Many of us do not enjoy the regular morning commute so it’s no surprise that more and more people skip it altogether. With half of the UK workforce predicted to be working remotely by 2020, are we leaving ourselves open to feelings of isolation, boredom and comparison with others?
As someone who took the freelance plunge last year, I’ve honestly found complete joy in the absence of office politics and plastic-wrapped meal deals. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes crave a stricter routine (or someone to bring me biscuits) when a deadline looms.
As with anything in life we treasure, remote working is something we need to nurture in order to see it bear fruit. So to inspire you, here are some things I’ve found keep me cheerful when working from home.
Immerse yourself in your freedom
Ask anyone who’s recently left a toxic relationship or draining job (or someone who’s found themselves child-free for the weekend) total freedom can be overwhelming. And it can be difficult to know what to actually do.
On my first day working remotely, I found myself at my desk (dining room table) at 8am, mindlessly preparing lunch at 1pm and ‘clocking off’ at 6pm - without even leaving the house. It was exactly what I’d been doing at the job I just left. Minus the lunch time trip to the supermarket - and guilt about not tackling housework during the day. It left me with an awful, flat feeling.
The moment I realised I had autonomy over how I spent my time was completely liberating. And let’s just say the second day was different. In fact, I think I took the ‘day off’.
I didn’t set an alarm and when I woke up, I headed to the local pool and swam some lengths. I stopped off at the local Deli and picked up some ingredients for a fresh lunch. I caught up with emails in the evening... because I could. For the first time since starting school, I wasn’t restricted by a morning alarm or pre arranged timetable which brought a deep sense of contentment to my life I haven’t yet had to shake.
Giving yourself over to the freedom of your new working-from-home life will give you that same moment of clarity. Of course, you’ll still have to carve out time for meetings, phone calls and family commitments. But the rest of your time is yours. Isn’t that amazing?
Create your own routine
When people ask me how my first few months of remote working went, I describe it as a ‘free for all’ - in a totally positive way. You see, in order to find my most productive, creative hours I knew I needed to experiment.
Some days I stayed up until 2am watching Netflix, beginning work at 2pm the next day. Other days I set an alarm for 6am to walk around my local park before anyone else set foot there. I worked full weekends. And no weekends. I worked from a ‘proper desk’, but also slouched on the sofa with a distinctly hygge-ish blanket. I took some phone calls late at night - and told other clients I was unavailable in the evenings.
Without doing this, I would never have known what works best for me. The best parts of my experiment were the moments I surprised myself. I’d thought of myself as an ‘early bird’ for most of my life, frequently being the first to leave late night get-togethers and the first to wake up at weekends. I’m actually a night owl who’s best ideas come between 10pm and 1am. Who knew?
As a reserved introvert I also thought I’d love long days of solitude at home. I’d seen people typing furiously in cafes and wondered how they coped with the chatter of customers and clang of the coffee machine. Pitching up at a bustling bistro however, I hustled through my to do list at an unprecedented pace and was totally taken aback. Now I head out to cafes whenever I can - or at least whenever an invoice clears so I can have a hot chocolate or three.
If you’re just beginning your remote working adventure, a note journal can help you create your perfect routine. Trial having no routine for a few weeks, jotting down times you felt were productive - or not. Soon you’ll be able to banish procrastination for good by deciding on working hours that uniquely reflect you .
Remind yourself of your ‘why’
A few months in, I found myself busier than expected and things became a bit relentless. It felt like all I did was work, sleep and then wake up and work some more.
Then I imagined how I felt at my last job - the tiresome gossip, tedious meetings with no outcome, someone telling me their plans for the weekend for the third (hundredth) time - without asking me mine. I couldn’t ever imagine going back and realised I needed to lean into gratitude whenever motivation was lacking.
Whether you’ve chosen remote working for its environmental benefits, flexibility for family time or you’ve just accepted yourself as an introvert who likes home comforts, it’s important to always keep these feelings at the surface. Especially when you’re rushed off your feet - or things are a little quiet.
If vision boards are your bag, be sure to include a section on your decision to work from home. Focus less on how Instagram-perfect your workspace looks and tap into the gratitude of being able to meet your mum for a coffee on a Wednesday afternoon. Prefer scribbling down your innermost thoughts? Try keeping a note of three things made easier by working from home each day. Trust me, I had a few more than three during the snowstorm in January.
Cultivate an online community
Remote workers everywhere use the online world as a lifeline to the real world. But there’s no denying social media is experiencing a backlash at present. From the recent influencer scandals to public calls for stricter laws on trolling, it can feel as though the internet’s ugly head is constantly rearing. To get around this, we have to think about why social media was created in the first place and why we actually like using it. For me, it’s all about connection and community.
Myself (and many other remote workers) need social media to spark conversations, inspire creativity and build networks to replace bonds with colleagues and nurture relationships with clients. In fact, I often use Instagram to approach businesses that may need my services, ask influencers I like out for coffee and connect local businesses with each other.
You can also use social media to translate these online friendships into real life. Attend that retreat organised by the self-help coach you follow. Go to the pop-up event organised by your favourite digital magazine. Find someone that does the same job as you and ask them if they fancy lunch. Authentic connections with like minded (and perhaps not so likeminded) people are crucial in creating working-from-home cheerfulness.
Remote working - the new normal
With the traditional ‘9-5’ becoming extinct, getting a grip on what it means to work from home could be your secret weapon to conquering the illusive work-life balance. And who knows, perhaps true happiness could be just you and your laptop. And the laundry pile. Because you still have to do that. No one ever tells you that bit.
Words: Abi Rose - Abi is a collaborative, curious and creative marketing consultant, social media specialist and writer living life slowly in the Peak District.
Abi’s website: https://www.abirose.co/
Abis Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iamabirose/
Images: Ben & Katharina Geissler-Evans, heiter magazine