Working from home might be the main advice for many at present and it’s already the way of the future for lots of us. But, if you’re going to be taking the plunge and working remotely then there are definitely pros and cons. Of course, there are certainly plenty of pros when it comes to working remotely and one of the main things is that you immediately do away with your daily commute. That’s a win right there.
It might be that you only have a five or ten-minute walk to work, but that adds up over time. If, on the other hand, you commute an hour or two a day, either in the car or on the train that’s an instant saving of an awful lot of time. And a lot of money too. The first challenge is therefore to optimize that extra time (while saving the spare travel cash for a rainy day perhaps), either by turning yourself into someone who’s much more productive (opens in new tab) and thereby gaining kudos with your employer, or getting a better work/life balance. Ideally, you’ll end up doing both.
1. Smarter working
So, one of the main challenges with remote working is that while it has the potential to free up extra time so you can enjoy life a little bit, there is also the tendency for us to overcompensate. If, for example, you’re employed and your boss has said you can work from home, one of the first things employees tend to start doing is more hours. This is usually to show just how much effort you're making and that you’re not skiving off, but equally it can often be hard to switch off when you’re not actually doing that dreaded commute anymore.
However, this is not the way forward. You should already have an agreed amount of hours with your employer and, just because you're not commuting, you shouldn't be working a pattern that’s any different to normal. However, the plus point about remote working is that you can often fit in those hours to work around other things, such as childcare or sporting and social activities. As long as you’ve agreed it in advance then this can be a real bonus.
One of the main reasons some people start to struggle with working remotely is they feel a little left out of the equation. Being in an office means you’re part of a team and you’re visible to all. Being stuck at home might make you feel at a bit of a loss and as though you’re not really part of anything. Fear not though; there’s plenty of software that’ll bring you back into the mix. Video conferencing (opens in new tab), instant messaging (opens in new tab) and the good old phone (opens in new tab) are all tools at your disposal. You might just have to make a bit more of a concerted effort to stay in touch compared to when you were at your desk back in the office.
3. Tech savvy
Not everyone is up to speed on the latest tech, but if you work for a company that’s letting you work remotely then hopefully they’ll have implemented sufficient steps to ensure you’ve got the kit you need to stay productive. This can be anything from task management software (opens in new tab) to collaboration software (opens in new tab) to project management software (opens in new tab).
Even for those who aren't working for someone else, the resources that are at your disposal are almost limitless. And the good news, if you're a freelancer or business owner seeing things dry up in an economic downturn, is that many are free. What’s more, if training on how to use new tech or run a certain software package isn’t forthcoming then have a look on YouTube as you can bet that someone, somewhere will have done an instructional video. The answer might be that obvious.
4. Get organized
Just because you're at home or working in some other remote location you’ll still want to have a plan of action in place. In fact, you might find that you need to have more calendar (opens in new tab) events in your diary than you did in the office. When you’re sharing space with other workers it’s often the case that they’ll give you a handy prod about an event or meeting, if per chance you’d forgotten to add it to your calendar. If you're working remotely though you’ll need to be more on top of your game. Although it's still possible to share calendars and organizers online, the onus is always going to be on you, as the owner of your own space and time at home, to make sure you stay on the ball.
5. Avoid distractions
One of the biggest challenges facing anyone while working remotely can be getting distracted. While it is nice to have the dog come up to you for attention, or perhaps your children doing the same thing, if you get all of them vying for a piece of the action while you’re working then it can be time-sapping and inconvenient. And, if you don’t have the luxury of helping hands then that can perhaps be one of the biggest issues with working from home. If you’ve got an understanding boss and deadlines that are a little bit elastic then you might want to move your working hours to after the children have gone to bed. It’s not easy, but it does at least allow you to focus.
It’s possible to overcome the main challenges with working remotely, but at the same time it’s crucial that you learn to take it easy from time to time. If you can avoid the issue of working too much and switch off then you’re off to a great start. Then you’ll also want to look out for other minor remote working pitfalls, such as habit snacking and procrastinating as much as possible before you even get started for the day. There’s a degree of self-discipline involved with working from home, but it is possible. It’s even more possible if you don't have kids or pets. But where’s the fun in that?
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