When you first start working from home, you learn a lot about yourself. I know I did.
Maybe you used to be the type of person to get into the office, put your headphones on and not look up until lunch time or home time. You might be finding the calm and quiet of working at home refreshing and invigorating.
Or maybe you were someone who spent a lot of time chatting, discussing and having one-on-one conversations with your team. You might be missing other humans and finding home life more than a bit isolating.
Or maybe you fall somewhere in between—like me. You’re enjoying the freedom of working from home, but you also crave human interaction throughout the day.
I’ve been working remotely for over three years now, and let me tell you—I found the adjustment hard. Well, actually, I found the adjustment more like great, then hard, then really hard, then manageable, then good, then great again.
What I found most surprising was that it wasn’t tough adjusting from logging into a computer at the office to logging into a computer at home—that was easy. Instead, what shocked me the most was how hard the adjustment was mentally.
I’ve since found my new normal, and I’m thriving. So here’s my advice for how to find yours when you start experiencing the dark side of working remotely.
#1: Track how you’re feeling throughout the day
Something you may never have noticed when working in an office is how often your mood changes from one moment to the next.
Maybe, first thing in the morning, you get a compliment from someone about your work and you feel uplifted. Then later, you get slammed with an endless stream of to-dos needed done by the end of the day—and the pressure mounts.
This is a totally normal work situation, and one we can all probably relate to. Typically, you’d take the compliment and feel good—then move on with your day with a spring in your step. Later, you’d probably take the last minute deadline with a scoff or a deep sigh, then buckle down and just get it done.
But what I found when working from home, is how much more intense the changes to your mood these experiences can cause. It was like being at home put a microscope over every single interaction, moment and situation at work and left me feeling everything at 10X the power.
Instead of feeling good vibes about the compliment, I would feel absolutely elated and stoked to be recognized. Instead of feeling mildly annoyed about the last minute deadlines, I’d get so upset I’d contemplate quitting.
After doing my research and trying to understand why this was happening, I realized that there was an elephant in the room that I wasn’t addressing: isolation.
Research shows that, for humans, being around other people is the key to how we handle emotions. But when we’re isolated, we’re not as grounded as normal. Things can go out of whack—including, and especially, how we feel.
That’s when I decided to start tracking my moods throughout the day. I created a simple google sheet with the hour and the feeling I was having at that time. I started to recognize the link between my environment and my thoughts and feelings.
This helped me understand what were common triggers, and helped me develop healthier habits. While I don’t need to do it as often now, this helped me in the early days find my new normal, and thrive.
#2: Make an effort to reach out to other humans
Speaking of healthy habits, you need to make time for reaching out to other humans. Even if it’s just a virtual hello.
Maybe this sounds like you’re an alien from another planet and universe; that’s exactly how it can feel when you get into the weeds of working remotely. It’s like you’re existing in another world, on a planet far, far away from everyone else.
That’s why you need to bring yourself back to reality and make human contact. And do it as often as possible.
Human interaction helps us manage stress and feel connected. Without it, a lot of bad things can happen. Research shows that loneliness can affect our ability to self-regulate and make good choices. It can also have negative side effects to our health, can cause illness, and has been linked to cognitive decline.
The gist? Make an effort to shake off the isolation and loneliness by reaching out to other people. You don’t need to see them IRL, digital hangouts will work just as well.
Start by reaching out to your colleagues—email, chat or video calls will do the trick.
Regularly call and text friends and fam. Send photos to give people a snapshot into your world and ask for them to do the same so you can see a snapshot of theirs.
Combined, these interactions will help you establish healthy routines that keep you grounded, feeling fresh and…well, human.
#3: Advocate for better remote collaboration tools
This is a big one. When I first started working remotely, I was too timid to speak up about remote collaboration tools and changing or creating new processes. I would “okay” the fact that processes weren’t ironed out yet and that I was often missing a lot of context, a lot of the time.
But as I got more into working remotely, I realized that this was affecting my ability to deliver great work—and as such, things needed to change.
So I started advocating for clear processes and remote tools that would help us all work better, together, no matter where in the world we were.
Here were the three items I identified as critical:
- No more rabbit holes trying to find out who put what where. Instead, everything we do, write or say should all be in one place.
- Everything should be accessible from anywhere, at any time. It’s the 21st century: we should be able to get work done on desktop, phone or tablet, all from within the same tool.
- Visibility into who’s working on what. When working remotely, it’s important to understand the status and progress of work, especially if your progress is contingent on someone else’s. A tool that easily makes that clearly visible is key.
Your new normal is easy to find
In the end, after you settle into working remotely, you’ll inevitably find what works best for you. You’ll understand more about what triggers you to feel happy and motivated, and what creates the opposite effect. You’ll then discover which habits and routines make managing your isolation easier, like regular human interactions and discussions—even if they’re virtual.
Finally, by choosing great remote collaboration tools that help (not hinder) better remote working processes, you’ll be more productive and efficient. You’ll find your new normal, and you’ll thrive.
DoneDone makes remote collaboration easy-as-pie
Remote teams love using DoneDone because it makes remote collaboration across teams simple. From better team communication, to improved processes, progress visibility and accessibility, it’ll help you work better, remotely together.
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