When Bonnie Green pitched the idea of transitioning to full-time remote work, her boss wasn’t exactly thrilled. “I think he felt pretty torn, because he wanted to support me in pursuing my goals, but there were also many unknowns, and he wasn’t willing to take that risk,” she shares. “Luckily, the story doesn’t end there!”
Green — who had been working as an executive assistant to the heads of the brand and HR departments at online banking platform Simple for just shy of two years — was given the opportunity to start talking with the company about what the details of a potential remote arrangement might look like. Ultimately, she transitioned to supporting other corporate leaders who were more comfortable with the concept. In early 2017, Green and her husband (who had quit his job) sold all of their possessions and packed their laptops and labradoodles into a Jeep. For the better part of this year, she’s been working remotely full-time from campsites.
“We’re nomadic in the sense that we’re literally moving all of the time, but we don’t have a bucket list of places we’re trying to go,” Green explains. “We’re most interested in finding free dispersed camping in national forests with killer cell signal.”
Green and her husband spent the summer in the Pacific Northwest and are planning to go to southern California for the winter. They tend to stay in one camp spot for a full workweek, traveling only on the weekends to maximize Green’s time on the job. (Yes, she works primarily out of a tent!) A cell signal booster helps her maintain a strong connection, and she says she’s taken video calls everywhere from library study rooms to highway rest areas.
While many of the challenges Green has experienced are specific to the especially unique nature of her remote arrangement — for example, she had to figure out how to protect herself from sun and bugs and type with frozen fingers! — she does have some general advice for aspiring remote employees across all industries and lifestyles. “Working remotely is not a vacation, so don’t expect one,” she reminds. “If anything, it’s going to take extra energy to stay engaged and motivated. Also, working remotely is not a substitute for having functional work relationships. Be sure you’re not trying to escape or avoid something or someone.” Keep scrolling for nine more tips from Bonnie about how to work effectively from your home office, from the road, or even from a campsite.
1. Establish rituals to start and end your workday. “Sure, you could stay in bed all day and not wear pants — or you could wake up early enough to shower, eat a nourishing breakfast, and transition into a working frame of mind,” Green says. “I also like to take a solo walk at the end of the workday. It simulates a commute and helps me transition to home time.” If you’ve chosen the remote work route, you may think you don’t need these rituals, but implementing them at the beginning and end of each day will ensure that you’re segmenting your life in a healthy way and being efficient and effective both personally and professionally.
2. Be honest with yourself about your social needs. Extroverts especially might struggle with the transition to working outside of an office environment full-time. Green urges intentionality in staying in touch with friends and colleagues via phone, text, and social media.
3. Get clear on when you’re expected to travel to the office. Chances are that your presence will be expected IRL back at home base at least once in a while. Find out how often you’ll need to check in, how the travel budget will work for those trips, and how you’ll be expected to spend your time while you’re there. Green plans her trips back to the office so she can arrive a day before she’s needed, allowing extra time to get settled and focused.
4. Make the time you’re in the office really count. Use face time to your advantage! If possible, plan your trips around company events or major meetings so that you can see lots of colleagues and be an active participant in the corporate culture while you’re in town.
5. Practice the setup for your video calls. If you’re considering working remotely, video conferences are probably going to become a major part of your day. You’ll need to become an expert at staging them! “Consider noise, lighting, and your visual background,” Green suggests. “It can be distracting to folks in the office when you’re in a really busy environment or if your camera keeps refocusing due to poor light.”
6. Consider using a secondary device as your camera for video calls. The camera that comes built into your laptop might not be the best option. Green tells us that she uses her phone on a tripod as her camera for video calls. This allows for a faster internet connection (her phone is her hotspot) and frees up her laptop for other necessary meeting functions.
7. Get comfortable with asking for what you need. Just because you’re not a familiar face around the office doesn’t mean that your managers and coworkers are any less interested in making sure that you have the resources necessary to do the best job possible. “Whether it’s an ergonomic setup for your home office or requesting that meeting attendees direct their voices to the mic in the room, you’re going to have to speak up!” Green encourages. “Usually, people want to support you, but they can’t be expected to read your mind.”
8. Exercise patience with your colleagues. Working remotely is still a relatively new idea for the general population, and if you’re one of the first within your company to make the leap, your coworkers may have a lot of questions about how you’ll do your job. You should expect to address those questions and help them better understand how you can work together for the good of the company, even in a unique coworking arrangement.
9. Don’t underestimate the impact of working in different time zones. It’s all about expectations. If your home base is in a different time zone from the rest of your company, be sure to have a conversation with your employer to establish the time zone it’s best for you to be clocking in to, as well as when you’re expected to be available.
Do you work remotely? We’d love to hear your tips! Tweet them to us @BritandCo.