March 10, 2020

7 Small Changes to Improve Your Remote Work Experience

Being a remote worker often begins with a “honeymoon period,” where things go much better than they did in the office and you grow to enjoy a certain freedom in your day.

However, after months or years of working remotely, you may encounter a variety of experiences that make remote work less exciting than you expected. Usually, only one or two of these experiences crop up at any given time, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t fit into any of them – it’s great to still be enjoying remote work! Here are some proactive changes that can make remote work more positive without much investment on your part.

Burnt Out? Set Alarms for Starting and Stopping Work

Often, the experience of working remotely can lead to a bit of “work creep,” where your work becomes more and more synonymous with your leisure time. One simple strategy for combating this is to get a clear read on how much time you want to spend on work. Then, set “commuting alarms” on a phone or alarm clock. This is an alarm 15 minutes before you want to start working, and an alarm right when you should start working. The same should happen for finishing work: 15 minute warning, and a stop alarm. These alarms serve as a version of your “commute,” letting you have some time to prepare for the beginning and for the ending of work each day, letting you wrap things up and put work away. See if this helps you compartmentalize work and leisure.

Distracted? Lock the Space Where You Work

Even if your family is entirely self-sufficient while you work from home, there are plenty of distracting sounds that come out during a workday spent at home. One strategy for avoiding in-home distractions while working remotely is to lock yourself “in,” usually metaphorically. Place a barrier between you and whatever else is going on around you, and make sure your family understands just how big a deal something must be to merit a distraction. Choose interventions that maximize your ability to focus during the workday without completely cutting you off from true emergencies.

Low-Quality Feedback? Proactively Schedule One-on-One Calls

Some remote workers become dejected when they realize they get less interaction with supervisors and clients and have more transactional exchanges via email and phone call. One way to make sure you get whatever kind of feedback you seek is to be the one to initiate check-in meetings. This can be effectively done on the phone or via video chat. Your team won’t know that you need better feedback until you let them know, and these one-on-ones may reveal other information that improves your remote-work quality-of-life. Better feedback can make you feel more secure and like you are moving forward even if you aren’t receiving in-person feedback at all.

Low-Quality Work? Do an In-Office Experiment

Few people experience this, but you may find yourself producing lower quality work when you are remote than when you are in the office. The quality metric could be anything: less thorough, less quickly completed, or less attuned to the needs of the client. This may be a time to do an experiment. If your work was specifically moved from in an office or professional setting to your home or other remote locations, try doing a one week or one month experiment back in the business. Take notes each day about what felt different from your remote work, and what resources or changes you noticed. Usually the experiment is enough to help you optimize your remote environment enough to regain your high-quality work.

Lonely? Try a Co-Working Space or Coffee Shop Once a Week

While most people find there is a benefit to working “alone,” in terms of productivity, loneliness isn’t always helpful. If you feel sluggish in your current remote setting, try one that involves more people without involving people who will take your creativity. You don’t have to go all-in on this solution, but rather can take one day a week, when your work is most suitable to moving out of your home and try it.

Inefficient? Make Scheduling and Project Management Software Your New Boss

Even great managers struggle to be as involved with remote workers as they are with workers in the office. One way to get some of the efficiency that comes from frequent management contact is to use scheduling software, like your Google or Outlook calendars, and project management software, like Trello or Asana, to automate reminders that are somewhat like a priority reminder from a manager. Take a few minutes each week to project out the order in which you will need to do work. You can adjust for how long the projects actually take, of course, but the reminders can help you to focus on getting things done at a reasonable pace.

Unchallenged? Propose a New Project

Some remote workers have none of the above problems and work so well that they run out of things to do with their work time! Rather than feeling unfulfilled or browsing social media, turn this time into a chance to shine. Propose a new project, ideally something flexible that requires time from you but not many additional resources. Even if the new project cannot move forward, proposing it may open a conversation with your supervisor or team lead about other ways you could be contributing positively in areas that need your expertise.

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