One Year Working Remotely: What I’ve Learned

working remotely

A lot of people don’t view working remotely as a “real job.” When you say you work from home, a lot of people immediately assume you’re an independent freelancer. Some people can’t understand the concept that you don’t go into an office every day. You find yourself having the same conversation over and over again: Yes, you work from home every single day of the week and there is no physical location to commute to.

But working remotely is a real job. While some conjure up an image of someone watching TV all day and doing arts and crafts projects, that just isn’t the case. The reality is you’re zoned into your computer eight hours a day, just like a traditional office. But the distractions are different. You’re not talking to other people as often (except for conference calls and chat), and you might have to deal with pets or children in your office space.

Working remotely offers a lot of flexibility and can be rewarding when you manage it correctly. After a full year of working remotely for DemandZEN, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share.

Half the battle isn’t showing up, it’s speaking up

In a traditional office setting, you’re present on a daily basis. You can attend meetings you never speak during, but you’re there. You nod your head and smile. You’re making an impression just by being present.

With the exception of video conference calling, the same cannot be said for a remote work environment. If you don’t speak up, you haven’t shown up.

No, you might not always have something to say. And that’s OK. But just because you don’t have a clearly defined role in a meeting doesn’t mean you should join and leave mute on the entire time. Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” just as you would an in-person meeting. Talk about your personal life if it comes up. Chime in if someone references a project you’re connected to even if it’s just to say “That’s correct.”

You know that you’re paying attention during the meeting, but if you don’t speak up no one else will know that. It’s OK to ask someone to repeat something if the audio cuts out, rather than respond without the full context. Stay aware and engaged.

Interoffice chat is also important. Communicating consistently with your team members, even just to give them a heads up on a project, is an essential part of working remotely. When team members don’t communicate about what’s happening, things get lost. Remote employees need to make a greater effort to communicate since they won’t coincidentally run into that person they need to update in the breakroom at the perfect time.

When someone should be told about something, you need to reach out. Period.

Tired of your surroundings? Take a break, or move your seat

Stop thinking that your dedicated workspace is the only place you can do work. That’s an office mentality. There are plenty of times where I’m sitting at my desk and just need to move. I need to get out of my seat and stretch. But most often, I need a change of scenery. I’ll pack up and go to a coffee shop if I have a low (or no) meeting day. I’ll move to the couch or sit outside on my balcony.

Breaks are so important. In an office, you’re there for a minimum number of hours and don’t always have the ability to leave and take the air. There’s a nose-to-the-grindstone mentality we create for ourselves, even if we just aren’t feeling the work.

It’s vital that work doesn’t become a chore. Your time is valuable. So work on what you need to, and if you’re not accomplishing what you should be, put a pin in it. Start another project in the meantime. You might want to seek some help from your team or think on an idea while you work on other tasks. Or, you might need to get up from your desk for 20 minutes and take care of a personal matter that’s distracting you.

Working remotely allows you to build yourself realistic breaks. It means you can vacuum your living room during your lunch break, or mail a letter after a morning meeting. While you’re committed and tied to your job, you can also step away completely just by shutting off your computer (and maybe hiding your phone).

Create boundaries

As easy as I make it sound to step away, you also need to create boundaries for yourself so work life doesn’t become your only life. Because it very easily can. With emails sent to your phone and notifications from your work chat, you can slip into an all-work-no-play mindset really quickly.

A huge part of creating boundaries is prioritization: Complete the things that are necessary and then move on to lower priority projects.

Take your weekends back by planning Thursday and Friday around what you need to get done by end-of-week. If you have time, then you can work on other projects.

When you sign off for the day, make a commitment to yourself that you’re done until tomorrow morning. Shut your laptop down. Put it in its case. Make it hard to get back online to respond to that email or make that one change you can easily make tomorrow.

On vacation? Stop opening your work email and your work apps so often. Leave your phone in the sand and chillax (if people still chillax). It’s fine to check once a day to see if your team needs you for anything, but this is your time off. Act like it.

Creating boundaries like this prevents you from burning out. It keeps you happier in your position. The ability to let go of work when you shutdown your computer for the day is powerful. Letting that stress linger is sometimes unavoidable, but if it happens consistently it can affect your personal life significantly. Discover what boundaries you need to maintain the same level of work efficiency. Meanwhile, work on finding that totally achievable ideal of work-life balance.

About DemandZEN

We are a completely remote marketing and cold calling agency (yes, that means no physical offices!) that strives to give our employees a flexible work environment. Interested in starting your remote work journey with DemandZEN? Learn about our open positions.