Getting through your work day on your own is easy enough. Over the long run, though, you’re going to need to have some solid relationships in your life to help get you through the rough patches and pick you up from the falls, but more importantly, to be there when it’s time to celebrate the wins.
While these are going to seem obvious at first, I want to make the point that they’re by no means effortless. In fact, some of the closest connections in your life can be the most affected by your choice to have your home serve also as your place of work.
In the movie Office Space, the main character Peter Gibbons pines that his motivation to work, or rather, to “work just hard enough not to get fired,” stems from unhealthy relationships with management. This cannot be your reality as a remote worker, and you need to make efforts to establish (and maintain) trust with your boss and teammates.
I have worked in blended environments where there was a head office with regular staff, but many remote workers and many office workers who had the option to work from home as they elected to do so. Being a permanent remote with very little office time (averaging about a day a month in the office) it was harder to get to know folks, but I knew it was really on me to own it.
Before you start at a company as a remote worker, or before you start working from home, talk to the management and other staff that already work remotely to see what it is like. If the atmosphere supports it, flying solo can be a great experience, but you still need the support of ground control. If you work as the only remote worker, or if management doesn’t trust or understand how productivity can work remotely, it may not be the right time for you to engage in flight.
These ones are pretty important, especially in a company where there is a block of folks that work full-time at the office and a group that works remotely. Why are these folks good to know?
Because they get ya. They’re on the Skypes. They’re on the Slack.
They are trying to do the same things that you are doing and likely face the same challenges as you do. They look for solutions and have found tools that help them avoid the pitfalls. You’ve likely had to work through something that they haven’t yet, you have it figured out and it’s great to be able to share that with them.
Don’t be afraid to share your failures or ask for help! Being a good remote worker means mentoring and being mentored by other remote workers so that collectively we can all be really good at it.
Ahhh…five o’clock, am I right? It’s that time when you disconnect from work and start to enjoy the more meaningful things in life. Of course, that means that you have be successful in leaving work in the first place, which can be tricky, but isn’t impossible to do, especially if you’ve put in a good day.
There a measure of counter-intuitiveness here that you’ll find. For example, keeping strong relationships in your own household is actually more about defining and maintaining boundaries during the workday than you might imagine. For example, if your office door is open as you’re working and your spouse, kids or roommates feel free to come and chat, you’re going to be less productive than you’d like to be. Over time, that loss of focus and reduced ability to create tangible outputs are going to start to turn into stress. Allowing the non-work relationships to bleed into your day can be a form of long term toxin that will erode your success as a remote worker.
Likewise, allowing your work day to bleed into your evenings and weekends will rob you of the best part of your day. Maybe you’re married with kids, fiancéed, or perhaps single, but the fact holds true regardless of your situation: marginalizing your family and friends to try to improve things at work will yield exactly zero positive results for your personal life. If you don’t agree with that statement, it’s simply because Dr. Seuss got the idea of the Grinch’s heart being two sizes too small from your life story.
There will be exceptions, where some rule-bending and time-bleeding will occur, but your job as a remote is to maintain that balance and be honest with yourself about how you’re doing in that regard.
I do have to admit that I’m quite fortunate in this regard, as I’ve been able to align with an employer who is very much accustomed to and accepting of remote work. Working remotely, while becoming more common, isn’t yet universally accepted and I know from personal experience that if the culture isn’t there in the company, it can’t work on the long term.
It’s long and often been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and the reality of that statement is that at some point we have to grow up and be part of the village. As a remote worker, you need to remember that community isn’t going to just happen for you. Sure, you may not be raising kids, but the outcomes of your work efforts can only be best realized if you’re able to establish some great relationships along the way.