Three Challenges of Working Remotely and How to Combat Them
Recently I embarked on a role change whilst also deciding to move companies. There were a myriad of reasons why I opted for this move but one of the most important was that as a front-end engineer I needed to be challenged.
Not long ago, I started an amazing opportunity with We Are Hunted, a software company, working on fixing a variety of bugs on their main site. I am also working on a top secret project, which is so top secret, and I am so excited about it that I will say no more before I get myself into trouble!
In this transition to my new role, I have also made a big lifestyle change that has been all too familiar to many over the crazy pandemic years…I am now working from home.
Living and working in Sydney for a Brisbane-based company has brought about an array of generic first timer work-from-home issues as well as some considerations that I know fellow engineers will understand.
I quickly acknowledged some pretty significant lifestyle challenges with working remotely. So, here are some hacks I have implemented to make myself more productive, healthier and to not drive myself completely crazy!
How to stop blurring time? ** One of the biggest perils of working from home is that the lines between home and work are instantly and shockingly entangled.** You might set out with the ideals of early rising discipline, a perfectly planned schedule, and a productive working space, but just one slip up can make that all turn to sh*t!
You can work all night and sleep in late, as long as you are meeting deadlines, and attending meetings who will know? Well, you will. One of the biggest challenges with working remotely and particularly from home, is forgetting to live! Remember that 9-5 job with weekends off, it might have been hell but at least you had two distinctive spaces and two classifiable times. You must remember to live, because guess what, that’s probably one of the reasons you opted for this change of lifestyle in the first place.
To rectify this issue, I began setting calendar reminders. Not 8:30 am meeting reminders or to do list alerts but rather calendar mementos to LIVE! I have been known to set reminders to eat, to exercise, to get up from my desk and move, to chill out, to call my friends, and even to remember to pour a generous glass of wine. This might seem a little juvenile to some and there might be a huge lack of spontaneity with your day being played out with the constant sound of alarms, but when you do your first 20-hour day you’ll be setting yourself an alarm to thank me for this tip.
Taking breaks and finding inspiration. Finding inspiration can be difficult at the best of times, but now you are working remotely with no one to bounce ideas off. Sometimes this can be one of the toughest elements of working alone, there’s no one to share problems with or just generally chat to. We’ve all had that situation when simply speaking a thought out loud to someone allows you to unclog all those creative juices and immediately see a way forward.
Well, I’ve managed to solve this problem in two ways. The first is to get to know other people who are working from home. Adding them to your Skype or Zoom list and having just a couple of two-minute calls throughout the day could be that spark of inspiration you were searching for, or it could simply just make your day feel like it had an ounce of normalcy.
The second solution is using an application called Time Out (for Mac OS X) or Workrave (Linux). These apps allow you to take microbreaks and ensure that you step away from your desk. The simple implementation of 15 second breaks and larger 10-minute breaks every few hours makes all the difference. Oh, and talking of desks you should definitely look into getting a standing desk. Standing desks are an absolute game changer, not only are they good for your physical health (reducing risk of heart disease and back pain) but they also have proven to help your mood and energy levels.
Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing. If you’re going to work from home, then you will need to schedule time for exercise. Whether it’s a gym membership, a running partner, or just daily scheduled walks you need to get the hell out of your “office”. We all know exercise is perfect for keeping us physically fit and mentally stable. Always ensure you keep healthy food in your cupboards, or healthy snacks like fruit on your desk so you are only tempted by good foods. Whatever you do, just don’t be that person who nobody saw for six months and now weighs a gazillion kilos and looks like someone from The Walking Dead.
Depending on the sort of job you have, you can also incorporate exercise into your work as well. Yes, you’ll have your scheduled exercise breaks but if you are making a phone call or updating a supervisor why not take a walk at the same time? Making these simple changes can improve our mental and physical health tenfold.
Another good ethos to live by when working remotely is to act like you are going to work! Say you used to walk to work? Well, instead why not take a morning walk around the block before settling in for work in your remote location. That lunch break you used to take. There’s nothing to say you can’t still take it, whether you hop in the car or walk to a café or supermarket just creating this routine and mindset will help you no end.
The challenges facing those choosing to work remotely will be different depending on your personality and the job you are doing. But trying to implement healthy work and life habits is essential in creating a productive and happy remote worker.