What I learned from working remotely

I was lucky that even before the pandemic forced us all to work from home, my job already had the option for me to work from home when I needed to, so getting settled with remote work last year wasn’t a big deal for me.  In 2017-2020, I also had a side remote gig as a Web Developer.

There is a vast difference in culture compared to companies that are 100% remote from the onset, which is something I’m getting a taste of in my new role at Gitpod.

However, as the days and months went on, I learned some things. Merging your work and home life can feel chaotic at times, and (from my experience) you can only do so much work from your bed. 

In this blog post, I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me settle into a 100% remote life to maximise productivity and prioritise positive feelings of health and well-being.

I learned the importance of…

Routine 💪🏼

Pre-pandemic, I’ve always been one who loves setting a morning routine. Even back in my university days, I’d have a set way to follow no matter what my day looked like ahead. If I had my first lecture of the day at 9 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM, I’d still do the same routine. 

Original tweet

I shared my routine on my blog a few years ago, and although there are bits that have changed since then, it still follows a similar structure:

  • 6:30 AM – Wake up
  • 7:00 AM – Move / Exercise (usually a strength workout, run or HIIT)
  • 8:00 or 8:30 AM – Get for the day! That means shower, get dressed and have breakfast.
  • Around 9 AM – Get to my desk to login and work (or pre-pandemic days, get out the house to the office)

Of course, there are some days where I skip my exercise (rest days!), but I’d still get up from bed before 7 AM. On these days, I sometimes move everything earlier and get started at work at 8 AM. Although it seems rigid, it’s still quite flexible depending on circumstances or mood. I recently started experimenting with 11 AM workouts!

This routine is my favourite part of the day. It helps kickstart my day slowly and intentionally before rushing onto my laptop to emails and messages. It gives me the headspace I need.

Working out 💪🏼
Working out 💪🏼

Getting organised! 📝

On Sundays or even Monday mornings, I like to plan my week. 

This planning includes the work that I want to get done for the week and personal things like what meals do I need to have this week or is there an upcoming appointment. 

I find that when I don’t do this, my whole week becomes a blur as I go through the motions without intention.

I also plan things like time blocks for taking a break which leads nicely onto my next point…

Taking frequent breaks 🚶🏻‍♀️

This point is one that I’m still working on getting “right“. 

I’ve found myself way too many times in my world and realising that hours have passed. Then I’m suddenly very aware that I’m dehydrated, have a growing headache and that my eyes are so sore. 

Snapped on a walk on a cloudy day
📸 Snapped on a walk on a cloudy day

Clark recently showed me Pomodoro Timer Online – Pomofocus recently. I’ve been using this when I find that my focus is splattered all over the place. Or when I’ve had streaks of forgetting to take a break. The alarm rings after x amount of time, reminding you to take a quick break. Sometimes a loud sound snapping you out of your immersive screen is what you need. 

It’s worked for me anyway. 😂 

Social time ☕️

In my recent podcast episode with Sonnie, Elle and Rebekah about onboarding, Sonnie said something significant that hasn’t left my brain since I heard it. It was something along the lines of, “Sometimes I finish the day and think to myself, ‘what did I do all day? If I’m honest, I just typed really.’” 

It’s true, especially in our pandemic world where sometimes you can go days without social interaction. Back at my old jobs, I’d commit to at least sending one person a message on Slack. I’d sometimes catch up with folks from Twitter too. This interaction often led to a conversation or a call.

Speaking to another human allowed me to get out of my head for a bit and kept my energy levels up as an extrovert. Having just regular conversations felt so refreshing, especially when days do turn into a blur where you’ve done nothing but type all day. 

Understanding of other’s circumstances 💜

Another thing I practised doing more of has been bringing awareness to other people’s circumstances. The pandemic most definitely forced us to think more about other people and not just ourselves. I’ve been in various teams in the past year, and I’ve learned to become more accepting of other people’s circumstances. 

Not everyone is me. I’m in my 20s, I live in a small apartment with my partner, and we only need to make sure that we take care of ourselves. Others don’t have that and often are juggling different roles in their unique circumstance! 

Because of this, I’ve learned to be more compassionate when, for example, I get a slower reply or someone is offline for half the day. I’ve practised the act of putting myself in their shoes and approaching communications in a kind and helpful manner rather than exuding my assumptions. 

Your set-up 💻

As I alluded to at the start, I can only go so many hours working from my bed before starting to feel lazy and unproductive. It just doesn’t work for me. 

Instead, I opted in for as best of a set-up as I could make with the space that I have available in my tiny apartment. I blogged about my at-home set-up back in April 2020, but I have recently upgraded it thanks to the folks at Gitpod. 

My set-up in my small apartment
My set-up in my small apartment 🧡

I hadn’t realised how important it is to have an ergonomic set-up until I started paying for it with back pain. Nowadays, I use a standing desk and an ergonomic chair. 

Other learnings 

I also learned…

  • That I’m a workaholic sometimes and that I need to establish a better work/life balance. Reminding myself that I’m not running out of time and that I don’t need to know every little thing about x helps. 
  • Mornings are my best time to get into that flow state. 
  • Sometimes evenings after dinner are too, for some reason.
  • I’m not as productive after lunch, so I tend to give myself the time to have a more extended break by going on a walk or doing anything else but work.

I’m curioustell me what you’ve learned over the past year of working remotely. As I said, it can look very different to everyone. I think that is why I find this so fascinating! 

What is the future of work? Are 9-5 jobs dead? What will happen to office culture in the next few years? Will 100% remote jobs become more prominent?  

So many questions! I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 👀

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