How to Get Better at Working Remotely #FutureOfWork

How to Get Better At working REmotely by Mukesh Gupta

We are entering an era where more and more of our work is going to be done not in office but elsewhere, either because commuting to office is getting worse due to traffic or because a lot of the people who work are not full-time employees but individual service providers or because of ubiquitous availability of connectivity.

My work involves a lot of travel for me and which in turn means that I am working out of cabs or airports, Starbuck’s or hotel rooms. So, in the past six years of working remotely, I have gained some interesting and may be even counter-intuitive learnings about working remotely.

I must say that I found it tough to work remotely. For me, the environment of people all around me working on their laptops or talking into their phones is a big part of my considering myself to be at work. So, my productivity used to be remarkably lower when I was working remotely when compared to my productivity when I was working out of my office. I know that a lot of my friends and colleagues share this loss of productivity with me. This is why, when Marissa Meyer revoked the work from home policy at Yahoo, I was vocal in my support of her decision.

However, I have also realised that my productivity when working remotely has been constantly rising in the past few quarters and I felt it would be a good idea to share some of the learnings from my improvement in the hope that it helps you and people in your team:

Working Remotely ≠ Working from home:

Even though I have a full office set-up for myself at home, I have found that working out of my home doesn’t work for me. Somehow, the physical space of my home doesn’t allow me to focus on work. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work from home. However, it is important for us to realise if working from home works for us or not.

If you are like me and find it to be less productive, then it is important that we find some space close to our home that then becomes our work space.

This could be a cafe close to our home or a hotel lobby or a co-working space that is close to our homes. This way, we benefit from not having to commute long distances but at the same time do not lose our productivity because of working from a space that hinders our productivity.

Work from the same or similar place:

One of the behavioural insights that I have learnt by studying a lot of the works done by many behavioural scientists is that physical space have a significant impact on our emotional state and therefore on our productivity. So, it is a good idea for us to find a specific kind of space that works for us and then stick with that kind of space, so that we emotionally connect that space with productive work.

I find that when I am working out of a cafe (more specifically from a Starbucks cafe), my productivity is much higher when compared to working anywhere else. So, when I am travelling outside my city and at times even within my home town, I prefer to go to a Starbucks cafe and work from there rather than go all the way to my office or work from home. I know that there is a Starbucks cafe in every city that I generally travel to and the physical and emotional space of each one of these cafe is very similar to one another. So, even when I am in different stores, I feel like I am in the same kind of space, which is familiar to me and allows me to increase my productivity.

Specific work at Specific Place:

We all do different kinds of work – some operational, some analytical and hopefully some creative. I find that it is a good idea to associate certain spaces with certain kinds of work. I know that I am extremely productive when I am doing my operational stuff, network to build influence within my organisation, when I am in my office. Same way, I am at my creative best when I am at the Starbucks cafe and my analytical best when I am in a hotel room (or a meeting room in my office), when there is no one to disturb me. I find that it is easy and more productive for me to read when I am in an airplane or in the back of a cab or listen to an audio book when I am driving.

It takes some effort for us to what space works for what kinds of work. But once we do know about this, I think it is best if we schedule our work in such a way that we are able to leverage the best space for the kind of work that we plan to do on any given day.

Conclusion:

Irrespective of where we work remotely, I think it is important that we take time to do the following:

  1. Get up and exercise. It can be as simple as getting up and going up for a short, quick walk or a burst of sit-ups or push-ups or skips.
  2. Stay hydrated. When we are working remotely, from a cafe, for example, there is  good chance that you end-up consuming a lot of tea/coffee vs water. It is critical that we stay hydrated.
  3. Use the time we save productively. One of the benefits of working remotely is that we save time commuting to and from office. It is a good idea to invest that time on educating or training ourselves. I do a lot of reading (you can follow what I am reading on GoodReads here).

Also, by taking time and being mindful of the space where we are working and the impact it has on our productivity, we can start identifying ways to improve our productivity while also continuing to improve ourselves.

The ability to do productive work remotely is going to be critical in the near future. Click To Tweet

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