Think of it — it sounds easy to leave the office for remote work when you work in IT: all things are done via the Internet, you have no stoppers, no barriers. If you’re not a pharmacist, in need to start serving clients at 9:00 at the counter - just pack your luggage and go anywhere. Nice when you also have no ties to time zones, but, to what I know that’s rare among client-facing engineers or developers. The reality is that things change when you actually get there and open your computer.
After traveling to south-east Asia last winter, I really wanted to write up on a few aspects of remote work that made my life painful but then, thankfully, easier. I had three weeks of complete full-time work to do, after which I could devote my mind and body to the sunbathing procedures and the warm sea of the Andaman. Listen up.
Choose the right place to work
I’ve spent my first week working beside a small lunch table for two in my “Airbnb”. Not that it was terrible, but distractions were inevitable: the air-conditioner got into my face, something was cooking in the kitchen, and sounds of various levels catch you now and then. Hence, I couldn’t keep the focus and ended getting food in my mouth for reasons I couldn’t really justify. I had to make compromises between doing work and household chores. This completely made me mad, so on the second week I rented a place at a co-working spot that was relatively close to my apartment. It was great contrast: a real office-like experience. It played a major role for my productivity in the following weeks. Plan your visit in advance, add a few co-working spots to favorites before you leave. Even better to email them beforehand to ask if desk reservation is necessary. Don’t forget a sweatshirt and a pair of socks: air-conditioning could get you fever if you’re not prepared.
Never leave tasks for the evening
Something which wasn’t obvious at first, but became a rule of thumb for me there — working in the evening is a pain when it’s +28°. The co-working space closed at 7pm (which was inconvenient, but they don’t really care), so I had to get back to more noisy and/or hot places to finish my work. Accomplishing important, requiring focus tasks before lunch relieved the need do them in the evening, as simple as that. It’s especially true when it’s time for dinner or children’s bedtime stories, but your calendar shows an upcoming call at 8pm.
Be active in the morning
Get up early, plan your day. Surf, swim and do the groceries before lunchtime. When the time comes up, you’re all set and prepared for business.
Show constant presence
I’m not insisting in showing off presence, but keeping up a constant availability or a “green” sign in Slack throughout the day is a good sign that you are there and you are present when you’re needed. Using chat statuses and emoji’s increase the liveliness of your character within the team.
Communicate more with your team
This may sound counter-productive, but: do more calls with your team, engage in video sessions. You don’t see these people as you would in the open space, so all those work chats, jokes and latest news pass by yourself. You’re no longer aware that your colleague has bought a new vacuum cleaner or a bicycle, but such things do trigger thought processes in your head. Communication, even passive is a necessity.
Although I was productive and have accomplished an important development sub-project of our’s, I’m convinced that performing well without my daytime team being in the same room is an enormous disadvantage. Well, when people work remotely they tend to do comms remotely, write comments in PR’s rather that just shout across the room… but that’s not the case when you leave for a temporary workaction. What can [optionally] even make things worse is that you miss out on any teambuilding activities.
But if that’s fine - be responsive, communicative and plan your days in advance! Make sure you’re fully equipped with everything you need, and where you need. You’ll have a great time working and relaxing… it’s just about the preparation.