If you've ever imagined working from home -- or most anywhere away from the confines of a traditional office environment -- you certainly aren't alone. With advances in technology and more flexible employers, the number of remote employees meeting their professional obligations outside the office is skyrocketing.
A poll of some 15,000 adults was conducted by Gallup last year to gauge the number of Americans who post a "gone fishin'" sign on their cubicles and spend at least some of their workweeks elsewhere. The survey found that 43% of American workers spend at least a day or two per week out of the office. The number of employees who spend all, or nearly all, of their week remotely has grown to 31%, up from 24% five years ago.
Sounds good, right? It certainly can be, if you follow a few simple steps.
1. Establish and maintain a private work area
Set aside a separate room, if your residence allows for it, or a distinct area within a larger room if need be, to be a designated workspace. Some -- particularly employees new to working remotely -- go so far as to take their laptops to another part of the home for casual use after the workday.
The line of reasoning behind conducting strictly business-related functions in the work area is that if you were an office-bound employee, you probably wouldn't spend too much time on social-media sites or responding to personal emails, so some choose to maintain that same level of discipline. Also, let your family know -- particularly young children, if applicable -- that you're "at work," so frequent interruptions become a thing of the past.
2. Set time aside daily
One of the biggest roadblocks to successfully working remotely is an unstructured work day. The "I'll get to that later" mindset can start remote employees down the wrong path, and once that journey's begun, it's all too easy for it to become negatively habit-forming.
So stick to your routine, and also include designated breaks. Just as your fellow employees do at the office, you'll need a few minutes throughout the day to stretch your legs, clear your head, or maybe just get away from the grind for a bit.
3. Go mobile
Find a favorite coffee shop and work there if you're able to. Personally, I've found the hustle and bustle of a shop or restaurant has always hampered my productivity. Or try working at the home of a family member or friend with a reliable internet connection. Give one, or more, of the various mobile work opportunities a try, at least periodically.
Everyone has their own notion of what constitutes "ideal working conditions," of course, but many remote employees love an occasional change of venue. For those who can, regularly taking responsibilities mobile is often considered one of the more appealing aspects of working remotely.
4. Enjoy what you do
It may sound simplistic: After all, who doesn't want to find a position with great colleagues, that's challenging professionally, and that offers all the benefits most of us look for in a role, including good compensation and benefits? But enjoyment is critical for those working remotely.
If the day-to-day professional responsibilities of your job are mind-numbing, or you simply don't enjoy the work for any other reason, it's far too easy to skimp on the critical steps that make working remotely such a positive experience.
5. Follow your instincts
The tips above are just those: tips. Most successful remote workers already incorporate some, if not all, of the suggestions listed. That said, we're all individuals, so what works for some -- again, the coffee shop is a no-go for me -- may not be the best solution for others.
Another example is that some pundits suggest never working remotely in sweatpants, pajamas, or other around-the-house clothes, because it can set the wrong "tone" for a work environment. But after nearly 20 years in a suit and tie, believe me, I've found working in sweats is a highlight of being remote.
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