Remote for a Week – My Experience

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At the beginning of February, I decided to do 1 whole week of remote working. Why? I want to try and understand the real experience of it. Granted, it’s only one week, but I’ve only ever done the odd day or two here and there for my whole time (2 and a half years!) at DevOpsGroup (DOG for short). So to me, I’ve never felt the full experience.

Before I started my remote week, I asked the remote workers at DOG what their top tips and tricks were – after all, they are the experts!  All of their advice massively helped me with setting up the right area, mindset and most importantly making it an enjoyable time whilst at home!

So, let’s get to it. What did I actually learn whilst remote working for a full week?

The right setup gets you in the right frame of mind

For me, I have the perfect setup in the office. Nice spacious desk, a monitor and comfortable/adjustable chair. At home? Well, that was a different story for me. The first and second day I decided to set myself up in the kitchen. Bad move Lucy, bad move. I was getting distracted by the TV, thinking about slouching on the sofa and what unnecessary snacks I could eat. The wooden chair I was sitting on was comfortable for two hours, max.

All of this was very distracting so for the rest of the week, I set myself up in the spare bedroom. I had a desk (aka a dressing table) and a proper chair. Granted, it wasn’t the comfiest, but it was a lot better than the one in the kitchen! It also meant I had a quiet, working space, something I never thought I’d need. But, being able to have an area felt like I was in work mode It also helped as no one was distracting me or asking you to do some house chores (mum wasn’t happy when I said I couldn’t do the washing up ha!)

Top Tip:
Create an office space not too dissimilar to your setup in work. It will hopefully give you the right mindset for the day and help with having a separate work environment which can help with the work/life balance. Being able to shut the door of the office will help with being able to shut off from work for the day. 

Video calls make conversations more personal

Having collaboration tools such as Slack and Zoom on hand have certainly made the remote experience a much more engaging one. It means you still get interaction with work colleagues. Yes, interaction is definitely less often compared to being in the office and you do feel lonely at times (I wish I had a dog to keep me company!) but the tools are good for keeping in the loop with things and just day to day chat. I was glad when I had a Zoom call, it was nice to speak to a human, rather than listening to the radio or Spotify. However, there were some times where I wanted to be asked how my day was, what my plans were for the week etc. So one tip I learnt is to make those conversations happen yourself. Before heading into a meeting, ask people on the call a simple questions such as ‘how are you?’. They make such a difference to your day!

Top Tip:
If you find yourself in a conversation via email/instant messaging goes on for too long, why not make it a call? Think about how much more interactive, quicker or effective it would be!

It’s easy to stay indoors and not take a break

…So easy (especially if you are in your loungewear all day, which I’d advise you not to do – I learnt that rule quickly!). The first two days I stayed in, the weather had been miserable and the last thing I wanted to was get absolutely drenched in the rain. But, I decided to head to the gym on my lunch on Thursday and it was the perfect break. I got some exercise in and was a way to get out of the house (winner winner!) It was also a good way to refresh my mind and helped to get me to be focused for the remainder of the day.

Top Tip:
As well as lunch breaks, ensure you take regular 10/15 minute breaks away from the screen. When in the office, this would normally be when going to make a cuppa or when in a meeting room. Make sure you do the same when working remotely. It’s easy not too!

Productivity is increased…

I felt like I was on a roll with my work! Fewer distractions and “have you got 5 minutes?” conversations (which is usually more than a 15-minute talk) had disappeared which meant I could get my head down and crack on with some work. I am someone who finds it hard to focus from time to time, so working remotely has helped me conquer getting on with prioritising my work for the day (a list massively helps me) and completing bigger pieces of work (like this blog for example!). With few distractions also comes fewer people interacting with you. I love being surrounded by others when I work, and so being remote was strange for me, I missed the general chit chat, getting to speak to people when making a cuppa (I did find I talked to myself a lot more!) But then again, I got so much more work done, I felt super productive and gave me the boost I needed!

…But, it’s hard to switch off once the work day is done

By keeping an eye on the time I was able to plan in my head what I would do and when. Most importantly, it made me think “I haven’t had a tea break yet this morning” and it forced me to take a break. It also helped with the end of the day. It is so easy to carry on with work and think “I won’t be long finishing this” but think about how easy that could end up being a good few hours.

Top Tip:
Set yourself an alarm on your phone to remind you that it’s the end of the day. It seems silly, but it worked for me. I finished my conversations, updated my tickets and work and then shut my laptop off, with no guilt.

Know when it’s the right time to speak to colleagues

Everyone (at some point) has been a culprit to sending an evening Slacks and email – but there are things you can do to feel like you don’t have to reply. One of our ways of working in the People team is having set times for when we can message the team (eg, we have a rule of 8 am till 6 pm). That’s not to say you can’t answer a message when it’s urgent or even complete some of your own work in your own time, it is just to ensure some boundaries are set (we all deserve a break from work!).

Top Tip:
When sending a message outside of work hours, consider if it needs to be sent there and then and can wait until the next day. Most importantly, think about how it can affect someone. If they receive that message, do you expect them to reply straight away? I didn’t really experience whilst remote working, but always think it’s important to highlight!

I hope you enjoyed this snippet of my remote week. It has definitely given me a different outlook on remote working for sure. Everyone has a way of working, and granted, people’s experiences may be different from mine, but it has taught me to be mindful of remote workers and the interaction you have with them!

Do you have any hints and tips on remote working? If so, let me know.

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