Unlearning the Ways of the Office

Rewiring your brain for remote work

Jordan McRae's profile picture

Jordan McRae

Full Stack Javascript Developer

ยท 6 min read


Remote work is awesome. We're huge proponents of remote work and partnerships here at Stack Five. We see the unending benefits every single day because we fully embrace remote culture. We know that for many, remote work is a very foreign concept and it can be intimidating. We're here to support you and answer any questions that you might have. You can tweet us @stackfive_io, or email us any time. To maximize your remote work experience, there are a few major concepts to keep in mind.

Remote Work Is Not The Same As "Working From Home"

If you've spent any amount of time as a regular employee of a company, you'll be familiar with the good old "work from home" days. These days are normally built around personal appointments, your child's Christmas recital, or maybe a nasty cold. It's a chance to take a small break from the office grind and take some control over your day. During "work from home" days, it's common to feel out of place or worried about the need to get back to the office to take care of that project you've temporarily put on hold or feeling the need to chat with someone in person rather than through email. There's this odd looming feeling that productivity at home is not the same as productivity in the office, and it's easy to let the day slip away or to justify making things a "tomorrow problem". The main reason for this is the fact that working from home happens so infrequently. You're completely going against the grain of the culture and traditions of your workplace.

Remote Work is a Progressively Learned Skill

You're not going to get it perfect. It's going to be messy, and you're going to make mistakes. The biggest struggle remote workers face is managing your day like you are the boss. You're now in charge of defining the majority of your daily structure. This can be both exciting and terrifying depending on your comfort level. You need to shift your mindset away from the ways of the office, and the best way to do that is by taking a look at the differences between remote work and working from an office.

1) Distractions look very different. At the office, your workflow can be interrupted by a coworker tapping you on the shoulder, or dragging you into a meeting you didn't need to be a part of. At home, your family has instant access to you and it's easy to distract yourself with your home to-do list. Life and work will constantly battle you for attention. See our article on setting boundaries for some great tips on how to properly set yourself up for success.

2) Communication changes. At the office, there's a mindset that it's better to talk to someone in person rather than through a quick email. The majority of questions or problems can be deferred to an email or instant message, but there's a culture of seeking instant answers. Remotely, it's important to train yourself to work in parallel while you wait on answers. There won't always be an instant response or access to your coworkers or clients. Over time you will find that this is extremely beneficial, and you'll learn to solve problems differently and make decisions in ways that you wouldn't in the office.

3) Your lifestyle changes. In both office roles and remote roles, it's easy to neglect taking care of yourself. It's easy to forget to take breaks. At the office, watercooler talk can help break up the monotony of the day. At home, you don't necessarily have the same reminders or social queues to take breaks. Setting aside time for self-care throughout your day while working remotely is crucial for your success and to prevent burning out. You have the flexibility and freedom to take an exercise break, take your dog for a walk, or pick up something from the store. You should take advantage of these opportunities and think about them as a core element of remote work. You should never feel guilty for taking breaks and doing the things you need to do or things you enjoy. You'll find that some activities work well and that others are too distracting. Experiment and try different things until you find what works best for you.

4) Technology is key to your success. The office has many processes in place to help make your job efficient. When you work remotely, much of the time you don't have the same processes or guidelines for tools that you should use. Keep notes on the biggest pain points you face every day, and search for products and apps that can help boost your efficiency or take care of automating parts of your life. If you need some help or don't know where to start, we've built a little tool to help you find the best tools that are appropriate for you. You can check it out here.

5) Relationships are still crucial. There's a false understanding that remote work is the equivalent of the "lone wolf" model. We are relational beings, and we must have contacts that we can reach out to throughout the day. There are many meetups in your community for remote workers, and you should try to get involved with those as much as possible. There are also countless online communities that you can stay in touch with throughout the day. One of our favourite tools is the communication app Slack. It's a great way to keep in touch with colleagues, and you have the freedom to join communities of likeminded people near you. You can also work from wherever you want! Temporary coworking spaces can be a great way to meet people from many different industries and professions.

Above everything else, the most important part of remote work is to make it enjoyable for yourself. Experiment with scheduling your day. Learn a new skill on the side. Don't be afraid to fail. Change up your environment and work from a coffee shop. Your options and flexibility are endless.

The remote community is growing at a rapid rate and it will soon become a standard in the workplace across many industries. If you're ever feeling stuck or are looking for some advice on remote work, our team is always open to chatting.

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