What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear about remote work? A new MacBook, a paradise beach and your private office under the palm tree?
Sounds great, but this vision has as much in common with the truth as this popular myth about the visibility of the Chinese Wall from space. I mean, there is something to it, but the reality is much, much different than Instagram stories published by self-styled business influencers.
I know what I’m saying. I’m an ex digital nomad and I have been working remotely since 2017.
I realize that remote work is currently kind of a buzzword and it’s exciting for almost everyone from the so-called Y generation (Millennials). That’s why I decided to write some guidelines and honest words regarding remote work.
Before I start I want to make some disclaimers. These are my personal views based on subjective experiences. I will try to share some universal recommendations, but remember that the best way to learn something is just to begin and constantly improve your skills.
Ready steady? Check this list of 5 things you need to think about before you start working remotely.
Do you consider working remotely because you hate the 9-to-5 system in your workplace? Well… The truth is that when you work from home and/or don’t need to visit the office you must have much more self-discipline than the proverbial 8-hours workday.
As a remote worker you will face plenty of enemies who are hiding under innocent disguise. Would you like to know the real serial killers of your concentration and time? Meet social media channels, youtube videos, mail inbox and funny images of cats. That’s only the top of the iceberg of common distractors. The only way you can defeat this obstacle is strict discipline and focus on your work.
One of the key things for every freelancer and digital nomad is setting up some fundamental routines and sticking to positive habits. Think about regular job activity hours when you are available for clients or other team members. Try to limit compulsively checking your mailbox and Messenger.
I also noticed that a comfortable place to work and a clean desk can work wonders in terms of productivity.
#2 Tools and workflow
There is a poor chance that a high mountain expedition to the Himalayan peaks will be successful if you don’t take an ice ax, crampons and dynamic rope with you. It may look like an exaggerated metaphor but the principle when you work online is exactly the same. A difficult challenge requires the right equipment.
My worst nightmare is losing all of my devices and applications I use for my daily duties. Really, that’s much worse than Rosemary’s Baby. So what’s in my toolbox?
I can’t imagine my life without project management tools, document sharing and collaboration tools, a communication tool and a calendar.
I love managing my tasks using a Kanban board created in Trello. This is my virtual headquarters and a command center. My organizational system is quite simple. Let’s make a long story short: I splited the process to 7 stages:
- tasks to do
- tasks which need no more than 5 minutes to accomplish
- tasks in progress
- delegated tasks
- tasks in review
- tasks on hold
- tasks done
Each task is an online sticky note for me. They have their own labels (every label means a different project), deadlines and priorities. I control the progress of work by freely moving tasks between the appropriate columns of the board. Getting things done always gives me a powerful kick of motivation and satisfaction.
You don’t have to copy my solution. It’s all about making your work organization transparent and easy to understand for your colleagues. You will avoid many misunderstandings and save a lot of time. Moreover, in that way you can show your reliability and inspire the trust of others.
In the everyday rush it’s easy to forget that there are also people on the other side of the screen. In the conditions of remote work, it is more difficult to build relationships with colleagues and take care of the company’s culture.
This is especially important if your contractors or team members come from different countries. In general, people from the south are more effusive while Scandinavians are rather introverted. Some nations love small talk and frequent coffee break chats, but others prefer to focus on duties. The better you know their habits, the easier you can communicate with them.
Look, conversations online are generally poor. While 55% of our communication is non-verbal (and 38% paraverbal), it is really difficult to use body language or specific voice intonation in Internet communication. It doesn’t mean you should forget about that. Try to convey your emotions with the help of the available options. Sometimes one emoji or a gif sent on the Messenger allows you to build the foundations of a good atmosphere and improve relationships.
#4 Independence and communication
One guy with whom I spoke before my journey to South-East Asia briefly summarized the idea – Cool! You will be like a commando in the jungle. Remember to ask for support when you need it!
At first I took it as a joke, but after a few weeks I found out that he was 100% right.
Nobody cares where you are and in what conditions you work. That’s your business. People count on you and for them the most important thing is the effect of your work.
Prepare a plan B. What will you do when somebody steals your computer at the airport? Do you have any backups? How do you replace your device during a journey? Everything can happen, so beware and think about negative scenarios in advance!
I honestly admire when someone is able to work day by day on the beach or around the pool.
No, I’m not jealous. I know that many people dream of spectacular photos of their office near the blue ocean, but as a rule, you only pull out your computer … to take a trendy snap or instagram photo.
First of all, it is extremely impractical. The sharp sun, sand and high temperature. It is difficult to imagine a more difficult working conditions. In addition, lack of access to electricity and frequent problems with internet coverage can be problematic.
Reality can be cruel and demanding. Besides … seriously, is there nothing better to do on the beach than working on projects?
For your own comfort, ensure adequate work comfort. This helps to maintain discipline, high productivity, and strong motivation. This is crucial when you decide to work online.
The second thing is the afore Internet access. It’s one of your most valuable assets as a remote worker. Make sure it won’t be a source of stress. There is nothing worse than a problem with access to the network when an important Skype call or a deadline for sending the finished work is approaching.
I know what I’m saying. A few weeks with super slow internet in Indonesia brought me a lot of gray hair from stress.
Remote work has its light and dark sides. The better you prepare for surprises, the more satisfaction you will derive from this amazing adventure.
Remember that when you start working remotely, all the problems you have been facing in an office will hit you with double strength. This isn’t a reason to give up. However, you have to clench your teeth and work on yourself.