Remote work: why I didn’t enjoy it
The history behind this blog post is quite peculiar. Let me tell you a little about how I began my journey here at Near Partner. 😊
It was mid-Jun last year, and I had just accepted a job offer to handle Near Partner’s Digital Marketing. I was super excited! A fantastic opportunity, a wonderful place to work and finally the chance to do what I really love.
A week later the worst happened… Long story short, I went to a wedding party and, wrong place – wrong time, a big heavy piece of machinery fell in my foot.
The prognosis wasn’t promising and the news I didn’t want to hear eventually arrived in a white scrub: “you have 3 broken bones in your ankle, in four separate places total!”
You can imagine my despair…
I must admit… my worst fear was a bad reaction from my future employer and team mates. Two days later, at my couch, on a heavy and annoying cast, I called Pedro (our CEO) and gave him the unwelcoming news. While I was expecting the worst, I just heard kindness and understanding.
What a relief! My job wasn’t at stake, we just needed to find a way to work together.
As you can guess by the title of this blog post, remote work was the answer.
And so it began my adventure of working from home.
Near Partner’s kind of remoteness
Here at Near Partner we are office-based. We share an open-space and work right next to each other. Yet, as a software-house and an outsourcing partner for companies around the world, part of our daily work is to collaborate remotely with multiple teams globally.
Remote work is what we do and we love it!
However, as big believers of Agile, this could sound a bit counterintuitive. Although we all recognise face-to-face communication is more effective, as the Manifesto says, we value “individuals and Interactions over Process and Tools” – meaning that, if our clients prioritise getting the best people, on a Nearshore approach, we will make it happen… the right way! Therefore, we developed a method to communicate effectively and work efficiently, no matter what the distance, time zone, language, or project complexity.
But, on our daily routine, we really value being together. And not only at the office. Whenever we join to lunch, talk, or just drink a beer at the end of the week, we try to bring all team together. We leave no soldier behind! 😊
It’s important for us that no one feel left out of any event or decision.
And that’s part of our company culture!
Why remote work didn’t work for me
The on-boarding was at the office. I introduced myself to dozens of people with crutches and a cast.
Not funny at all but I didn’t go unnoticed! 😀
A few days later I started working from home and did it for 7 weeks in a row.
I’ve never worked from home for more than a couple days straight. In the beginning, I was sure it couldn’t be that hard.
A few days into this journey and I started to feel a little anxious and overwhelmed. I know that the health issues didn’t help, but I didn’t know how much I appreciated the office routine.
My biggest problem was being able to stay focused. I feel that, at home I’ve too many distractions and if I’m not in a great state of mind I get stuck in my thoughts. At home, you don’t have that mate who makes a joke and distracts you from your own head.
Just by going out, get on the train and step into another space – only dedicated to work, my mind gets into a state of getting stuff done (great book, by the way!). I realised that, having a structured routine is crucial and I’m the type of person that benefits from having a well-established schedule.
If you do not have the self-discipline to organise your own work structure, follow a schedule and avoid the daily temptations of your home, you will have the same problems.
Another big obstacle was work space. For weeks I got out of bed and went straight to the couch, and it wasn’t long until I felt the pain in my neck and back. Here’s a piece of serious advice – if you don’t invest in a good quality chair and desk, you will eventually pay for it in lost productivity and maybe even medical bills. Be kind to your shoulders, neck, and back! Ergonomics is serious business!
In a social level, things weren’t getting any better.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet and spend time with my team. I always had that fear of missing out on small things: like something interesting happening in the office, or an informal watercooler chat with someone, or a birthday celebration. Although we have an online chat and we communicate regularly, I’ve missed that face-to-face interaction.
I need to spend time with my peers.
I need to share experiences and learn something new every day.
I need to be inspired.
At the end of the day, all these issues ended in an unhappy me. I wasn’t working in my full potential and my productivity was going through the window…
But, throughout my experience, I learned and realised what habits and behaviours were driving me to this outcome.
If you are in a similar situation or are considering remote work, these hacks are for you:
5 productivity hacks to remote work
1. Start early and dress up
Sounds silly but, when you work from home, you feel like you have all the time in the world. But no. Your day has the same 24 hours as any other person. So, establish a routine as if you were leaving home: get up of bed early and get out of those pyjamas! Did you know 61% of women and 53% of men who work remotely don’t get dressed in the morning?
Despite the idea of being in pyjamas sounds satisfying, the truth is that it has a great impact in your productivity: psychologically, getting into “work wear” helps you get into work mode!
Simple step, yet crucial!
2. Find the perfect workspace
As I said before, a dedicated workspace can make or break (literally) you and your productivity!
Besides that, just like getting dressed, if you don’t separate your workspace from your relax space, your brain will trick you. Basically, your subconscious goes into relaxation mode through association.
So, if you don’t have that dedicated workstation at home go out! Libraries, Starbucks or a coworking space could be the solution!
3. Keep a smart schedule
Once again, the secret is to help trigger the brain and remind him it’s time to work! No matter if you’re an early bird or a night owl, the most important is to set a wake-up time and define a schedule to start working, have lunch, and ending the day.
We all have that period of time when we are more productive. So, structure your routine around that! Don’t you know when you are most productive yet? This app will tell you.
4. Minimise distractions
When you work remotely, you can feel lonely. So, the first instinct is to keep as connected as possible.
And this is a good thing… to a certain point!
We all know that those pinging notifications can seriously impact on our productivity.
If you are like me, you can’t resist having a sneak peek. Every single time!
My advice? Turn on the “Do not disturb” mode! This is a wonderful feature that stops notifications, alerts and calls from making any noise, vibration or lighting up the phone screen when the screen is locked. And better, you can activate exceptions by contact or frequency if you feel the need to stay connected to a certain people! This feature is available for smartphones and even your laptop!
EXTRA-TIP: For every time you complete a task, reward yourself with a social time! That way you can take that much-needed break and catch up on what’s happening!
5. Plan your day in advance
It wasn’t me who said it, was the great Benjamin Franklin:
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
One perk of being home is being flexible. But when you have pre-setup to-list you can get more done in less time, instead of figuring out what you’ll do next. Try to schedule the day before, making it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it.
A final thought
There are certain advantages and disadvantages of remote work, and like everything else in life, there are people who better or worse adapt to this form of working. In my case, it didn’t go as expected – was much harder than I thought it would be!
But throughout this experience, I could identify the behaviours that were restraining me, and by rectify them, I could learn how to better manage my day, both professionally and personally.
The reality is, as remote work is becoming more common, I value much more the time we spend together as a team. Sharing knowledge and experiences are amazing perks when you work with multiple people in the same space.
So, appreciate it. I certainly do 🙂
What about you? Do you enjoy working remotely? And what are your productivity hacks? Let us know!