working from home, however, my suits and skirts are not required (we can talk about not wearing pants as a remote employee in a later post). But as a remote, my routine of hair and makeup helps me get ready for the day ahead.
I’m not someone who can just roll out of bed and get to hustling. I need my tea, I need to wash my face, brush my hair (maybe even curl it if I feel fancy), brush my teeth, and put on some mascara. This routine in the morning helps me get pumped up for the day and tells my body — it’s time to get to work! Obviously this will differ for each person, but it’s important when working remotely to complete a routine that you would do in the morning as if you were heading to the office for the day.
3. Over communicate
Our team uses Slack to communicate with each other throughout the day. This tool allows me to chat with any member of Shopify in a quick and easy ping. I learned pretty quick that if I was going to make friends at work I had to get out of my comfort zone of the “shy new girl” and put myself out into the “Slack world” and just start messaging people.
Send out a “Hello” or a “Good morning” to your team when you first login. It may seem silly and pointless, but your friendly greeting will most likely be followed with a “Hey, how are you?” This shows that you are ready to rock the day, and also allows natural conversation past the formalities.
Whatever tool you use (Slack, email, text) make sure that you put yourself out “in front” of your team. You may be working away from everyone else, but through chat, you’re all together.
As a remote employee one of the best compliments you can get is “oh I thought you worked at the office.” If you can over communicate and build relationships with your teammates, people will start to forget you are 3 hours away from the office, and will start to see you as their office mate.
4. Get out of the house!
I mean this in a few different ways.
- Just get out of the house. That could mean a walk on your lunch. A quick drive to grab a coffee. Or maybe it’s just getting out of your home office and moving to the couch or patio for a 20 minute break. Just move around. Sometime’s as a remote employee you feel like you have to be at your computer at all times to show that you are actually working. “If I’m not responding right away, it will seem like I’m slacking or offline.” Chances are, this isn’t the case. No one is going to get mad at you for getting away from your computer. Sure, if you peace out for an afternoon without giving anyone a heads up, you may get into some trouble. But no one will blame you for getting away for a break and some fresh air!
- Go work from a new location. I love getting out and working from local coffee shops. I make sure to schedule at least one morning or afternoon to work from a coffee shop each week. It helps get my creative juices flowing and gives me that extra kick to complete projects and emails. Although I love my little office at home, being able to hear other humans or see smiling faces is a great change of pace to the silent photos I have of my desk.
- Hang out with other remotes. I’ve recently learned how important and beneficial this can be. I have a lot of friends (both through Shopify and other companies) who get to work from home. But only recently have I gone out to work from their place or sat at a coffee shop together. We were able to share what the other was working on, collaborate on ideas, and even get some insight into what professional goals the other has. Next time you work from your local coffee shop, keep an eye out for those who look they they could be remote employees. You can start your own weekly or monthly work hangouts!
5. Get to the office
I know this goes against the joys of working remotely, but it’s important to also get some IRL face to face time with your teammates. Even if it’s just once or twice a year, it’s so valuable to meet with your teammates in person. It helps to build friendship and trust within your team. But when you go, make sure that you work from a place where others will see you and stop to say hi. There is no point going into the office if you are going to work from a closed in space. Make sure that others know you’re in there so you can get that face to face time you normally miss out on.
6. Let others know when you’re struggling
From time to time I start to feel left out of the office culture. I feel like I’m working around the clock and not getting anywhere. Since there is no one around me to say that they are struggling too, I feel like I am the only one who feels like they aren’t doing a stand up job. It can be awkward to say, but let someone else know that you are feeling this way. Jump on a video call and discuss the struggles you are having. The more you talk, the more opportunities you have to get yourself out of the funk. I’m lucky enough to have amazing teammates that will jump on a call whenever I need them. And I make sure I do the same in return. Remember, just because you are working remotely doesn’t mean you are on an island on your own. You may need to take the initiative at first (especially since no one can read your body language), but finding a few people you feel comfortable reaching out to is vital.