Four simple rules I’m giving myself for remote working.

I’ve always had mixed feelings for the chap who was stuck manning the Thunderbird 5 space station. For those of you a lot younger than I and possibly not familiar the Thunderbird 5 is a space station that is run by a single person, more often than not John Tracy.

Thunderbird 5 runs all the communications and monitors everything going on for International Rescue so it is integral to their adventures but obviously, poor JT must have felt a little left out being stuck in orbit.

That being said his role was an important one and he was pretty much left to his own devices to get his work done surrounded by his own equipment set up the way he likes it. It was probably pretty flexible around space stuff and obviously, his commute was nothing.

So not all bad, not all bad at all.

John Tracy contemplates his life

This week I’m actually embarking on my own new adventure as I take up my new position working remotely as the Digital Marketing Specialist for a veterinarian group in Mackay. Mackay is around 803 km away from where I currently sit (now humming the Thunderbirds theme tune).

It’s an exciting opportunity to work with a really focused organisation that is keen to get the best for their marketing budget and the timing was unbelievably perfect.

I’ve worked from home before and everything in my personality would seem to indicate that I would thrive in such an environment. The reality though is that in the past I have not faired well in isolation.

The Oatmeal essentially sums this up extremely well…

Actually, The Oatmeal has a very balanced take on the whole working from home thing and I highly recommend you head over there and read the rest because it is funny, damn funny and probably true.

In the past, though I’ve not really had the maturity* to be prepared for it. I was super keen to work from home but didn’t grasp the challenges and I think you can derail yourself pretty quickly. So for this grand adventure, I’m setting myself four strict guidelines that I’m hoping by sharing and articulating them here I’ll be more inclined to follow them.

Get Dressed.

Right, I know this sounds like a basic human activity (except for nudists who would do the opposite and are probably best working at home anyway) but it’s an important one. Get dressed just like you are going out to the office or to meet with someone, including shoes. I just find that if I get caught stumbling straight from breakfast in my PJs I don’t focus well and it can be lunch before I’m sorting myself out. It’s good to keep routine, I’m assuming astronauts get dressed every morning so I think I can manage some sneakers and jeans.

To Dos and Goals

You’re being paid to do a job and that job should be made up of things to do, not just killing time sitting at a desk staring blankly at a computer. I again like to keep these things simple, three things a day. Set three reasonable activities to complete in a day, do them well and call it. That’s not to say pick three tiny nothing activities. That’s abusing the system and the system should be your friend.

Set three reasonable activities to complete in a day, do them well and call it. That’s not to say pick three tiny nothing activities. That’s abusing the system and the system should be your friend.

Pick three achievable things, smash them out and then use the rest of your day productively.

Excursions

Get out of the house. I have a terrible habit of bunkering down from the rest of the world and losing all track of weeks. As much of a joy it is from all the benefits of working from home you also need to get your ass out regularly. My plan is to make sure I get into the CBD at least once a fortnight, grab some coffee with my peers and talk shop! Also heading out more regularly to the library or cafes for some quiet time with me and my laptop just to change things up!

Communication

When I freelanced web design the social web was in its infancy, long hours at home in front of a computer with no conversation took its toll and the clients I had back then really didn’t need me talking to them all the time. Something I could have done better though was giving consistent updates on activities. Working with my rule of three activities I’ve got collaboration tools that just make those kinds of updates really simple and still let the team know exactly what’s happening and feel more a part of the whole process.


There are probably a whole bunch of other methods for being remote working success stories and people like my wife are naturally built for it. But I want to focus on simplicity in this approach, simple systems work best.

Fortunately for me, the team are also open to shared workspaces in the city just in case I end up struggling more than expected. It’s really nice to have this safety net in place. I’m confident though that consistency and simplicity will see me through and I’m really aware that this is the way I want to work long term into the future so I really want to make it work. And besides this is all very exciting and I can’t wait to get down to work!!!

Hopefully, as my experience comes along it might help someone else out there who is thinking of trying remote working and I think sharing this will help me as well.

Do you currently work from home? What do you do to avoid your social skills falling to pieces?

*I understand that those who know me just giggled at my use of this term…

#remote work#work from home

  • Hey Lee,

    Congrats on the new gig and welcome (back) to the remote working crew!

    I spent a couple of years working from home 100% of the time and it went fairly well, but for the last year I’ve been getting out to local cafes or the library. I find I work better when I’m out somewhere. Although I’m currently working in a café as I type this, so I still get somewhat distracted. 🙂

    I’ve heard the Edge is good to work from if you’re looking for somewhere in the city, but I haven’t tried it because I’ve got options closer to home and when I head into the city, I generally work out of some friends’ office.

    Apart from that I generally follow what you list above. I don’t dress as well as I used to (shorts and t-shirts instead of pants and business shirt), but that doesn’t affect me.

    I generally talk (in text) all day long with others in my company via slack, so I generally feel part of things (hard when they are having cake though!). Having goals is really important too. We work in sprints, so we set goals and then have some accountability for whether we achieved them, so you can’t lounge around doing nothing even if you wanted to.

    Actually one of the things I’ve struggled with is switching off. We have staff in different time zones and when a message comes in at 10pm, sometimes it’s hard to ignore it, especially when my work computer and my personal computer are the same one…

    Anyway, good luck mate! Hope it goes well.

    • Lee

      So apologies for not replying to this man, I know we spoke on Twitter about it, still I saw this left unanswered and thought I should rectify it!

      I think during summer given the condition of my aircon I might be heading out more often, I actually haven’t been working away from home at all yet but I’m still in the establishment phase of everything and once I’m in pure content development phase I can be a little more free with where I work and with what kit. I love my laptop but struggle with focusing on coding and graphics etc.

      I’ve quickly slid into shorts and t-shirts mode LOL

      I’m lucky I do have a lot of contact with the organisation with phones calls almost daily.

      The turning off has presented itself as a problem, I’m probably too easily distracted and wind up doing more afterhours work than I intend because I’ve wandered away from the computer during the day. I really need to tighten that up!