In 1974, The Economist first coined the word telecommute. In a perfect example of wishful thinking, the article predicted “quite a lot of people by the late 1980s will telecommute daily to their London offices while living on a Pacific island if they want to.”
Statistics on telecommuters living in the Pacific Islands in the 80s, 90s, 00s and today (can we talk about #goals?) are hard to find. But of course, telecommuting, or working remotely, has become a widely-accepted professional practice. Indeed, its prevalence is growing.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, half the US workforce holds a job compatible with the ability to work remotely at least part time. Approximately 20-25 percent of employees work remotely at least some of the time — a figure representing millions of people across the country.
Navigating the practice of working remotely can be challenging at first, whether it’s from Tahiti or, in my case, the less tropical (but still charming) local of Dallas, TX. Here are a few tips from the remote workers of the Offleash team that we have collectively learned throughout the course of our demanding jobs:
- Dress up (a.k.a. don’t work in your PJs). It doesn’t matter that you won’t be seeing anyone — changing out of your pajamas into other attire will help your brain transition into a professional mindset. For me, this means dressing a little more casually than I would going into the office, along with occasional makeup. The more you do it, the stronger the association will be, and the easier it will be to get your “work mode” on.
- Designate your workspace(s). Just as with the first point, designating a home office or a work area will help set the tone of your work day, maximizing your ability to concentrate and be productive. In my tiny apartment, my work areas include: a specific seat at the kitchen island, a small desk and occasionally the couch — but never the bedroom. Your environment impacts your mood and focus, so keep things uncluttered and inviting.
- Develop a routine. One of the best parts of working remotely is the ability to develop rituals and routines that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to at the office. For me, this means making the bed, doing a little stretching on the balcony and brewing a cup of tea before I open my laptop. For others, it might be taking a daily lunch walk or shutting your home office door at the end of the day to help signal to your brain that your workday is done.
- Stay engaged with your coworkers. This is especially important for those of us who work in a fast-paced environment with multiple teams. Whether it’s on chat platforms like Slack, over video or the phone, it’s to your benefit to be as accessible as possible to your colleagues. Make a point to be engaged in your team conversations, asking questions where needed and proactively offering ideas when appropriate. Sometimes it’s easier to talk through something rather than email or chat, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.
- Set boundaries. Many people who have never worked remotely assume they could never do it because they’d be too distracted and not get anything done. However, those of us who work remotely on a regular basis know that the opposite is true. With fewer in-person distractions, it’s easier to prioritize and concentrate for long periods of time.That said, in many ways it’s harder to turn off the working mindset when you don’t have a natural boundary of an office. This is where establishing your own boundaries helps — whether it’s putting your laptop away at a certain time or only using a specific browser for work-related tasks.
Above all, it’s important to explore and adopt practices that work best for you. So long as you’re aware of what works—or doesn’t—working remotely doesn’t have to be a challenge.
And who knows, you may even be lucky enough to work from a Pacific island one day.