I’ve now been professionally designing since 2012, and during this time have worked for a number of companies, most of which have been within an office environment. Since the turn of the year I’ve been working as a remote designer. I’m really starting to learn more about about myself, and what makes me tick (equally what doesn’t). Remote working definitely isn’t for everyone as it can often be an isolating experience but from my personal experience, it works.
It’s certainly been a learning curve for me, and over time I’ve been figuring some best practices in order to allow my working life to thrive. Of course, this will be different for everybody, but let me guide you through some tips that have helped me to successfully work remotely:
I think this is the most important part of my day. There’s a huge risk of work and life becoming merged when working remotely. A walk in the morning (often around the block with my dog) is enough to allow my day to feel portioned between home and work. I guess this counts as a commute! I’ve also figured that doing something social or active as soon as the working day is finished helps switch my brain over to ‘home’ mode.
This follows on from the previous point, but I can’t stress this enough. One of they key areas to help with this is to differentiate between a work and home phone, not working in my living room (and don’t work in your pyjamas) and even using a different user on my computer – this way I won’t be receiving work related email at 9pm and feel like I’m at work whilst watching television in the evening.
Try going to coffee shops, libraries or co-working spaces, as it might boost your productivity. Although I think routine is a good thing, breaking the cycle can be refreshing and getting out and about occasionally during my work day is often vital. Some (semi-)public places are great to work at, others suck, so it’s important to figure out which works best for you. I use my local library when I need to get my head down (and when I’m not expecting any video calls), a nice cafe if I’m looking for inspiration whilst working, or my home office if I’m spending a lot of my day in calls (or frankly, want free hot drinks).
This is more relevant for my previous role, when I was working for a Canadian agency where there was an eight hour time difference. It was particularly difficult, especially when you consider 5pm for me (usually when I’m about done) is 9am for them (the start of their day, when energy is high). Here at Wholegrain we also have numerous colleagues and clients dotted around the globe, so it’s important to always bear timezones in mind. It’s important for a remote worker to be flexible with their time and allow the occasional (very) late or early meeting.
Working remotely can sometimes be quite lonely, especially if you’re working from home. It’s fair to say that you’ll be seeing less people on a daily basis around your work hours, and communication with colleagues is most likely going to be via social media, and probably more often than not, work related (but I suggest you still try to ask them questions about their life and get to know them!). Having an active social life outside of work is therefore important (it’ll also help keep up the social skills!).
This might sound silly, but without the distraction of colleagues and the buzz of an office it’s easy to go a few hours without pausing for air. From personal experience I’ve found I need reminders to take a few minutes out (often making a drink or stretching). A few breaks throughout the day results in me feeling fresher and lighter come the evening.
At Wholegrain, we come together at least once a week. We use a co-working space at Somerset House – and it’s spot on. For me it’s important to embrace the human interaction I get on these days. We often have team lunches and discuss projects over coffee. I think days like this help to create a perfect balance – allowing me to get my head down every other day of the week.
Of course being remote you get lots of freedom, but with freedom comes more responsibility… this is why it’s key to keep on top of how you’re feeling and review how well you’re working. Overall, remote working is fantastic and I fully believe I get about 50% more work done, but on the flip side, it’s important to stay focused, to stay inspired and to be as social as ever.