6 Steps to Create a Happier Remote Work Experience
Working remotely is not a new experience for many employees. Many employers have realized the benefits to themselves and their workforce by allowing work location flexibility or outsourcing their operations entirely to home offices. However, many employees are dismayed to discover that, without any preparation, the process of becoming a remote employee may not be an instant success. But, there are some intentional strategies you can take that will make the experience of remote work better, allowing you to reap the intended benefits of a remote career without the feelings of loneliness, lack of support, or disorganization that can unintentionally plague remote work.
Use Work Flexibility to Create Ideal Schedules, Not A Life Without Schedules
Rather than thinking about the flexibility you’ve been offered as a path to no schedule at all, use this freedom to set a new schedule, one that responds to your needs. For instance, consider these potential schedule modifications that still result in positive, long-term routines:
- If your children spend 6 or 7 hours a day at school and multiple hours in the afternoons at activities where you do not need to be present, arrange your schedule to fit neatly into the times they will be under the care of other adults.
- If you find that you produce your best work early in the morning or late at night, make some of your hours correspond to those “golden hours” of productivity so that you can show great growth in your work. (Note: if necessary, make sure this doesn’t end up making you unavailable during all of the hours when others at your company might need you.)
- If you know you have sporadic responsibilities, such as occasionally volunteering on Fridays at a specific time, work out a schedule where you “frontload” your week with more hours so that you have the option to take a day or afternoon off when the opportunity presents itself.
In all of these cases, the schedule is still set, such that you have consistent times that you are engaged in work, but it conforms to your needs, making you happier and more successful.
Create a Dedicated Office Space, Optimized to Your Needs
Working from home can occasionally seem like you could just sit at a kitchen table with a laptop computer and work; this may actually be true for people who only work remotely once or twice a month. As you scale up to part-time and full-time remote work, it is wise to take some time to evaluate what you really need from your office space. It does not need to be complex or expensive, but make sure that you have an organized system for storing tools, paperwork, a planner or calendar, and electronics items like chargers. Take the time to make your home office space just as organized and well-stocked as your workplace’s office areas would be.
Fully Reclaim Commuting Time for Your Chosen Activities
Working remotely can be uncomfortable for high performers at times; after all, the freedom to be done with work and “instantly at home” right at 5 pm or your chosen end-of-day time can feel like too much. Rather than feeling a pressure to work more when working remotely, consider how much time you spent commuting every day.
To increase your happiness as a remote worker, try to spend this amount of time doing something you truly enjoy each day. This could mean cooking your mid-work meal from scratch if you love cooking, but for some people, it’s better to get in an aerobics class or a phone chat with a friend and then eat at your desk. Protect the time that you’ve gained as a result of working remotely and doing things you enjoy is ultimately good protection against burnout.
Use Tools to Organize and Create Proxies for In-Office Communication
Whether you use an instant messaging service like Slack or a to-do list/project management application like Trello, make sure you have the tools you need to stay organized. Consider your tools to be like a “mini-manager,” someone who will do the casual reminders that might otherwise happen in an office space. They can also be a proxy for casual collaborative conversations with coworkers, and it is wise to be proactive about finding a way to communicate quickly (responses within, say, half a workday). Don’t wait until you are frazzled waiting for unreturned emails.
Do an Optimization Assessment Each Month
Once you’ve done the first 4 steps, you’ll need to make your process toward happy remote work a bit more personalized. Each month, ask yourself:
- How is my output compared to before I was working remotely?
- How happy am I compared to before I was working remotely?
- Is there any particular area of my work life where I’d like to see improvement?
By asking these questions, you give yourself space to explore solutions. Often, solutions are more forthcoming than you might expect when you have control of both the space, tools, and time of your work!
Create a Personal Remote-Work Goal, Each Month
A major component of workplace happiness is the ability to set one’s own goals and chart a course toward success. Of course, your work will be determined in large part by the program your engaged and the goals and mission of your work, but one way to keep growing as a remote worker is to make a goal for yourself. This could be work output related, such as taking time away from email in order to get deeper into difficult tasks, or it could be quality-of-life related, such as sleeping a little later and having a shorter morning preparation routine on the days when you won’t be face-to-face with co-workers. Design these goals to maximize both your work and your life and see them as small experiments to see if you want to change your long-term routine to reflect these changes. This way, you’ll see growth in happiness and progression in your career.