Hacks for how to unplug, beat loneliness and distraction, and supercharge your collaboration and communication skills.
Surviving your first remote job can be tough. Clearly there are tons of exciting benefits of remote work — namely, the flexibility and freedom. Considering the rising costs of child care and longer commute times in major cities, remote work seems like the perfect alternative. And in many ways, it is. New numbers suggest that remote workers are more productive, happier and less stressed in their jobs. For these reasons, American workers are eager to go remote: 1/3 would change jobs if it meant a more flexible, remote schedule.
But the dark side of remote work can be hard to tackle at first and finding your remote work mojo may take you a while. While 72% of workers think that working remotely is easier than in the office, you should prepare for some of the challenges. To help you hack your first remote job, we’re sharing some of the struggles of remote work and how you can set yourself up for virtual success.
1. Unplugging After Work
According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, unplugging after work is the #1 concern for 22% of remote workers. This is hardly surprising, since studies about remote work suggest that working from home often expands working hours by 27%. That’s a huge leap up from regular office hours and contributes to the general trend of burnout among remote workers.
Burnout is becoming common in the home office because of the unique blending of personal and professional time. When you’re a remote worker, it’s easy to let yourself catch up on work at night, or lose track of how much you’ve actually done during the day.
Hacks to Unplug After Work:
- Set a hard stop to your workday. This could be a time (6:00 p.m.) or an activity (walk the dog before dinner), but keeping this hard stop is key to staying sane. Social scientists have determined that productivity drops severely after 50 hours a week of work. So, set your work schedule using a calendar tool — such as Google Calendar or Float — and figure out your max hours and how you want to distribute them. Take advantage of flexibility, but don’t go overboard with hours.
- Turn off your wifi. We’re totally serious. Multitasking reduces productivity by 40%, so if you want to get things done, decide on one task and see if you can focus on it by limiting distractions. This will make you more productive and more willing to call it a day.
- Use an app to take breaks. Taking breaks is essential to being productive and managing your workflow. New research says that the most productive people work for 52 minutes and take a break for 17 minutes. Find the balance that works for you, but don’t be afraid to break. Apps like Stretchly or Unhook can remind you to take a break and track break time.
- Create an unplugging ritual. An unplugging ritual sounds a bit gimmicky, but it makes sure you’re respecting boundaries between your personal and professional life. The idea is to naturally transition from work to play — and that means no more work emails or calls. Your ritual could be as simple as creating tomorrow’s to-do list, or shutting down your computer. It could also involve some kind of activity, such as a gym class, that forces you to get out of the house and log off for the day. Stick to this ritual and you’ll avoid getting bogged down by work until late hours.
Remote work loneliness is real. Not only do 19% of remote workers cite loneliness as their primary struggle, but 30% also say that a lack of community impacts their remote happiness the most. This is especially true of remote newbies — workers who have been remote for less than a year — as they’re most likely to experience loneliness (33%).
Luckily, studies show that feelings of isolation among remote workers decline over time, likely due to getting experience, creating the ideal remote work set-up and building solid community.
Hacks to Beat Loneliness:
- Socialize in your virtual office. You heard that right. Find social outlets in your virtual office. If your company uses Slack, chime in on a channel or send a meme to a coworker. Create virtual connections by leveraging the tools in front of you.
- Try out coworking. Stats about the positive effects of coworking will blow your mind. According to the latest, 91% of users have better interactions with others after coworking. Remote workers also feel healthier and more confident. It’s a good option to get out of the house and connect with others face-to-face.
- Invest in a hotspot for anywhere work. If you really want to expand your home office, buy a high-quality hotspot. You can take this hotspot with you to the park, a friend’s house or even your favorite lunch spot to get a change of scene while staying productive.
- Casually video chat with coworkers. Apparently, casual work conversations make us feel more connected and engaged with our work. Studies on the traditional office environment show that people are less productive without casual conversations during the day. Embrace informal conversations by video calling a coworker at lunchtime or arranging for a Friday virtual coffee break.
3. Collaborating and/or Communication
Another big struggle for remote workers is consistent and meaningful communication. 17% of remote workers named communication as a top issue. This is especially true when you’re remotely working as a staff augmentation employee — i.e. your coworkers are all having face-to-face time in a physical office, except for you.
Boosting communication is good for several reasons. Studies show that improving collaboration can raise productivity levels by 20–25%. It can also create better teams, with responsive and coordinated action. In the end, you’ll feel more satisfied as a remote worker if your communication lines are strong.
Hacks to Boost Communication:
- Get in virtual facetime. Sometimes communication can be flaky or slow because of a lack of personal connection. Try to get facetime with a coworker you don’t know well, or find ways to connect weekly with your team members. A Harvard Business study showed that one face-to-face interaction is better than a back-and-forth of 34 emails. Remote workers seem to agree with this: 93% think that video conferencing is the most effective for improving connectedness, so get more out of your team by using Hangout or Zoom.
- Visualize who’s around. It’s important to know who’s logged in to work, and who lives across the world. Find ways to know who’s available, so you can coordinate meetings and discuss issues conveniently. Especially if you have teammates in other timezones, you should use tools like Float or Zapier to see who’s working on what, and know what to expect in terms of response times.
- Give Friday updates. Be proactive in communicating what you’re working on during a given week. One good way is to send a Friday update about what you completed, so that your team members know the status of work and your boss sees your effort. This helps others visualize your results and feel connected to the project’s progress.
- Embrace emojis and GIFs. Emojis aren’t just cute ways to add humor to your day. According to studies, emojis at work actually makes the recipient like the sender more, without lowering credibility. Likewise, emojis also create a more positive virtual workplace. GIFs for the win!
4. Distractions at Home
Being a successful remote worker also means dealing with distractions. Several studies have shown how distractions can ruin our workdays. 10% of remote workers list distractions as their top problem, while 18% name it as a big issue in another study.
Hacks to Deal With Distraction:
- Make a productivity playlist. 79% of workers are more productive when listening to music. Decide what music makes you feel focused and create a playlist to boost your workday. You can even use noise-cancelling headphones to make the effect complete.
- Theme and plan your workdays. Top CEOs use this trick to help organize the amount of tasks at hand. If possible, theme your workdays: for example, Mondays for finishing code, Tuesday for giving feedback, etc. This can help you stay on top of your tasks. If this isn’t applicable, simply plan your workdays at the start of the week so that you have a clear roadmap of what to do.
- Utilize “do not disturb.” Don’t be afraid to be unavailable. Sometimes the best way to get rid of distraction is to log out of the virtual office, turn off your wifi and sink your teeth into the work.
There’s plenty to look forward to when it comes to remote work. The flexibility, freedom and independence can completely change the way you approach your work and lifestyle. We hope that by thinking through these major challenges above, you’ll be well on your way to hacking your first remote job and creating a work reality that’s rewarding every day of the week.
Happy remote job hacking!