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A friend of mine told me today that he just can’t work from home. He simply cannot do it. This guy enjoys his work, he likes his team, he’s great at what he does, and he feels a sense of responsibility to his employer. It made me wonder: What makes him incapable of working from home, when others have no problem at all? What is it that we remote workers have, that others don’t?
You knew this was going to be first up, and it’s probably the single biggest factor in remote working success. Discipline isn’t just about staying focused when it’s a nice day outside and no one really knows what you’re doing. It’s also about keeping reasonable and appropriate working hours, and keeping commitments outside of work as well as within. Generally, I think of discipline as the thing that lets you hold up your end of the deal you made with your employer, as well as the one you made with yourself.
I tend to think of my time as being fairly compartmentalized: When it’s work time, I do work, and that’s pretty much all I do and think about. And though I do sometimes think about work outside designated hours, I never actually look at work-related stuff in my downtime. It’s a sort of knack I’ve developed. Being able to become absorbed by work can be very handy for the remote worker — so long as you can snap out of it at knock-off time.
You have to care about something to work remotely. You probably need to be passionate about what you do, or the temptation to slack off my soon prove too great. But if you don’t harbor a wild enthusiasm for your job, you’ll have to have a vivid appreciation of what remote working gives you: perhaps it’s more time in your day to do other things, perhaps it’s simply a life without partitions.
I’m fortunate in that I have both a passion for what I do, and for the things working remotely affords me. It’s not all roses, and there are things I miss about working in an office, but overall, I love doing what I do, and doing it remotely.
Motivation really is crucial for remote workers, but especially so for those who aren’t on a salary. We all know how hard it can be to get out of bed on Monday morning; it’s even harder when bed is five meters from work. And you need serious, world-class drive to get up and going.
I get around the big motivation issues by making them non-negotiable. I always start my workday at the same time — that way, I don’t have to make decisions about whether or not to spend another half hour watching TV before I begin work, or how much time to take for lunch. If I have decisions to make, it’s all too tempting to take the “easy” option rather than just sitting down and getting on with it.
Perhaps you have a great boss and some cool colleagues who make it very easy to work remotely. Maybe you have a sterling family, who respect your work time and space and give you lots of latitude. Possibly you have a geeky neighbor who helped you set up your network and now acts as your tech support in return for occasional lawn mowing.
The point is, remote working is impossible without support at some point in the process. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized that I had all these supports — and more — helping me to make the most of the remote working experience. And I thank them for that on a regular basis!
What are the characteristics that make you a successful remote worker? Which do you think is most important?