A vast majority of managers contemplating the remote option fear that workers would slack off when out from the watchful eye of the office. The reality is that remote employees are more likely to overwork than underwork.
The more common reason for this is passion and dedication: like Marion Smits quoted above, we’ve chosen work we love, and we love to do it. The trick is knowing how to balance that. As Jeremy Stanton explains, “It can be extra hard to turn off, simply because we don’t want to. If you’re the type of person who enjoys what you do, work could just consume you if you let it.”
Another reason we can find ourselves overworking concerns accommodating different time zones. And with that comes the very real danger of never switching off—of working around the clock to serve the immediate needs of colleagues around the globe. WorkAtHomeSuccess.com founder Leslie Truex specifically warns: “Don’t work 24/7. You’ll make yourself crazy.”
Tips for managing being always on
- TAKE CARE OF THE BASICS. That means eating well, sleeping well, and exercising regularly.
- SEPARATE HOME AND OFFICE. Have a dedicated workspace where you work and keep it separated from your personal things.
- HAVE A SET ROUTINE. Set a schedule and stick to it. Some recommend planning your next day the night before, perhaps even laying out any physical aspects of your necessary tasks so you can’t help but tend to them first.
- DRESS LIKE YOU’RE GOING TO WORK. Don’t just wake up and jump on your computer. Take a shower and get dressed like you’re leaving the house. This makes it feel like you are about to start something that’s different from domestic life.
- PREVENT INTERRUPTIONS. We can customize our notification settings for email, phone, apps, etc. So, rather than getting pinged every time someone we know breathes on Facebook, we can turn notifications off for tags, comments on posts, friend requests, group posts, and the like. And as for work email, some opt to always finish their paragraph or line of code before looking to see what arrived, let alone replying.
- SET AND KEEP BOUNDARIES. Do you sleep better when you don’t check your emails before going to sleep? Are you more productive when you don’t start your day by first looking at your phone? Set boundaries for yourself and then stick to them.
- SCHEDULE FREE DAYS. Schedule days where there are no meetings, no appointments, and no obligations. Just full days to think and schedule as we wish.
- TAKE BREAKS. Keep a watchful eye on your energy levels. That means stopping and relaxing every once in a while.
- EXPERIENCE NEW THINGS. When we stay in one place too long, we swim within familiar ideas and connections. In order to have fresh ideas, new connections, and more innovations, we have to go outside of our own worlds and experience new things. Whether that’s just taking a day trip to the next town or exploring some far-off, exotic place. The important thing is to just put yourself slightly out of your comfort zone and experience something new.
- SIMPLIFY AND THROW THINGS OUT. Take those piles that have been sitting around for too long and take care of them. Whatever you need to do to… de-clutter!
- LEARN TO SAY NO. When we’re laser-focused on what we should be doing, then it becomes pretty easy to say no to the things that don’t contribute to that goal. When you say no, you can better take care of what’s on your plate.
- UNPLUG. Do something mindless. Maybe it’s watching a movie, maybe it’s going on a hike, but do something that just lets your mind run in the background while you create or do something else.
So, in order to maintain our best work, we need to keep a watchful eye on our energy levels. That means stopping and relaxing every once in a while. But more so, Information Systems engineer Andrea Zabala recommends doing the things you always wished you could do when you were working in an office, like having lunch on your patio, going for a walk, even just stepping outside for five minutes of fresh air. Don’t forget to take advantage of the perks of working remotely that you sought in the first place
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome to episode 38, everybody. When you hear this, I’ll be in a remote resort near São Paulo, Brazil, participating in the learning 3.0 camp. They teach facilitators how to be learning facilitators instead of just trainers or experts standing in the room. So of course I have a great interest in this. But the reason why I’m there is that they invited me to be there to answer questions and to talk about how do we apply some of these learning techniques when we are remote. What are the things that we can do? So myself and Kendra The KUBI are going to show off new technologies, best practices, and tips with everybody. It’s a hard life, I know. So today, on the theme of loving what we do, I wanted to talk a little bit about how we manage being always on. There’s this weird thing that I noticed in the interviews that I’m doing, which is managers seem to be afraid that they won’t know what the remote workers are doing and how do we know that they’re working. But actually, most remote workers tend to work too much and not too little. So given that we have ubiquitous technology and it’s only getting better and better, I think this issue becomes more and more important.
There’s another component of this that occurred to me just recently, which is what if we want to be working. What if we love what we’re doing and we’re just kind of in our zone when we’re doing this thing? I feel that way most of the time. I’m sort of loving what I’m doing, I feel like this is exactly where I’m good, and I want to be doing this. But too much of a good thing becomes not a good thing anymore. What I’m finding is we can trust that the following is true, that working too much is not healthy, and taking regular breaks is healthy. Very simple, I know, but it doesn’t have to be more complicated. So given that we can trust that this is true, there are a few basic standards out there that seem to be universal. One is take care of the basics. So that means eating well and sleeping well, exercising, really the basics.
Another tip is to schedule free days. These are days where we have no meetings, no appointments, no obligation, just full days that we can use and schedule as we wish.
The next tip is to travel. When we stay in one place too long, we have old ideas and old connections. So in order to have new ideas, new connections, new innovations, we have to go outside of our own world and see new things. So whether that’s just taking a day trip to the next town or exploring a new building in the town that you already live in or going to some far-off, exotic place, the important thing is to just put yourself slightly out of your comfort zone and experience something new.
Next is simplify. And by simplify, I mean throw things out. Take those piles that have been sitting around for too long and take care of them and get rid of them. And just go back to what is it that you really need. And it’s not just physical stuff. Think about digital stuff as well. I mean how many newsletters are you still subscribed to? Maybe it’s time to minimize how much email is coming your way. Whatever you need to do to de-clutter, give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you.
The next tip is one that I have been struggling with lately, which is saying no. When we’re laser-focused on what we should be doing, then it becomes pretty easy to say no to the things that don’t contribute to that goal. When you say no, you can better take care of what’s on your plate. The last one that I’ll mention is unplug. And by this, I mean not just unplug devices or don’t take them with you. I don’t mean that, actually. What I mean is doing something mindless. Maybe it’s watching a movie, maybe it’s going on a hike, something that just lets your mind run in the background while you create and do something beautiful.
All right, everybody. Those are my tips for managing being always on. If you have tips to add or stories to tell, you can reach me at collaborationsuperpowers.com. Next week we are back with another interview, so stay tuned. A big bravo to Nick, the podcast monster who is keeping this podcast regular and up and running while I am off in Brazil leading the exotic [inaudible – 05:08]. Thanks, Nick. You can hire him to make you an adventurous star at podcastmonster.com. All right, everybody. Until next time, be powerful.