Advice for Remote Work

I no longer believe in a "work/life balance"… there's just life. Here's some (late) advice that has helped me work from home.

Create a separate space for work.

Our bodies and minds are created to associate desired activities with specific environments. Spaceship You by CGP Grey does a great job of explaining this strategy. Setting aside a space that's 100% dedicated to work can jumpstart your focus and help you leave work behind at the end of the day. A simple starting point: always dress for work. Just putting on my "work shoes" really helps me. I also take off my work shoes like Mr. Rogers at 5 p.m.

I strongly recommend an "end of work" tear down ritual to teach your brain, "this is the end, I don't need to carry it around all evening." I think my ritual was inspired by Deep Work by Cal Newport.

Be present with your work and absent from workplace distractions.

At work, you see people you want to catch up with after the weekend, friends whose kids go to school with yours, someone who just got a new dog… opportunities for fellowship and communication are constant and expected. Sadly, organic interactions are much harder in remote work. Intentionally build relationships and schedule time to spend with people. It feels weird at first, but the practice is critical. Many people I work with online have never had a conversation with me other than giving me work or providing feedback on how my work isn't good enough… How will that shape my subconscious opinion of them?

Because of that aspect, make sure to put up your information periscope. Be aggressively proactive in obtaining and sharing information about what is going on in your part of the business.

Don't succumb to constantly monitoring feeds or allow others to put you in that spot. Find systems and practices to track and make work visible without always "greendotting"1.

Recognize that when working from home, there are fewer distractions... making it easier to overwork due to guilt. Remember how much valuable time you spent at the office in conversation, helping someone move their desk, or assisting with a company event. You have the same expectations and time at home... but your guilty brain won't accept that at first.

Consider tracking your time to be a good steward of how you are spending your time... and to help your guilty brain recognize that you are indeed working hard enough.

Enjoy the benefits of remote work.

Move around your house, work outside the house. I've built my entire mobile office to fit inside a bag so I can bike to a coffeeshop. Use "thinking with your body" (Take a walk, ride a bike, work on some household chores, from The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul) to break focus funks.

Invest in community.

Honor your home relationships as critical to your work success and love on your home "coworkers" during the day. I find myself feeling guilty about helping my wife move furniture during the work day ("babe, I'm working right now!") but while I was in the office someone would ask me to help them move a desk and I'd drop whatever I was doing to go help. Hypocritical! Don't be like me.

Set up regular time to work with friends who aren't coworkers. I meet an array of people once a week at the same coffeeshop and time. Sometimes we visit, sometimes we get straight to work and calls and don't really do more than nod. Even as an introvert it's hugely important for morale and joy to be in community.

Take care of yourself.

Remember that at home your company isn't spending any money keeping you warm and safe as you work. If you are going to be in it for the long haul, ensure that your home working space is as ergonomic and comfortable as possible… and see if your company will help pay for it. You can creatively hack a standing desk. I like fancy keyboards, but RSI is often caused by bad desk/monitor height. Having a monitor with wide range of vertical adjustment is wise, if you can mount it on a Nextron arm or similar that's even better. I also really like the Roost stand for lifting a laptop to the right height. (There are amazon knock-offs of all these items if you are on a budget.)

Working from home has been a big blessing for me and my family. I recognize it's not for everyone, and I heartily agree with Cal Newport that it's a communal productivity problem… the organization itself needs to be set up for success, you can't out-smart out-work a badly organized company. I definitely recommend it if you can make the adjustment and enjoy the benefits.

Image: Dall-E: remote worker at home. The worker has eight arms

  1. Since the advent of workplace chat, there is huge pressure to always be available to be contacted (a glowing, friendly green dot). I have some advice for setting up Slack for focus… but I also recommend teaching your organization to allow turning off chat for focus. 

  • 2023-04-30 11:57:58 -0500
    add headers

  • 2023-04-30 11:52:34 -0500
    make adjustments after Chat-GPT

    I had it proofread and suggest changes.

  • 2023-04-30 11:37:39 -0500
    add image

  • 2023-04-30 11:13:13 -0500
    fix tag

  • 2023-04-30 11:01:57 -0500
    advice for remote work