The prospect of working remotely is pretty attractive. Why trudge into the city every day with all of those worker drones when you can answer emails from a comfy window seat at the cafe downstairs or Skype with the team from your kitchen table?
Think of all the time and money you can save every day. Think of all the Netflix you can watch during your lunch break!
But the reality is remote working can be more of a pain in the neck than you realise. Cafes are fine until the stay-at-home parents arrive for brunch, infants in tow; kitchen benches are great until you realise just how uncomfortable bar stools really are.
And it’s not just the physical environments that can be challenging: many people and organisations fail to consider just how hard it can be to replicate the effectiveness of the professional workplace in non-work conditions. Some large organisations, like IBM, a remote-working pioneer, are actually winding back their stay-at-home culture.
Here are some other critical things to consider to make remote working work for you.
Setting yourself up comfortably is easy if you’re working from home and you have a designated office or work area, but what happens if you’re travelling? Workfrom is a website that helps you find good working spots – cafes, hotels, libraries, museums – in cities all over the world, and it’s also a way to connect with fellow remote workers. Alternatively, if you have the budget, you can book a ready-to-go coworking space.
Keeping track of what you need to do and when can be difficult when you can’t just yell out to someone across the office. Developers and software engineers are typically pretty good at managing their work remotely but workflow and project management tools are not always commonly used in many organisations. For a simple but effective way to provide task visibility and collaborate with your colleagues consider a tool like Trello, which we’ve written about before.
Email and Slack will be useful for getting the job done when you’re not in the office, but what you can’t do from home is sit with a colleague at the same computer. That’s where screen-sharing can come in handy. You can share your screen via apps like Skype and Zoom which you might already be using for video conferencing, but there are plenty of other apps on the market now.
We’ve written before about how technology is collapsing our work and private lives into each other and how to combat it, but the problem becomes even more pronounced when the physical boundaries are eliminated. To stop every room in the house morphing into another workspace, develop some good habits: designate a room or space as your office and only work there; leave the house for lunch; and do not check your work email in bed.
No matter how well you’re able to get your head around which colleague is in what time zone, you – or Outlook – are bound to screw it up eventually. Every Time Zone promises you’ll “never warp your brain with time zone math again”, with a really neat and comprehensible interface that shows you simultaneous times across multiple locations. No more accidentally phoning the boss at 3am!
If remote working for you means being regularly on the move, and you often find yourself bashing away at the keyboard in planes, trains and hotel lobbies, make sure you protect yourself from third-degree groin burns by investing in a quality portable cushioned lap desk.
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