Remote Working: the Benefits, Disadvantages, and some Lessons Learned in 15+ years
March 17, 2020
With so many people now having to learn to work remotely due to restrictions related to COVID-19, what information can people share who have been working from home? Back in October 2019, I realized it was 20 years ago when I started working remotely, and so I sent out some tweets asking for opinions about the benefits of working remotely, the challenges / disadvantages, and then the lessons people have learned. I subsequently recorded podcast episodes on each of those three topics.
The links to the Twitter threads and podcasts are below.At some point I may turn them into longer articles themselves, but in the meantime, I hope they will help some of you with ideas for how to get adjusted to this new way of working.
And… I would suspect many of you might just want to jump directly to the lessons learned…
- Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/danyork/status/1181883371611406336
- Podcast episode: TDYR 380 - Remote Working, Part 1: What are the BENEFITS of working from home?
Many of the benefits were about no commute, the ability to be present with family, freedom to work and live wherever, flexibility, caring for family, and more. (Note that a good number of the benefits mentioned (such as working from "anywhere") are currently NOT possible because of the self-isolation / quarantine imposed by the COVID-19 situation.)
- Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/danyork/status/1182213497066868741
- Podcast episode: TDYR 381 - Remote Working, Part 2: What are the DISADVANTAGES of working from home?
Loneliness, isolation, and the lack of social connections with colleagues topped the list of disadvantages, along with the lack of physical activity, home distractions and more.
- Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/danyork/status/1182606706485977088
- Podcast episode: TDYR 382 - Remote Working, Part 3: What are some LESSONS LEARNED about working remotely?
Some of the key lessons that I have learned in over 15 years of working remotely, and that were common in other comments include:
- Create a separate space (ideally, a separate room) - this is critical if you can do it.
- Invest in a good chair and other office equipment - since you are going to be sitting in it so many hours of your day! (Or some people now have desks that let you stand, too.)
- Make time for physical activity - get OUTSIDE if you can! Go for a walk. Go for a run. Or work out in a home gym. Multiple people suggested dogs being a great way to force you to do this.
- Make a schedule - and STICK to that schedule - it is super easy to work many hours at all different times. Figure out a schedule that works for you, your employer, your team, and your family - and then try to stick to that schedule.
- Use collaboration tools - things like Slack are critical for your own sanity so that you are “connected” to other people in your organization. (Granted, you may need to figure out how to not be too connected to everyone and spend your day drowning in notifications!)
- Take actual lunch breaks - step away from your computer and your home office. Get up and move around.
- Sit with your face toward natural light, if possible - it looks better than artificial light… and you’ll get some Vitamin D, too. 🙂
- Lighting IS important, particularly for video calls - you do want to have light shining on you in a way that works well for video. You may want to experiment with different lamps around you or on your desk.
- Have video calls with other remote workers - make time to connect with colleagues, ideally over video calls. Even if it is just to chat for 5 or 10 minutes. It can help ease the sense of isolation - and they may like it, too! Sometimes if I have a question that I’m going to write in email or Slack, I’ll ask myself, “would it be faster if I just ask them in person?” And if so, I’ll ping them via a message to see if they are available for a video call.
- Work in different locations - Try sometimes to get out of your home office and work in other parts of the house. Take a laptop and work in another room, or on a deck or yard if you have one. (Granted, this might be hard if you have many people in your household all working in the same building.)
On this last point, you’ll see in the Twitter thread and hear on the podcast all the comments about working from other locations. For example, working at cafes with WiFi, etc. That IS a critical lesson many of us have learned. Successful remote working can involve getting outside the walls of your home office - and outside of your home. Obviously this is currently NOT possible with the COVID-19 situation, but something to definitely think about if you continue working remotely once we are past all of this.
Other remote workers… what other lessons learned would you add?
Best wishes to you all as we all try to navigate this new world of social distancing and working remotely over the next weeks and months!
UPDATE #1 - over on Twitter, someone I know pointed out that this is NOT regular "working from home" (WFH). His text: "I've WFH 11 years. current situation is not normal WFH. you can't go to a coffee shop to interact w people, work out or take advantage of all sorts of WFH perks like normal.
self-quarantine != WFH"
I definitely agree, Paul, this is NOT regular "working from home".
Photo by Djurdjica Boskovic on Unsplash. - No, that’s not MY desk… far too clean! 😏
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