What if Remote Work Isn’t For Me?Last Updated: April 27, 2020
In our new series, re:work, our columnist tackles the tough situations that arise when working as a team. From appropriate use of shared space, to adapting to remote work: we’re breaking down what troubles you, and helping you fix it.
Our company just made the switch to fully remote work, and I’m struggling to be productive. There’s noise from the apartments beside me, and things feel harder to control. Work feels less predictable than when I was in office. I don’t want to let my team down but I also don’t know how to make it better! Can you help?
Missing the Office”
Submissions may have been edited for length and/or clarity.
Working from home is a skill you have to practice, just like anything else. It’s okay that you aren’t great at it right away! Over time you’ll nail down the practices and routines that work best for you. When that happens, you’ll love the remote work lifestyle and the freedom and flexibility it offers. Until then, make a few investments into your home that will help you feel settled, and will help make those distractions a lot easier to ignore.
Invest in Noise Cancelling Headphones
This is a must have for every single member of our team. We have different preferences in style, but we all have a noise cancelling product. Ask yourself what you want: over the ear, earbuds, or plugs? Do you need them to have a microphone for making calls or can just be headphones? There are also wired and wireless to pick from, although for us it’s not much of a choice. We all have wireless ones, which makes moving around our space so much easier. Most wireless headsets will have a mute button on them too, which makes quick muting easy. When you’re at home, you never know when a dog will start barking, or an alarm will go off.
Do some research before you buy: whether it’s a $30 pair or a $300 pair, these will quickly become part of your everyday routine.
Create an Office Space
You don’t need a dedicated room with a giant desk, floor to ceiling bookshelves, and a tufted couch perfectly lit by the sun of a giant bay window. Your home office can be anywhere. If you have a foot and a half against a wall, you have a home office! All you need is a small desk and a chair to complete the space. Big enough to fit your laptop or computer monitor comfortably. There are lots of options for smaller desks too. Ones with wheels that are easy to move, or ladder desks that have shelves for anything you might want within arms reach.
Stores like Walmart, Ikea, and Target will have more affordable options. If you have a larger budget, try an office store that specializes in helping people with this type of space. Before you buy, check in with your company. If they support remote work or are fully remote, they may have a remote work fund to help you get your home space set up.
Set a Schedule
When you first start working from home it’s easy to get distracted, especially if you don’t have a schedule. In my first few months remote I found I was all over the place, and felt less focussed than I did in the office — a bit like I didn’t know what I was doing. That’s why having a written schedule will help both you and your coworkers.
At Flow, our direct team shares a loose idea of their day in the morning. Whether someone has a meeting, will be offline for an appointment, or if they need to focus for a few hours. We don’t share a detailed agenda everyday, just a bit of info so we know who is busy when. If you’re more regimented, try an online calendar to block out your day. Share that with your teammates and they can tune in to what you’re working on with ease.
You may feel a bit overwhelmed right now, but trust me, in no time at all you will settle into your new remote work life. You’ll have extra time with your pets, the flexibility to see the doctor before 5pm, and be able to make lunch at home. Overall, remote work will save you money, time, and stress. So spend a bit of your time now, and a little money, on the above tactics and you’ll find it much easier to focus and be productive while at home.
Dealing with your own weird, frustrating, or downright awful work situation, and need a little help? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be the subject of our next re:work piece.