What is remote working really like and how to navigate it?
Chances are in the past one dreadful year you have either worked remotely by yourself successfully with your Dalgona coffees and afternoon mid-meeting naps. OR you might be on the opposite end and might have suffered from that left-out feeling, messy work schedule affecting your productivity or a feeling akin to a prisoner with your jail warden dressed as a laptop and your diet constricted to those never-ending zoom calls.
I have been on a similar rollercoaster for the past year and for me, some days are good while other days attribute to my hair fall (Bald is the new post-pandemic sexy? — Guess not). After a few months of remote work, the honeymoon phase of this virtual relationship ends and you start noticing the challenges of remote work. These are my thoughts about the realities of remote working and how I make it work for me.
1. Productivity might take a hit — a home run or three strikes. Depends on you.
As someone who is new to the virtual reality of work, in the beginning, you might feel like you have got tons of tasks and the list is never-ending. Where does your day go? The day becomes a cosmic entity leaping into black holes. When I started my remote work I used to exhaust myself. Some days I was working beyond 8 hours and others days I was barely working an hour (due to exhaustion obviously — duh!)
My professional tip — Spend the first hour of the day creating a list of to-do’s for the day and assigning deadlines to each task with a priority tag. Without a deadline and setting expectations for your tasks, the work might overpower you and make you miserable all the time. One of the principles that I learnt in Default is ‘the Pareto principle which states that 80% of results will come from just 20% of the action. So in a day try focusing on the 20% of work that yields 80%. Set their priorities right.
2. The freedom to be YOU
The infinite possibilities. Yes — you can work in your pyjamas. Yes — you can work from your balcony. Yes — you are a master of your time (Unless your company is a strict orthodox teacher with an attendance register). Yes — You can even work from a train to Manali. As long as you have got internet connectivity, it’s good. But as they say, every freedom has its price — and the price here can be that you might get bored with the freedom. But fret not — This boredom is easily reversible with plenty of options.
Option A — Coworking spaces and coworking cafes are great to network and maintain a routine in your life. Plus good coffee.
Option B — Moving in with your parents or partner to spend some quality time and work together. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To bond with people who care about you.
Option C — (And my favourite) — Workstations. Mountains and beaches are calling you to take calls from there. Tons of affordable accommodations have opened their doors to work nomads. Personally, I have taken 2 workstations in the past one year and it has been an incredible experience each time.
Option D — Try having a different wardrobe from work and for sleeping. Also a separate working space. Otherwise, work and life might become one and then we turn into workaholic zombies. Life in pyjamas sounds great but is a one-way ticket to mental health issues. Having no separation between work and personal life can trigger a lot of stress and you should talk about the same with your team or manager. Work is important but so is your mental health.
3. It can be a great work-personal life balancer but can be lonely too.
An introvert’s dream and an extrovert’s nightmare. But this is a no brainer. Remote working can brew a state of mind where anyone can start thinking that this is a one-person battle. You are only accountable to your deadlines and your colleagues turn into notifications. While we agree that whether it is going for a medical check-up in the middle of the day, online fitness classes before lunch or being home for the plumber to fix your Casa, these tasks are all easier to balance with remote working. But sometimes you miss office gossip or post-work drinks (And drinking a bottle of wine on Saturday while emailing your senior doesn’t count as mingling).
My professional advice — Only you can decide how much involvement you need with your work and colleagues. Many remote companies these days have arranged for multiple routes through which employee engagement is prioritised. One way that I engaged with my colleagues were informal team meetings, virtual food parties, learning Saturdays and some sessions where we just whined and complained about life. So be sure that you take advantage of these kinds of tools if they are available. Otherwise, just give a random call to your colleague and talk about life. Step out of that comfort zone and remember we are all in the same boat)
4. You get to work with a more diverse team and learn new things.
Your teammate could be sitting on an island in the middle of an island and you could be chatting with her from Amazonian jungles (Okay! A little far fetched but you get the point). Remote work breaks the barrier of routine work patterns and you can learn about work practices and new trends happening in other parts of the world. The quality of discussion definitely amps up and if you are a fresher in your career, then you gain valuable insights than you would have in an office setup. Some people see this as a barrier but in my experience, being open-minded to new ideas and welcoming opinions goes a long way.
5. Working remotely is a skill and should be treated as such.
To be a bad@ss remote employee, you don’t just need stable wifi but also exemplary communication skills, self-discipline, ownership skills, ability to work independently, and a work ethic. You have got computer issues — you are your own IT guy, need to send an urgent email but wifi is weak — its hunger games and you need to be resourceful. This kind of preparedness is a must and being proactive isn’t a choice. However, it is a skill made with habit and hence anyone can gain it — so give yourself some time initially and once you are confident — make sure to add it to your resume in a bold font.
A new work trend which is here to stay
The pandemic did Fastrack the remote working culture worldwide, it is not the only reason to work from home. There are tons of other benefits of being a nomad worker and with technology advances each day, it is a new way forward if you want to be a part of a global community.
If you think you would make an exceptional remote worker or want to give it a try — don’t be afraid to reach out to Default where remote working is not a norm but a style statement.