I started working remotely full time about 4 months ago, and I’ve only recently found enough time has passed that I’ve been able to find my groove and really find a new normal that feels good and sustainable to me.
Remote jobs seem to be all the rage lately, especially amongst us millennials. Remote work was “the dream” for me for a long time – and still is! It’s such an amazing way to be able to earn your living and I feel so lucky to be able to have the incredible remote job that I do. I can honestly say I love it.
With that said, there are a LOT of things I wish I knew before starting to work remotely. As awesome as it is, it does not come without its challenges or without calling for some major life adjustments. I’ve been keeping tabs on the changes I’ve made in my life and lessons I’ve learned as I’ve adjusted to the “digital nomad” life, and I’m sharing my top 10 with you today.
If you recently started working remotely, or if you’re considering going remote, (or even if you just want to reassess how you’re feeling about your onsite job), I hope you’ll find these helpful in some way.
1. Working remotely will not solve your problems. It will give you different problems.
I don’t say this to be a downer. I say this to be real with you. As much as working remotely may alleviate some of the stresses you experience working in an office, working remotely will come with its own shit sandwich, just like everything else does. As Liz Gilbert talks about in Big Magic, you just have to ask yourself which “shit sandwich” you like eating more – in this case, do you like the “shit” that comes with working in an office or the shit that comes from working remotely better?
2. Your social life matters, now more than ever. (I’m lookin’ at you, Introverts).
Hi, I’m Bibs and I’m a raging introvert.
For a long time, I wanted to work remotely because the thought of not having to be around people all day in an office didn’t scare me like it did my extrovert friends… it actually kind of intrigued me. (No offense to my past coworkers. So much love to you all). But one thing I discovered REALLY quickly is I start to go a wee bit nuts when I’m alone for too long. I think most people do. We are meant to have consistent, meaningful human interaction, and even though it’s possible to have 2-sided conversations with yourself and your alter ego…… trust me. It’s no replacement for the real thing.
I’ve been surprised to discover that as someone who used to need at least a few days to myself each week when working in an office to “recharge,” I now can only handle one, maybe two, nights a week where I don’t have plans before I begin to feel a sense of isolation and general stir crazy-ness that borders on unhealthy. So fill up your calendars, people! And find what kind of social life feels healthiest for you. Friends are a beautiful thing. (And if you don’t have any friends, or enough friends, great news! It is actually possible to make new ones! Meetup.com, exercise studios, and spiritual homes can be a great place to meet people).
3. Eat lunch when you’re hungry. Go to the bathroom when you have to. Shower every day. In other words: take care of your damn self.
Don’t forget that while you are online for work, your boss understands that you are a human being, who needs sustenance to be able to work well, and who has permission to relieve him or herself when nature calls. When I first started my job I may or may not have gone a day (or three) too long without a shower, and waited to go to the bathroom until I was about to burst. SMH.
Basic self care, man… It’s a good thing.
4. Having a remote job does not mean you get to chillax all day every day. Working remotely is a hustle.
Of course it depends on the company you work for, but at least working remotely for a startup is a hustle. This is something I knew going into my job – it’s one of the reasons I applied for my job actually. I love the hustle. But it’s something to keep in mind. If you’re looking for a relaxing job, you will not necessarily be better off remote.
Another challenge is getting friends and family to understand this concept. Be prepared for people to think that work for you looks like lounging around in your pajamas on your computer all day. And be prepared to tell them that even though working does usually involve comfortable clothes in some capacity, there is seldom much lounging involved.
Btw get dressed in normal clothes sometimes. It can even be comfy clothes, but don’t work in the same clothes that you sleep in… there should be some level of differentiation between work and sleep. It’s just good practice.
5. Make it a point to meet with the people on your team regularly for remote coffee or remote lunch.
Recreate the water cooler chatter, the happy hour conversations, and the random office interactions by asking to hop on quick 15 or 30-minute calls with people on your team. Getting to know your team on any kind of deep or personal level will not necessarily happen just through weekly team meetings, but it’s so important for feeling that sense of connectedness and camaraderie that makes work so enjoyable.
