When people begin working remotely for the first time, the instinct is to work from where you are the most comfortable. The couch, your bed, a favorite chair... these become the default working locations. At first, it's a huge benefit of working remotely. If you start work at 9, you literally do not have to leave your bed. You could wake up at 8:58 and be good to go.
Soon, you'll notice problems arise from your once favored relaxation location. The most obvious effects are physical. The most comfortable working positions, ironically, tend to be the worst for your health. The more severe problems, I would argue, are mental.
There is one thing the office did very well, and that is create a physical separation between your work and personal life.
Without a clear divide between your work and your personal life, you lose the chance to experience either fully. A bleed between the two blurs everything. When you are spending time with your friends and family, you'll be distracted by work messages. Your free time will be ruined by background stress and anxiety. When you are at work, you'll feel exhausted, burnout and unhappy.
When you are working, you should be working. When you're not, you shouldn't be. You need to separate your work form your life.
The easiest thing you can do is set an official start and end to your work day. Even if this has to be 12 hours, set it ahead of time, and try not to break it. I discuss setting up daily structures more in this section, but it really is as simple as setting the times. In fact, set the availability in your calendar!
- Turn off all notifications (automatically mute them if possible)
- Stop checking email or other work channels
- If you have some sort of virtual work session that lets you mark you are offline, do so.
This one is going to take a bit of testing and reflection. You need to decide on a place of work. It's entirely up to you. It can be in your home, or out of your home. It can be quiet or loud. Bright or dark. Whatever makes you happy while you work, do it.
Are you introverted or extroverted?
If you are extroverted, you are unlikely to be happy working from a solitary office at home all day. If you are introverted, chances are you won't have a lot of luck focusing in a loud and crowded cafe.
What do you need to work?
This could be something physical, like external monitors, or an attribute, like silence. Outline what you need to use as a qualifier.
What are your resources?
If you live in a house with extra rooms, it might be more appealing than turning the kitchen or a closet into an office. If your company will pay for a co-working space, you might consider that more heavily than a cafe.
Do you have posture requirements?
Some people get back pain without a standing desk. Others just prefer certain cushions. You're going to be spending a lot of time in this place, so pay attention to your positioning.
Will the space be sustainable?
Choosing a great location with a long commute defeats half the purpose of remote work. Similarly, paying $30+ a day for coffee and food at a cafe may not be very cost-effective.
It doesn't have to be one single space. Often times I like to take my meetings from home the first half of the day, then work on projects from a cafe the second half.
Many, if not most remote workers will actually choose to work from home. There are a ton of benefits to choosing this option:
- No commute
- Mostly free
- Can create your own environment
- Access to food and drinks you want
- Spend more time with family
- No commute
Choosing to work from home does come with downsides. It increases your risk that your work will bleed into your personal life. It's because the physical barrier has been removed for you. It's therefore important to build an artificial one.
The easiest thing you can do is chose a space dedicated to working. It doesn't have to be a room. I usually default for the dining room (also because I don't usually eat meals there). Remember that you don't just have to have one either. If you have a porch or terrace, that can be a great location to add to the mix.
If you must work in your room, at least avoid working too much from the bed. This is where the most severe problems can develop. Many people who work from their beds develop sleep issues, as the mind immediately thinks it is time for work.
Here are some things to try besides just the location:
- Have a ritual of starting work (ex. reading an article while drinking your coffee)
- Use noise cancelling headphones
- Get dressed (don't stay in pajamas or loungewear).