I’m More Effective With My Pants On
…and other lessons learned from working remotely.
We all know people who work from home, perhaps for themselves or teleworking for an organization located across the country. I never thought I would be one of them. For more than 10 years, I enjoyed going to the office every morning and the routine that it provided. I embraced the morning walk to work, the cup of coffee that I would grab from the café nearby, and the general comradery that the office afforded. I appreciated connecting with my colleagues in person and understanding their daily routines. But now, here I am, three states away, alone, grabbing coffee in my kitchen, 20 feet from my desk in my guest room, which also happens to be 10 feet from my bedroom.
I’ve worked remotely for two years and definitely have learned several things about my work habits and how best to adapt to being one of the few remote employees in my organization. Should you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way to help you excel as a remote desk jockey:
- Set up a routine. It’s easy to hit the snooze button on any work day, but it is especially easy when you work from home. When you’re at home, you can easily justify sleeping in: “Well, I’m just walking to the next room,” “I can take a shower during lunch” or “I’ll make breakfast during my 10:00 a.m. call.” Don’t do it! You will establish bad habits that are difficult to break. I follow the same routine that I did previously. I wake up at the same time, make breakfast at the same time and log on to my computer at the same time, each working day.
- Get dressed. I may not wear a suit while sitting at my home office, but I resist the temptation to wear shorts and a hat. Instead, I put on pants and a shirt every day because it puts me in a frame of mind to work versus feeling as if I’m about to go to the pool.
- Take breaks. For the first year, I felt that my coworkers back in the main office would judge me if I didn’t pick up my phone on the first ring or reply to emails and instant messages immediately. I thought that they would assume that I wasn’t working but was lounging around watching reruns of “Friends.” I was exerting undue pressure on myself by creating the impression that I was constantly on call. While that made me more productive, I realized that my coworkers were taking breaks. They were running to grab coffee down the street, or chatting about Monday Night Football. I wasn’t partaking in any of that. So, now I take a well-deserved break by making a cup of coffee in my kitchen, then walking outside for 5 minutes, or going to grab the mail.
- Have a work space. It is important to set up a dedicated work space to create an office setting. You cannot work remotely in a lounger in your basement. You need the structure and concentration that a desk and private space provide.
In short, you don’t have to be in an office or in close physical proximity to your colleagues to be a fully productive, engaged and high-performing member of the team. But you do have to impose on yourself and your surroundings a disciplined, predictable and office-like atmosphere to get the job done without distraction.