You did it! You landed a remote job! Kissing your commute goodbye is only the start.
But, if you don’t plan your transition from in-office employee to remote employee carefully, you may find yourself fighting traffic again.
Fortunately, knowledge is power. The more you can understand about how this remote position will differ from the traditional, on-site jobs you’ve worked, the better equipped you’ll be to take action and make the transition to a remote job as seamless as possible.
Start with a Reality Check
Remote work has perks, but don’t let those perks lead you to think that you won’t be held accountable or be expected to perform. Sure, meeting friends for an afternoon lunch, and working outside on a sunny day are great.
But, now is also a good time to give yourself a reality check: you still need to get stuff done. And done at a high-level. Remote work does not equate to a permanent vacation.
Brie Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Coach at FlexJobs warns that working remotely “is not going to be the paradise you might imagine it to be. A lot of people idealize working from home because it seems like a perfect solution to all their workplace problems.”
It’s tempting to ponder and celebrate the upsides of remote work (and, by all means, you should!). “However,” Reynolds continues, “most first-time remote workers go through a phase where reality sets in and they realize, in some ways, it’s harder to work remotely.”
Make a Realistic Plan to Work Remotely
like most things, remote work has its difficulties but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Plenty of people (including everyone at FlexJobs) do it successfully every day. For you to find success as a newly minted remote employee, you need to create a realistic plan for your new routine.
Set Up Your Home Office
While remote work often means the ability to work from anywhere, many people find that working from anywhere usually means their home office. And while that can mean an informal arrangement of sitting on the couch, consider investing in yourself and setting up a home office you’ll love.
Whether that’s a room with a door or a corner of the dining room table, a dedicated and thoughtfully designed workspace not only helps you stay organized and productive, it helps you create an essential boundary between work life and home life.
Find Your Groove
Remote work comes with a hefty dose of flexibility. That can be empowering, but it can also be sort of paralyzing—particularly if you’ve grown accustomed to the structure and routine of a traditional job. As Reynolds points out, “You are the ultimate manager of yourself. You’re responsible for getting work done without the watchful eye of your manager just down the hall. It takes a lot more effort than you might think to make yourself focus, stay on track, and get things done.”
Rather than looking at your time as a limitless resource, create a routine for your remote workday right away. Doing so will help you stay on track with the stuff you actually need to get done. For example, just like you had a start and end time in the office, consider following a similar routine when working remotely. If you only have so many hours to accomplish your tasks, you might find yourself better able to stay focused on your goals.
Of course, you have the wiggle room to change your routine when needed—that’s one of the main perks of remote work. But, giving yourself even a loose structure for an average workday will help you avoid procrastinating and getting sidetracked.
Similarly, you have the flexibility to try out some different time management techniques to make your working time as effective as possible.
Maybe you feel the most motivated in the morning, so you want to start your work early and reserve that time for your more focused tasks. Perhaps you’re a night owl who gets your best work done at midnight. Or, maybe you’ve been meaning to try the Pomodoro Technique and are going to use those short breaks to walk your dog or unload the dishwasher.
Remember, what worked well for you in an office might change now that you’re working remotely. When transitioning to a remote job, don’t be afraid to try out some different things to figure out what makes you feel your most productive.
Of course, you need to set boundaries with family and friends when you work remotely. But, you also need to set boundaries with yourself. If you don’t, you may find yourself working a lot more than you did when you were in the office. And that could lead to burnout and exhaustion.
In the beginning, you might feel the need to sit at your computer constantly, replying to every message and email the second they come in. You may feel like you have to produce more and work longer hours because your boss and coworkers can’t see you.
Part of your remote work routine should include setting expectations with your team. For example, if you use Slack to communicate with coworkers, set times when you’re available and times when you’re totally offline, so people know not to expect a response to you. Then stick to it! Turn off notifications, log off, and tune out when you aren’t working.
Prepare to Communicate Remotely
Communication is crucial in any workplace, but particularly when you’re working remotely. When you and your team aren’t working side-by-side, it’s that much tougher to ensure that everybody’s in the loop on important updates and changes.
Especially when transitioning to a remote job, it’s important to remember that proactive communication is essential. No matter how you communicate, make sure you are keeping everybody in the loop and up to date on your progress. Shared documents, project management tools, even email are all great ways to let everyone know what you’re working on—and accomplishing—every day.
Communicate with (the Right) Style
While proactive communication should be your new golden rule, it’s also wise to familiarize yourself with any communication best practices that might be unique to your team.
For example, do they prefer to use instant messages for only urgent questions and small talk? Do they have any email tips they’d like everybody to use? Getting up to speed on all of that will make the transition smoother for both you and your team members.
Prepare for Your Close-Up
There’s one potential pitfall related to remote work that people often fail to think of: it’s harder to make a real connection with your coworkers.
There are no spontaneous chats around the breakroom coffee pot. Forging a relationship with your colleagues that isn’t “strictly business” is going to require some conscious effort.
Reynolds advises new remote workers to “set up reminders to say hello to their coworkers and strike up conversations. Instead of passing them in the hall and chatting, you’ll have to make an effort to chat them up virtually.”
One of the best ways to do this is to have one-on-one phone calls or video chats with each of the team members you’ll be working closely with. This not only gives you a chance to hear more about what they do, but it also means you’ll have some “face” time when you can connect and participate in some friendly small talk. That effort to establish an initial bond will serve you well as you continue to work together.
Maintain a Social Life
Sure, you’ve escaped a too-cold office, that guy who chews his apple loudly, and the horrid commute. But, as Reynold points out, working remotely can also mean “fewer conversations and even less face time. You can feel isolated and disconnected when you first start to work from home.”
As you create your work-from-home routine, don’t neglect your social life, either. Something many new remote employees don’t realize is how much social interaction they get at an in-office job, or how much they will miss it once it’s gone.
Make time to meet up with old friends and catch up over lunch. Join a book club or try out an art class you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the time. Volunteer with a favorite charity or at your child’s school. Whatever it is, try to find something that helps you connect and interact with others to fill the social void that might develop when you work remotely.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
Here’s the thing: transitioning to a remote job comes with a lot of perks, but that doesn’t mean the change is always easy. As with anything new, be prepared to do some trial and error to figure out what works best from you.
From where you work (are you more productive in your home office or a coffee shop?) to how you prefer to manage your own time, you now have the flexibility to tailor your approach—and you might not have all of the answers when you’re just getting started.
Give yourself the room to experiment a little. Doing so will ensure that you land on what meshes with you the best as a remote worker.
Make Remote Work Work
Transitioning to a remote job can be satisfying, confusing, fulfilling, and busy all at once. Just like there’s no right or wrong work style, there is no right or wrong way to work from home. You just have to find (and stick to) the routine that works best for you. A combination of time and experimenting will help you figure out how to make remote work work for you.
As you’re making the transition, read up on how to create the perfect work-at-home routine for you, how to maintain your boundaries as a remote employee, and more. And, if you’re still looking for that remote job, consider joining FlexJobs. With job postings in over 50 career fields, there’s bound to be the perfect remote or flexible job for you.
Kat Boogaard contributed to this article
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
A version of this article was originally published on July 31, 2018.
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Kat Boogaard, FlexJobs Contributing Writer
Kat Boogaard is a writer specializing in career and self-development advice. In addition to being a contributing writer at FlexJobs, she’s also a staff writer for The Muse, a columnist for Inc., and a career writer for The Everygirl. Her…Read More >
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