Feb 15, 2024

Feb 15, 2024

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Feb 22, 2024

Article

Article

How I Work: Becoming a Remote Worker

How I Work: Becoming a Remote Worker

As I mentioned in last week’s blog about employing remote workers, I want to look at the other perspective - being a remote worker.  This has been my ‘default’ situation for most of my career, which means that I was a relatively ‘early adopter’ to the concept.  And similar to my first blog recounting an early story of success in running a workshop, I often think back to the early days of working from home and how that set the foundation for my career.

From 2005 to 2007 I was a classic road warrior.  During this period of my life, I learned a lot about travel, like frequent flyer programs, corporate discount codes and how to pack efficiently.  But I didn’t consider myself a ‘remote’ worker, because I was essentially on a client site most days.  So when I left that job and took a job for a company based in Denver, CO, I relocated to work onsite in their HQ.  For a year I commuted to the office, bought my first house and started to settle down.  There was a definite culture of coming to the office, going to lunch together and hanging out after work.

In 2008 when on vacation in Las Vegas, NV, I decided on a whim to buy a second home and relocate there.  No state income tax?  Yes, please! This is really when my life as a ‘remote’ or ‘work from home’ worker started.  It was the intentional act of ripping myself away from a ‘go into the office’ culture to work from my condo that made me come to terms with what that would entail, logistically.  And I have to give a lot of credit to my forward thinking manager who enabled this move.  We agreed that I would fly from Vegas to Denver on a monthly basis for one week and would get a rental car each time, paid by the company.  But I would stay at my parents’ house and take care of my own meals, thus minimising the overall impact on her budget.  Most importantly, I would have to set-up a dedicated work space in my new house to be able to work effectively every day.

From this arrangement I learned a number of valuable lessons which I carry with me today.  One of them was about organising my time and my day.  It’s a lesson that I have to reflect on often as it’s very easy when working from home to drift in two different directions.  One is that you work too many hours.  I can’t tell you how many times I have sat in my PJ’s and worked for 12-14 hours.  The other direction is getting too distracted by personal errands and not focusing on work.  It is a myth that people can multitask.  Like Ron Swanson says, never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.  And when I tried to juggle say - cooking or laundry folding or even reading email with being on a conference call - I never did either task well.  Ultimately, being deliberate about how you structure your day to ensure focus time and effectiveness, both personally and professionally, allows you to maximise the value of being remote.

Another lesson harks back to the key item of the negotiated move which was incorporating in-person time.  There is literally nothing in my mind that makes you more efficient and effective in virtual communications (in any format) than having a personal relationship with people first.  Whether you’re Slacking, emailing, Zooming, texting or any other form of collaboration, you spend much more time and waste many more cycles if you try to build up a working relationship completely virtually.  That week I spent every month in Denver was a perfect opportunity to connect with people, have a beer, share a laugh and whiteboard ideas.  And my focus time at home in the successive weeks was a perfect opportunity for me to do heads-down work and balance my personal life.

Finally, I learned back then that having a dedicated working space is really important.  This does not mean the same thing to everyone.  For me back then it was a separate room with a desk, notepad, laptop stand and speakerphone.  As I’ve gotten older my home office set-up game has become more elaborate, but I’ve also grown to recognise that sometimes the type of work I need to do requires different spaces - like co-working spaces, or maybe a nice restaurant or coffee shop.  That fundamental question of ‘where’ is no longer a given and we have many choices available to us to suit the given situation.  This is what has me excited about the post pandemic world and embracing hybrid work.

In summary, these are some of the three biggest takeaways from my shift to remote working:

  1. Be deliberate about time management

  2. In-person relationships still hold great value

  3. Create or find a workspace that suits your needs

Tell us about your experiences and lessons learned in the comments!

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