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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

3 Facts About Working Remotely That Aren’t Too Good to Be True

person working at home
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A year ago, I sat in the passenger seat of my boss’ car with a 27-inch monitor on my lap. After a long day of packing, unscrewing legs off desks, and witnessing the sale of our beloved foosball table, we were going remote.

Truth talk: I had hesitations about it.

Could I be actually trusted to work in the same room as my bed?

The answer was yes, and in fact, the transition to working from home went much more smoothly than expected. That’s because all of the benefits I thought were too good to be true, turned out to make me even better at my job. Here’s what I mean:

1. You Can Work When You’re Most Productive

When I tell someone I work from home, I hear usually one of two things. Either: “You’re so lucky!” or “I could never be trusted to do that.”

And both responses ring true. It takes a certain type of person to work remotely—and you might not know whether that’s you until you start.

Case in point: Our lead engineer was thrilled to work in a quiet space where nobody would bother him. But me? I wasn’t certain I’d find my workflow.

However, I learned to take advantage of the lack of set of hours and ride waves of productivity and creativity, whenever they sweep in. If I am particularly unmotivated at 3 PM on a Tuesday, I take a break and pick back up in 30 minutes. Conversely, if I finish watching HBO on a Sunday night and feel the urge to work, I log on and get a jumpstart on the week.

When I was no longer strapped to a specific chair in a specific room for 50 hours a week, I no longer had those windows of time when I was just staring at the clock. I scheduled tasks around when I wanted to work and my productivity soared.

2. You Can Workout in the Middle of the Day

You already know that exercise is good for you, and sitting in a seat all day long isn’t.

And all that talk about how you can actually fit it in when you work from home is true. Studies have shown that remote workers, on average, get more sleep, eat healthier, and exercise more.

Of course, just because statistics say it’s true doesn’t mean it’s going to happen magically. Just like you have to buckle down and finish that report on time, you also have to spend that 30 minutes or hour going for a run, or to yoga class, or Crossfit.

My biggest tip is fully embrace work-life integration. I get my best ideas while sweating it out. Being able to escape midday for exercise has helped my productivity immensely. Often, I arrive back at my desk and start my day anew! It gives me fresh ideas—and retires the excuse to skip that end of day workout, because you’re too tired.

Take advantage of it! (And if you’re reading this from your desk and feeling jealous here are 17 stretches you can do right there.)

3. You Can Still Have Open Communication

One thing that’ll suffer is the social interactions you used to have in the workplace. You’re not going to be bumping into your co-workers and having spontaneous chats by the coffee machine.

But, you can still stay connected to get all of your work done. Of course, the best way to ensure this’ll happen is to plan in advance. (If you’re interviewing for a remote position, ask how team members stay connected.)

I wasn’t worried, because our team set up processes before we made the transition. Every Monday, just like in the office, we hold an All Hands meeting. Here, we stress over-communication. Each team member writes up a summary of her contributions from the prior week. We read this document together and ask questions. Within an hour, the team’s up to speed with what’s happening. In many ways, our All Hands are even more effective since being remote.

In addition, we each still have weekly one-on-one check-ins. While this is a good time to share updates, we also make sure to discuss life. For example, I chat with my CTO about Harry Potter during most check-ins. I have another team member I catch up with about Survivor. This helps you keep that camaraderie that comes from working with others.

Now, from time to time, an issue will arise that cannot be reasonably solved with a few exchanges on Slack. In that case, we schedule a phone call or Google Hangout, and have been able to work through any problem.

Working remotely has its challenges, but the advantages have been enormous. In the past few months, I feel like I’ve added years to my life. My Sunday Scaries are gone.

So, if you’re wondering whether taking the leap could work for you, don’t assume all the benefits are simply too good to be true. While working from home isn’t right for everyone, if these changes appeal to you, it could give your career—and your happiness—a major boost.

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