Making remote work work

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I've been fortunate enough to have worked several jobs in my career as a developer and designer that had some aspect of remote work - whether full-time remote, or part-time remote (my current situation - 2 out of 5 days a week), and have grown to love it, so thought I'd share my top tips for making it work.

Like anything, remote work has both its upsides and downsides, so it's good to be aware of the things that might be challenging upfront, to ensure you have ways of dealing with some of the roadblocks.

If possible, set aside a dedicated workspace

I've heard of people working from the sofa, or kitchen table but for me, a space that I know is just for work is best - fewer distractions, and it means you can leave it set up exactly how you need.

Check your ergonomics

Often in workplaces, people are ensuring the ergonomics of your workplace is sufficient, but at home, on your own, it's easy to slip into bad habits. Things like sitting position, adequate light, and the right keyboard, mouse and monitor setup are crucial.

I've invested in a cheap standing desk and use that for the morning, lowering it for the afternoon, and bought the best possible chair I could afford second-hand. Google for 'ergonomic desk setup' - there are several good resources out there online.

Make things as convenient as possible

If you work out of an office some of the time, or just occasionally hot-desk, it's well worth investing in a second power-supply you can leave wired to your desk, and have one for 'on-the-go'.

I've seen people unplug and take their power supply with them when working from home - it's much quicker to have one in place and more convenient, and the minutes you spend plugging and unplugging add up, plus it reduces weight to carry about with you.

Plan your day the night before

Not a remote thing, but I have a notebook with my daily todo list, and I find brain dumping things at the end of the day, and writing the first few tasks I have to get done the next day helps with my productivity.

Zero the desks

A term taken from the music-production world, where they used to reset all the console switches to zero, I find clearing my desk at the end of the day, and starting with a tidy desk is helpful.

Check your hours

I find when working in an office, it's easy to know when to stop, as most people leave at a similar time each evening. When working remotely there are no such constraints. When I started working remotely, people said "I don't know how you manage it - I'd be distracted and get nothing done" but I've found the opposite - it's easy to work through your lunch break, and sometimes into the evening, especially if you've entered a state of flow.

Set yourself some 'office hours' and try and stick to them, and down tools once they are over.

Exercise

When working in an office, one can get a small amount of exercise by commuting, going out for lunch, etc. It's easy to fall into bad habits when remote, and I find my mood and the quality of my work suffers if I don't force myself to do some kind of exercise.

If you can stand it, running is excellent, and in the winter dark months, I've found that Pilates helps - anything to counter the act of sitting at a desk for several hours straight.

Go to meetups

It can be a bit isolating working remotely, so I like going to meetups when I can with like-minded folks - great for networking and gets you out of your head for a bit.

Stay hydrated and eat well

While you don't have an 'office watercooler' to gather around, it's important to stay hydrated and eat well - I find a big refillable bottle of water encourages me to drink more and filling it as soon as it's empty helps too.

I try and avoid too many sugary things in the morning as well for breakfast - I find starting the day with something slower-burning like healthy cereal with fruit or porridge helps even out the energy release, and reduced the highs and lows that sugar brings. Cutting out sugar in my coffee has also helped.

Try and leave work at work

When work is just in the other room, it's easy to keep thinking about it, so a change of context is good, or anything to signify it's time to stop thinking about work. I'm lucky enough to have a home office that I can close the door on when the day is done, but I've heard that people have routines they go through, like changing their clothes or even just shoes - something that means it's time to stop and turn your work brain off.

There's an old saying that an hour in the evening is as good as 15 minutes in the morning - if you burn the midnight oil too many times, the quality of your work will suffer, and you'll do much better work during the day by giving yourself proper rest.

There's a whole other blog post on communicating when working remotely which I'll save for another time, but if you approach remote work mindfully, it's a wonderful thing, and can provide a great environment for doing your best work.

Credits: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Making remote work work