So you’re searching for a remote position, or you’ve just been hired to work from home, and you’re wondering: Is this the right choice? What’s the secret to thriving in a remote work environment?
I’d like to share a little bit of my own experience with remote work.
Soon after graduating from Tennessee Tech University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, I was offered the opportunity to work remotely at this incredible company called Very. Although I had no idea what the remote working lifestyle would entail, I hopped right in, and have had a lot of fun and learned a lot of lessons along the way.
I adapted quickly to remote work partly because it matches my lifestyle. I like being able to stay home with my pets (taking them for walks provides a great exercise break), wear pretty much whatever I want to work, and cut out a life-sucking commute (which saves gas and time, keeps me from putting extra miles on my car, and is better for the environment).
I also adapted quickly because the team at Very is so supportive, which I know isn’t always true for remote workers in other companies. Being a remote-first company, Very really understands what remote workers need to feel engaged and satisfied at work.
That being said, there’s a bit of a learning curve, and a lot of your success depends on you. Here are a few of the things I learned right off the bat:
1. Stay in Touch with Your Team
If you’re going to work remotely, you need to stay in touch with your team, which means you need to get used to online video and text communication.
When working primarily online, you will mainly be chatting either through email or an app like Slack or Google Hangouts. While these channels offer new fun ways to communicate — like emojis and GIFs — you’ll still want to follow traditional business etiquette and be respectful of others. In general, if you’re not sure whether a certain message is appropriate, don’t send it.
Another thing to note here: notifications from apps like Slack or Hangouts can be distracting when you’re trying to dig into some heavy work. If you completely turn off notifications, however, you could miss important messages. Check in with your manager, teammates, and even clients about the expectations for communication in these channels to minimize conflicts.
Video communication might seem intimidating if you’re not used to it, but it’s definitely not as bad as you might think. Meeting with coworkers is one of my favorite parts of the day because it makes me feel like I had some real human interaction and that I’m not on an island.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Speaking of human interaction — it’s very easy in a remote working situation to feel isolated or that you have to remain completely siloed, but in any healthy remote company, that is simply not the case.
It’s true that some level of autonomy is important for remote work. You need to be capable of motivating yourself to complete your tasks and finding answers to questions that are Google-able.
But if you feel like you need help from a colleague, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re part of a team and have a positive company culture (one thing to look for when seeking a remote job), more than likely people will be happy to help you. It’s better to ask than stay stuck on a problem when a team member could’ve quickly helped you tackle the challenge.
Think about it this way: if you were operating in a co-working space or a regular office, you wouldn’t think twice about asking a quick question — so don’t let fear stop you from reaching out.
3. Take Care of Yourself
When working from home, you can get caught up in work and forget to take care of your most important asset — yourself. It’s surprisingly easy to forget to stand up every once in awhile, or even eat lunch.
When I first started my remote position, I inadvertently got into the habit of not eating lunch and working eight hours straight, with little to no breaks in between. It wasn’t so much that I was a workaholic as much as I got very involved in what I was doing and forgot to set boundaries.
For some people, the problem might be working too late — especially if you’re not an hourly employee and not mandated by your company to stop working at 5 p.m. on the dot. “I’m just going to finish one more thing,” you think. Suddenly, it’s 7 p.m. and you’re going to be late for dinner.
For me, it helps to set reminders or timers when working from home so it is easier to remember these basic, but important boundaries.
Along those lines, if you’re working from home and not a co-working space or coffee shop, consider making it a goal to actually leave your house a few times a week.
Normally when people leave work, they are looking forward to coming home, but we remote workers never left — so it can be easy to get a case of cabin fever, no matter the season.
Whether it’s going to the gym, for a walk or run, or meeting a friend for lunch in town, find something that provides a change of scenery on a regular basis.
One Last Thing
In spite of all the perks and tips, remote working still isn’t for everyone, and if it is not for you, that is okay. If you’re interested, though, I’d definitely suggest giving it a try and following the tips above.
Looking for remote work at an innovative company? Very is hiring! Check out our open positions here.