Updated: Apr 17
If you are used to working in-house and you suddenly have to work remotely, you might fall into the trap of thinking that remote work is just your regular in-house job done in a different location. Let me help you understand this attitude and create a new one that is more in line with the real remote work scenario. I am going to tell you
1. why exactly the just-a-different-location attitude damages your productivity so much and
2. what you can do to adapt to the remote work scenario faster in order to still be highly competitive.
Remote Work VS In-House Dynamics
Before diving into the analysis of your current belief about location independent work, let's first understand which new dynamics are involved when you work remotely. There are several different mechanisms that replace the so known and very comfortable in-house ones.
1. New Communication Dynamics
One of the most important aspects that differentiates in-house from remote work is the communication dynamics. Working at the office means that you can talk to your colleagues as soon as they finish writing an email or hang up the phone. When you work remotely for the first time, you might feel helpless because you don't have that physical contact and reassuring presence that put your mind at peace. You are going to send several emails and probably get compulsive checking the mailbox while you wait. You are going to miss lunch breaks and coffee time to socialize with your colleagues and share some insights. You might feel like left out of the loop and loneliness can kick in.
Don't despair! There is a simple way out, at least logistically speaking. You can stay in touch with your team via several free programs like Zoom and Slack. If you are in need of a first aid solution, you can also use Telegram to set your channels and groups. You can share files via Google Drive and Dropbox and keep the project updated.
You can feel relieved to know that there are so many tools out there that can help you adjust to work remotely. I am happy if you feel reassured and optimistic. Now, you have to learn how to use the tools properly to still get work done effectively, with minimum waste of energy and maximum performance. That's at the core of the adapting phase I will talk about in the last section.
2. Different Routine
Routines create structure and structure leads to predictability and a sense of control that lead, in turn, to a feeling of comfort. We crave for routines and we all have our little reassuring ones, from the morning herbal tea to the night reading. Working in-house provides a well known routine and, consequently, a robust structure from which we can draw a feeling of confidence and comfort.
That comfort is swept away by working remotely. You don't have any clear structure. You don't need to comply with any defined rule. You can be very flexible with your working hours and it's very easy to decide to work just a half an hour more ending up working for more than two hours. This means that you are going to bed later than usual and get up later to be fully rested. The next day, you feel lazy and prone to work longer triggering an uncomfortable vicious cycle that will unbalance your freedom. You will probably feel very uneasy working remotely and you will struggle to develop a routine and maybe even crave to go back to the office.
This new dynamic needs to be addressed as soon as possible to fully enjoy the benefits of working remotely without compromising your productivity, creativity and team spirit. There are several practical things you can do to stick to a schedule like
1. going to sleep and waking up at the same time, no matter what!
2. Defining working hours with some breaks in between is also very healthy because it allows you to charge the batteries and go through the day without feeling drained.
3. The classical tip to switch all notifications off always holds.
3. Work Integration Instead Of Work Separation
Another dynamic that needs to be learned from scratch is how to include work in your life. Going to the office keeps work and life separated. It offers a clear cut distinction that helps to set your mind in working mode. Once out of the office, you can go back to your life mode.
Remote work won't allow you to easily switch between work and life mode, so it will be up to you to create a synergistic environment where work and life live in harmony. Integrating work in your daily life means being aware of what is distracting you and what a healthy break is. It's the capability to accept the fact that distractions can occur and neglect those that don't bring any important consequence in the short term. This learning process makes working remotely an opportunity to grow and develop as workers and team mates.
I already talked extensively in other posts about how to deal with time management skills and how to boost discipline to succeed as remote workers. It's important to understand that succeeding is possible, but like everything in life, it comes at a cost.
4. With More Flexibility Comes More Responsibility
And here is the cost: responsibility. That's the fourth dynamic I am going to show you because it represents an often overlooked feature of remote work. At the office, you are asked to take care of a task and the development of a project seems easy to follow because of the numerous personal interactions. Sometimes, a proper documentation is still in its early stages while the project is in its advanced stage, carried on with the help of several meetings.
