We work hard at Clock to treat our remote workers as first class employees. It is human nature to forget or misunderstand what we don't see with our own eyes, so it is even more important to have trust, respect, and empathy for remote workers. Clock's remote working policy is a huge enabler, it affords many staff a better work-life balance and allows Clock to retain valued members of the team who are in truly remote locations. However, for the remote worker it is not without its trials. You must pay careful attention to your situation when working remotely as feelings of isolation, neglect, contempt and even paranoia can take hold.
Martin De Wulf highlights many of the challenges and gives us a good sense of how if feels to be a remote worker. If you've ever worked remotely I'm sure you have felt or experienced many of the things Martin talks about.
But remote workers must remember, that if you are lucky enough to have this position of trust and autonomy it is there in two parts; to make your life easier, but also to allow you do your job more effectively. It is essential that these be kept in perfect balance, allowing either to skew will quickly screw up your home life or your career.
Clock have had flexible working, including remote working, as an option for staff since year dot. In the twenty years since we began we've seen all manner of ups and downs in terms of both the staff and the companies. For it to bring its most value, and like with anything worthwhile, you have to put the effort in to make it work at its best.
So here are my top five tips to help you stay, sane, healthy, and productive as a remote worker.
1. Speak to People
Actually speak to people, on the phone/Hangout/Skype anything with actual audio. Messages via Slack, Messenger, or email are often short on context, easy to misinterpret, or make you feel like a text processor as De Wulf points out.
2. Personal Hygiene
Make sure get out of your PJs, shower, clean your teeth and put on clean clothes every morning. Being a slob will exacerbate the feeling of isolation. When everyday work stress increases, your filthy pit of despair will drag you down even further.
3. Physical Stress
Get out and do exercise, even if it is just a brisk walk. You probably save at least 30 mins from not traveling to work so use that time to play sport, swim, cycle, ride a horse, climb a rock, anything that breaks a sweat. At Clock our brains are stressed 100% of the time, our bodies zero. Mental stress is perfectly balanced by physical stress and nothing triggers happy brain chemicals like rigorous activity. You'll come back to your work with a clear head and reduced stress levels. Even if you you are not remote this is good advice.
4. Break Up Your Day
Day can easily blend into night when working from home and it is easy to be always available. While that can be great for your career and your value to the company it will take a big toll. Map out your core hours and try to stick to them. Make sure your work hours are surrounded or broken up with other blocks that are NOT just sitting where you do your work. It is very common for remotes to work extra hours, certainly the time you save not commuting, but ensure you balance your work life with personal interests. Outside of your work hours do your best to get out of the house, cook dinner and eat with family or friends, do diy, knit, watch a film with your partner or read with your kids. Aim for at least three or four segments to your day, mode switching is the key to a healthy mind.
5. Find a Busy Place
If you can get to a physical work location try to do it at least once a week. If not find some shared co-working space or even a coffee shop to give a change of scene and to get some noise and distraction. If nothing more you'll appreciate the calm and isolation of your home office even more the next day.
I generally aim to work from home one or two days a week when I can, with the others in the office or on site with clients. I recognise that remote working isn't for everyone, but for me I find this the perfect balance for our work.
There are so many clear benefits to both the company and the staff from remote working, I always find it short sighted that more companies that could, don't offer it. However, it is equally important to recognise that it isn't for everyone and we must remember that non-remote workers also need to be treated as first class employees with their needs considered and balanced as well as those of your remotes. There are certainly roles and tasks within Clock that are improved with physical presence so every effort should be made to accommodate these when possible. However if productivity is the problem your company faces, chaining people to their desks between 9-5 won't solve it, but maybe giving your staff some autonomy and responsibility to work in a way that suits them might ignite a change in the culture that can truly transform your business.