In 1999, the first generation of the Blackberry was introduced. All of a sudden, business people everywhere were working from home on Sunday nights while reading email and mentally preparing for Monday. Fast forward 17 years, and six iPhone versions later, and working remotely is now as simple and commonplace as working from the office, whether your office is six or six-thousand miles away.
If remote working is something you’ve considered, or daydreamed about as you begrudgingly stand on the train platform, know this: it is possible to work remotely in a full-time capacity and not spend your day watching soaps or doing laundry. And it is possible to be uber productive and focused. Really. I officially made the jump to full-time remote working three years ago and don’t plan to go back anytime soon. Here are my tips to controlling your remote life, like a boss:
1. Have an “office.” Sometimes you may need to work horizontally on your couch. This is totally cool. But most of the time, work in a dedicated space. If nothing else, all your work stuff will be contained in one area. Make this space yours. It is a luxury that you don’t have to listen to your coworkers’ music or see your boss’s kids’ pictures. Live it up. Make your space happy and YOU. Make it comfortable and inspiring. Don’t be afraid to splurge on some fun pieces - posters from your favorite band, that gold stapler from Target, artwork from your favorite artists. Working from home doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. Quite the opposite!
2. But get out every now and then. Shared work spaces are popping up in cities across the world. Even if you work from home, it's easy to get a desk and spend a couple of days each month (or each week!) in the company of other creators. As awesome as working from home can be, some days your dog isn’t going to want you talking to him. And you’re going to realize that the only human interaction you’ve had in a few days is the very nice FedEx man (significant other notwithstanding).
While happy hour is a good option, finding a great shared workspace is probably more useful to your career. These spaces can be rented by the day or month. And some offer “floating” memberships which are perfect for those of us with a swanky home office where we spend most of our time. This is an affordable option for a new environment and - bonus - built-in networking! A few of great spaces I’ve taken advantage of are: Vaga (an aggregate for temporary workspace and the space needers that want them), WeWork, LaunchPad and old faithful, Starbucks.
3. Technology is awesome. Let’s face it, without it we would all be chained to a desk in a dull room lit by those awful fluorescent bulbs. To stay up to date on the most recent software peruse Mashable, Forbes and Fast Company.
4.Speaking of technology - use it to over-communicate. If you aren’t in the office, clients and employees can’t read your body language or facial expressions. So use your words. And emojis or GIFs if appropriate. Be calm in your delivery and thorough in your explanations. And DO NOT be afraid of the phone! A quick conversation can alleviate 13 emails. Other than the good old fashion telephone, a few other communication tools that I find make remote life so much easier are Slack, Skype or FaceTime, Google Drive, Dropbox, UberConference…and, of course, email.
5. Get over the guilt. No, you’re not commuting. (High five!) But you are focused, crazy productive and just as accessible as anyone else. Maybe more so. It is totally okay to go grab lunch. Take a walk around the block. Exercise during the day (gasp!). Your co-workers in the office are doing all the same things around the proverbial water cooler. They just don’t have the luxury of going back to work unshowered or storing their lunch leftovers in their own fridge.
6.But be accountable and trustworthy. Use your time wisely. Be dependable. Protect data and disclosures that need to be protected. Set rules and a schedule for yourself, just as you would in the office. If your situation allows, know this can be flexible. For example, if you like to sleep in, let your co-workers know you're available from 9:30 - 6:30 PM, and make sure you deliver on that promise.
7.Flannel pants and bed-head are fine. And at times, encouraged. You simply do NOT have to get dressed up and fake yourself out to be productive. Especially on the days that demand every ounce of your energy. Just double check your calendar first to make sure you don’t have one of those sneaky FaceTime/Skype sessions.
8.Set boundaries. We all work, all the time. Work/life balance is kind of a joke. But just because you’re 15 steps from your office doesn’t mean you have to work more than anyone else. Finish your work and close up shop for the night. Co-workers will find you on your cell or Slack or email if they really need you.
Written from the south, near the shore, under a few palm trees. Not in an office.
Edited in a funky home office full of dog photos.
Abby Downing is the Creative Director at ZinePak, a SuperFan-centric creative agency based in NYC. She, however, spends most of her time in charming Charleston, SC. She enjoys the finer things in life like happy hour, big dogs, black sharpies, college football, Carolina Blue (Go Heels!) and sunshine. Working remotely hasn’t hampered her ability to over-deliver for clients like Katy Perry, Brad Paisley, and the New York Mets. On the contrary, she swears it’s helped spark the creativity.