Remote work is about managing expectations. Bridget Willard

Remote Work: 8 (ish) Weeks In

Remote work is about managing expectations.

If you haven’t already heard, I started a new job, career, and life over at WordImpress in San Diego December 1, 2015.

People seem to think this would be super hard. I get asked by almost everyone I know,

“How do you like working from home? Is it hard?”

I like it. It’s not that hard.

Okay. Backup.

Yes, I had some trouble at first. But it was about expectations – mine, my husband’s, and those of my friends.

It’s a real job.

I am not a freelancer. I am accountable. I’m part of a team. Teams communicate. We use Slack, Asana, Google Hangouts, email, texting, and — wait for it — the phone. It’s great. I’ve had zero trouble communicating effectively with Team San Diego.

But with friends, it’s been a bit different.

I don’t have the option to go out for a two hour coffee. I have tasks and deadlines. Two hour coffee dates are why Saturdays were invented.

Enough said. 

Ambient or not-so-ambient noise.

Remote work is a real job. Click To Tweet

Sound was the biggest struggle the first week or so that I worked at home.

The Mr. listens to talk radio all day long. It’s loud. It’s hard to concentrate. Sure, I could close my particle-board-apartment door, but it’s not enough.

Also, it’s his home, too. Why should he be interrupted and deprived of his enjoyment?

Pandora has been my life-saver.

The best way to drown out talking is with music. Thank you, internet.

Also, music makes me happy.

Make your office an office.

I have the cutest office. My half of the second bedroom is all me. Coastal colors, cute decorations, and my WordCamp badges.

This room is great because it gets the morning light that energizes me. Plus, a bluetooth speaker bigger than my laptop. Like I said, Pandora.

I do not work on the sofa or in bed.

You do what you practice. Posture makes a difference in my mental attitude. It matters — at least to me.

If you can work on your laptop in the car, sofa, or in a coffee shop, more power to you. I cannot.

Get dressed.

A lot of people work in their pajamas. I cannot.

Again it’s part of my mindset. When I shower, get dressed, fix my hair, and put on makeup, my brain knows it’s time to work. I’m emotionally and intellectually ready to do my best.

Plus: random video hangouts. Hello mascara.

Take breaks.

This has been my bigger challenge. I tend to obsess.

But I have two dogs. My Sully dog is on medication now and has to pee every 2-4 hours. He comes and looks at me and I know it’s time to take him out.

Chloe dog makes sure I feed them at 5pm. On the dot. So they also remind me when to quit.

Do your research.

Admittedly, I’d read tips from others like Carol Stephen and I’ve heard people talk about remote work and joke about not wearing pants.

This goes along with what will work best for you and your team, too.

If you can set your own hours, do it. We’re all mostly working in the 9-5 region so I have set my hours to 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with an hour break for lunch. It works for me and for Team San Diego.

Spend time with your team.

I work in the San Diego office once a week. I do all that I can on my end to make it count.

I make sure my tasks are complete so we can optimize our time for meetings, brainstorming, and lunch. You can’t discount the value of serendipity. Conversations you’d never have on Slack, happen in the office.

Maybe a lot of people can’t do this because of the physical limitations. Video may help.

Write Stuff Down.

Two weeks ago, I thought I was going to lose my mind.

Firstly, this is not secretarial work where every task is represented by a piece of paper in your inbox. Being routine-oriented is good, but my tasks are varied and quite digital.

I went to Staples and bought a paper calendar with a two-page week layout. And pens. I bought pens.

I write down things that need to be done as well as things that I have done.

Of course, most of my tasks are in Asana, but this more for my state of mind.

After the first week, I felt more relaxed. Writing things down helps you remember (you can’t argue with neurological science) and your brain can feel relaxed and not constantly ping it’s servers. (Did you like that tech joke?)

Also, I’m using notebooks. I write things down. The brain works differently when we’re typing than when we’re writing.

Final Thoughts

There is a huge difference between being a small business owner / freelancer and being an employee / remote worker. People on your team count on you.

Asking questions helped me figure out what they expect and how I can best fit into their culture. And vice versa.

Managing expectations is about effective communication.  I’m thankful that Team Awesome welcomes questions and has been very welcoming in this transitional time.

I think it’s pretty neat that I feel like I belong — in just the first two months.

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