When you aren't physically in touch with the team, you have to be organized and proactive. Tasks and deadlines will be still set up, but now having a clear and always up to date documentation becomes the priority. A dramatically decrease in personal interactions brings a huge increase in proactivity and responsibility to accomplish a task autonomously. And when you want to maximize productivity and efficiency while you have to deal with your family and friends and you are always reminded that there is something to do at home, you have to make up your mind about what you want to do. You have to learn how to prioritize and say no, setting boundaries that weren't necessary when you worked in-house.
These new dynamics imply taking a great deal of responsibility and that's why the transition from in-house to remote work is very challenging.
Reframing The Just-A-Different-Location Attitude
After describing the main dynamics that remote work brings, I can confidently move on to tackle the just-a-different-location attitude. You can understand how dangerous such attitude is because it undermines your objectivity when dealing with the new working environment. You can't force reality and you can't expect to work from home or wherever you feel comfortable with the same way you worked at the office. A change of scenario means different challenges that need to be faced differently.
Believing that working remotely is like working at the office just from a different location is harmful because it makes you unfit for the job market of the near future. You can be a very skilled professional with years of experience, but if you can't adapt according to the new dynamics then all your skills and experience get unnoticed. And if you can't show what you are capable of, then you aren't competitive and it will be increasingly harder to fit in a flexible team. Imagine what you can do if you can put into practice your hard and developed soft skills for whatever company you really love to work for, wherever that company might be!
Therefore, if you have a hard time to set a schedule, keep focused and be productive, then it's time to reconsider your point of view with respect to remote work and check if you are buying into some myths around location free work. If you miss going to the office or you are angry at the situation you are in and you are blaming something or someone else for your lack of focus, chances are that you are avoiding taking responsibility.
Life is a continuous flow of events that are out of your control. Thus, by definition, life is a constant change. It's normal to be scared and react with a "flight" or "freeze" response for what is happening right now, but you can redirect your energy towards finding solutions moving then to a "fight" response. You can show your team that you can be present, disciplined and productive. I know that focusing on the solutions when you feel overwhelmed and unbalanced is very difficult and that's why I am going to tell you what you can do to speed up the adjustment process.
How To Adapt To A More Realistic Remote Work Scenario
So here is what you can do to adapt to the tough period and changes you are going through. You can start by creating a Zoom, Slack, Telegram, Google Drive, Dropbox and Calendly account to stay in touch with the team, share important files and easily plan the next virtual coffee break.
You can also download several apps to help you stay focused and productive. Those are just tools and as I mentioned before. The whole point is to be able to use them. I am not talking about getting skilled in using the program. I am talking about developing the right attitude towards remote work. The attitude that will make you feel at ease even when the only interactions you will have with your team are virtual.
Adapting to the new scenario means facing the new challenges with fresh eyes. It means approaching a working day with optimism, trust, confidence and a brand new feeling of belonging. Only then, you will be able to use the tools properly and make the most out of them. Mastering the tools implies mastering a holistic approach that keeps an eye on the well being of the whole team instead of the specific task. What can make your adjustment period much smoother and productive is to start thinking as a team player who is strictly connected to the other teammates to achieve a common goal.
What You Can Do Right Now To Accelerate The Transition To Remote Work?
It's very important to realize that the sooner you shift your perception about remote work the better you will adapt to the fast evolution the job market is going through. Workers have to evolve as well and for the first time in history the job market on a global scale is actually embracing the initiative of some pioneers who first advocated remote work. Startups, full grown companies and employees who are fully working remotely paved the way for the rest of the companies to give remote work a try in times of crisis where social proximity puts people's health in danger. People are so close to make a transition and transform the concept of work for good.
Being an essential part of this transformation will allow you to harvest the enormous benefits of remote work while you continue to be competitive and highly valuable for the company that is most in line with your values. Even if that company is located on the other side of the world.
It's time for you to learn right now how to improve flexibility, productivity, creativity and ability to work in a team when interactions are only virtual. Now it's time to be part of the transformation and save a spot in the job market of tomorrow. As you know by now, there are tools out there that need to be used wisely in a completely different context that has its own challenges. Mastering those tools requires a new mind set!
That's where I can help you the most, to develop a new mind set that will be still in line with your personality and values. You will then be able to be an asset for whatever remote position you want to apply! Reach out to me and book a case study session - we will have a chat where you can explain me your situation and I can tell you how exactly I can help you. You have everything to gain! At the end of the session you will have a clear idea of what you need to work on to become a highly competitive remote worker.