Almost everyone I know is working remotely from home. Some more successfully than others. It made me think: ten years ago, when I started out as a consultant, I started working from home. Then it struck me: I’ve been working remotely for ten years!
So what can I tell you about remote working or working from home that you haven’t already read somewhere else?
These are my top five take-aways that have made my working life easier and more effective:
- Wherever you work is a work environment: it doesn’t matter if its your dining room table, your bedroom, a hotel room or an airport transfer lounge. If you’re working there, its a work environment. If you’re going to work remotely or at home on a regular basis then try to give yourself a space or place where you can set up your working tools on a regular basis. When I first started out I had to pack away my laptop each evening as we didn’t have enough space for me to have an office. But I identified a set of drawers for my work stuff and the printer, which all lived in a corner of the dining room, close enough to the dining room table that worked as my desk and that was my “office” space. Be sure to treat it as an office and not as your home – in other words “be” at work, when you’re there;
- Pick your productivity tools carefully: of course right now we’re all learning all we can about online meetings and collaboration tools. Central to all of this is an assumption that we’ve all got productivity down and know what we’re doing outside of the online collaborative space – yeah right. It has taken me a while to get my head around productivity tools and why they are so important. In the past my work has taken me off-grid to some really remote parts of the world where the concept of wifi / internet or even regular access to electricity is not a given. So I needed tools that could be used offline and that would sync with the cloud when they could. I’ve stuck with one CRM database – Daylite – for all ten years. I’ve moved from files overflowing with word and excel files to Evernote then OneNote and finally to Quip. Why? well for me, I want something that can work like word and excel and powerpoint and OneNote – but all in one place. This is useful for me when working on lots of complex projects at the same time. Quip works for me and keeps everything (notes, documents, spreadsheets, etc) relating to a project all in one place. It isn’t perfect, but that’s more a reflection on me than it. I also use Dropbox for more traditional files that come from clients and colleagues and when I’ve got to share stuff with clients and colleagues. The key thing is that I keep my productivity suite of tools to a minimum and get to know them as well as possible, that way there is less fuss, less chance I’ll lose something and everything is easier to find.
- Integrate and automate: now I’ll admit I’ve not got this one fully sorted out yet, but here’s the main thing: working remotely or at home means you’re on your own. If you don’t have easy access to lots of teams who will do stuff for you, you need to manage your own time as effectively as possible. So I integrate tools and processes where I can and am automating administrative processes as much as possible. For example, I can see my dropbox folders without leaving my CRM database – with folders for each project linked to that project page, and my CRM tasks are also shown in Apple’s native Reminders app on my phone and iPad, so that I can manage both work and home stuff at the same time. There are loads of other integrations like for MailChimp and my website, Eventbrite and MailChimp, etc. you get the picture. All this can take time to set up once, but after that mostly it just runs in the background and means that I save time in my day.
- Communicate: you have to communicate more effectively when you’re working from home or remotely from elsewhere. To manage your colleagues’ and clients’ expectations they need to know where you are, what times you’re available and when they cannot expect you to respond. Just because you’re not in the same space anymore doesn’t mean that others can expect you to be always at the end of a Slack channel, skype message, email, etc. So get really good at letting people know what’s going on and whether they can expect your input today or not.
- Switch off: I’ll admit when I’m working on a complex project or am up against a deadline that I will work all the hours to get it done. But most of the time I switch off all the tech at the end of the work day and don’t check my email or Slack channels until the next morning. Just because you don’t have a commute anymore (which formed a natural barrier between work and home) doesn’t mean you’re always on call (unless you actually are).
For those of you new to remote or home working – good luck! For those of you who have worked from home for years, what are your secrets or hacks? How do you make it work?