Remote working, the latest trend to hit the workplace, is taking off for a reason. Flexible schedules, zero commute, better work-life balance—plus, getting away from your chatty cube mates—are all highly-appealing. But remote work from home jobs come with their own set of very specific challenges, some of which you might not have even thought of until you’re sitting in that coffee shop struggling to log into your work server.
Freelancers, in particular, know all about the struggles that come with remote work from home jobs. For starters, remote workers are essentially their own managers, responsible for their own time management and prioritization of tasks, which can be tough to do. So, before making the switch to a remote schedule, here are some best practices to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time.
Connectivity is key as a remote worker
This may seem counterintuitive. You’re working from home so that you and your coworkers bother each other less, right? Actually, the key to successfully working remote is staying plugged in. Sometimes, the most important conversations in the office happen spontaneously. That’s why it’s so important to maintain your relationships with your coworkers, even if that just means sending a quick Slack message or sharing a Spotify playlist. You never know when a casual conversation is going to lead to an important insight.
Be sure to set up a daily check-in with your manager so that you aren’t the only one responsible for monitoring your progress while you’re remote working. Over-communicating is always better than under-communicating.
Working from home is all about finding your flow
A long-term study conducted by McKinsey found that employees in a “flow” state are approximately five times more productive than they are under other circumstances. But how do you get in the flow and stay there so you can work at an efficient level? One key to getting into your flow is figuring out when you work best. Everyone has a different rhythm. Some people work better really early in the morning, while others work best late at night. Some people prefer to do their most creative tasks in the morning, others like to check email first. Figure out what works for you.
Stick to a working hours schedule
Remote working sounds like freedom, but anybody who’s got a lot on their plate knows that sometimes too much freedom can be a dangerous thing. That’s why it’s important to keep a consistent schedule and stick to it. Now, while it’s good to set your own hours—and work during your most productive moments of the day—it’s also worth it to try to make yourself available for at least part of your company’s workday, too. You don’t want to seem absent just because you’re not in the office.
Here’s a tip: Don’t work for eight hours straight. First of all, the evidence is mounting that an eight-hour work day is just too much time to sit at your desk and expect to be productive. In fact, workers are generally only productive for a few hours during the work day, regardless of whether they’re remote or in-office.
It turns out that the most productive workers among us are good at taking breaks. According to a study conducted by the Draugiem Group, people tend to work best in concentrated intervals of 52 minutes with breaks of around 17 minutes. That may sound like a lot of wasted time, but it’s really not—you need to give yourself time to recharge between focused work sprints.
If you’re looking for a way to structure your workday, why not try the Pomodoro technique, which breaks up your day into 25-minute intervals with short, five-minute breaks in between.
No need to be lonely as a remote worker
While it can be good to get away from the distractions of the traditional office, working remotely can get a little monotonous and lonely, if you’re not careful. According to a 2019 survey from Buffer, nearly 19% of 2,500 workers reported that loneliness was the biggest struggle they had with remote working.
But just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you have to isolate yourself. Enjoy the perks of being out of the office! Mix up your routine: Go to a coffee shop or the library—make plans to work with a freelancing buddy. There’s no reason working remotely should be an isolating experience—if anything, your flexible schedule should make it easier to see people when it works best for you.
Know when to log off
It can be a challenge to know when to log off. The best trick is to pick a time of day—usually towards the end of the workday—where you consistently sign off, even if all of your tasks have not been completed. Don’t feel guilty about not finishing everything. Don’t feel guilty being unavailable sometimes. Just remember: burn out is much worse—for you and for your team. Setting a firm log-off time is all part of becoming a consistent and reliable remote worker.
Invest in your remote working toolkit
Every remote worker has a set of tools that help make their job easier. Noise cancelling headphones for the busy mornings at the coffee shops, the right laptop, an ergonomic desk chair, blue light-blocking glasses to make staring at screens easier on the eyes. But these are just the physical tools. There’s also a whole fleet of apps that no remote worker should be without. One of our favorites: Toggl, a tool that tracks your work hours. It has one-click timers, tracking reminders, and integrations with dozens of apps.
Take pride in your home workspace
Yes, yes, the digital nomad can work anywhere. But if you’re going to work from home, it’s important to set a boundary between your work life and your personal life, even if it’s subtle. Sometimes all it takes is pretending that you’re going into an office—get the coffee flowing and trade in your pajamas for something a little more presentable.
But it also helps to have a designated spot in your home where you work. As tempting as the couch looks, it’s probably not going to be your most productive spot. Your work area should be relatively comfortable—an ergonomic set-up helps—and relatively free of clutter. Most importantly, you should make an effort to work from there often. That’s how good habits are set.
Learn how to ask for feedback
Sometimes, working from home can feel like you’re working with no guidance. That’s why it’s important to learn to ask for feedback consistently. Again, more communication is better than less! It might take a little while to ease into new communication habits with your team.
For example, you might discover that you prefer to receive feedback on the phone instead of over Slack, or vice versa. It’s important to remember that just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean your work isn’t high-quality. Feel confident advocating for yourself, knowing that there’s a chance you’re actually being more productive than your in-office counterparts.
Embrace your inner digital nomad
Working from home is alright, but what about working from the road? The world is your oyster! Take advantage of your job freedom by planning a few adventures—as long as you know where to find reliable WiFi, and the time difference isn’t too brutal, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting your boss on board.
Remote work from home made simple
Whether you’re planning to transition to remote working full-time or just a few days a week, the main idea here is to make sure that you figure out how to incentivize yourself to do good work, consistently. We’re all prone to procrastination and shirking our responsibilities. But the more safety structures you have in place to catch yourself indulging in bad work habits, the easier it will be to break them.
Good habits happen over time. If you start off on the right foot, the more productive a remote worker you will eventually become.
This story is part of our new series on remote working. If you like what you’re reading, check out the Top 10 Benefits of Remote Working!