6. If you’re not sure how you’re performing, ASK.
Don’t stress yourself out by assuming you’re not meeting your boss’ expectations and getting on yourself to hustle harder (especially when you’re already hustling as hard as you can without burning out). And on the flip side, don’t assume you’re doing amazing if you haven’t been told so. Feedback is your friend. Ask for it when you need it.
Also, know who you are and how you work. If you tend to be the type to overwork yourself and convince yourself you’re not doing enough, RELAX. Take a chill pill and remind yourself you’re in this for long-term success, not short-term burnout. And vice versa, if you have a tendency to just kind of coast and do the minimum amount of work you’re told to do, put markers in place to give you the accountability you need to get moving and to really reach your full potential.
7. Spend your non-working hours somewhere other than on a computer.
If your method for relaxing after work is screen-related (Netflix, gaming, scrolling through FB) then — how should I say this —
Find a new way to relax.
Pick up a book, get into podcasts, join a gym or community that gets you out of the house, phone a friend. Your eyes can only handle so much computer time before going cross-eyed. (I realize this is ironic, as someone who is blogging for fun as we speak, but still, find hobbies that are primarily non-computer-related).
Btw for the times you are on the computer and have to be, get yourself a pair of blue light blocking glasses. Zenni Optical and Swanwick have some great ones. Another thing I’ve noticed helps a lot is keeping my computer at or slightly above eye level, that way you’re not craning your neck and eyes downward all day.
8. Make time to play & exercise. Preferably at the same time.
If you follow me on IG you know that, after a brief 11-year hiatus, I started doing gymnastics again. If there’s some physical activity you used to love doing as a kid (dancing, running, some other sport), look for groups (of adults) in the area that are doing that thing and join them! It’s so easy to get into a “no-nonsense, all business” mindset when you’re online for work; not to mention all the other aspects of life that call for seriousness. You deserve to have fun, too. Carving out a little time each week or even each month where you don’t have to worry about the day-to-day responsibilities and can channel your inner “kid” is so liberating.
9. Check in with yourself (and adjust) often.
I’d say this is a good life practice in general, but this is especially important if you’re working remotely. It’s crazy how easy it is to get stuck in unhealthy habits if you’re not consciously trying to change them. As Liz Gilbert says, if you’re not actively creating, chances are you’re actively destroying. For me, I was surprised at how easy it was to get sucked into the vortex of the interwebs. If I don’t set clear boundaries for myself around when I’m on my computer, both for fun and for work, I can easily spend 10 out of 12 waking hours online in some capacity.
Wake up: check my phone. 9am hits: sign into slack & other work apps. 5pm hits: turn on Netflix.
Do not let this be your life, because it gets real old real quick. Boundaries are a good thing here.
Beyond that, ask yourself regularly how you’re doing. Do you like your life? Are you happy? Do you like where you’re headed? Do you like who you’re becoming? If the answer is no to any of these questions, ask yourself why, and try to tinker with how you’re living your life to improve things. You deserve to live a life you love. But it won’t happen without you taking the time to check in with yourself and adjust accordingly.
10. CELEBRATE. And take advantage of the perks of remote life.
Working remotely is freaking awesome. And it’s a significant accomplishment! As much as remote work is becoming more and more popular these days, remote jobs are still not super easy to come by, and it’s a big deal that you’ve landed one and/or have crafted your business to be able to do it! Honor that accomplishment.
And also don’t waste that accomplishment. Take advantage of the flexibility. Take the time to travel when you can, even if it’s just staying over at a family member’s place a few towns over. Work in the cafe down the street, instead of staying cooped up in your home. Work outside if the weather’s nice! Do the things that you said you’d do “if only you could work remotely” before you actually got your remote job. You deserve it, and you won’t regret it.
If you work remotely: did any of this resonate with you? And if you work in an office: did this make you want to work remotely? Or make you never want to work remotely? 🙂 Let me know what you thought!
Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash