November 22, 2018

6 Tips for Conquering the Challenges of Remote Work

I have always been in favor of remote and flexible working. Usually working from home couple of days a week has boosted my productivity – I just feel like I can concentrate better and get more stuff done when working from home. Nowadays we have all the tools needed to work from basically anywhere, as long as there is a decent internet connection and sufficient coffee supply. Therefore, when our family decided to move to Berlin earlier this year, I was certain that I would be able to continue my work full time from the comfort of our new home.

As I anticipated and as it proved out, working remotely all the time is not the same as working from home a couple of days a week. Especially when you have just relocated to a new country where you basically know no one. Therefore, I decided that I needed to start listing principles/habits that are important when working remotely for a longer period of time. I did not really come up with this list myself (so I don’t want to take the credit for it), mostly copied ideas from other blogs that I found helpful.

1. Have a designated space to do your work.
I have noticed that it is really important to have a good table and chair and to take care of proper work ergonomics. This is obviously important both at the office and at home. In addition, at home it makes sense to have a dedicated place for work (ideally a separate room) and to set certain boundaries, for example never work from the bed. This will help to separate work and family/free time – otherwise you may start to feel that you are working all the time. I invested in height adjustable table (something that we had at Helsinki office, too) so that I can stand part of the day.

2. Make a schedule.
This is actually really important for everyone, not just for remote workers, but as a remote worker I have paid more attention to it. You should always list your priorities and schedule time in your calendar for work that is related to those priorities. Otherwise, you may just end up doing something instead of those things that make the biggest difference.

3. Engage and communicate with colleagues.
I think this is the most important (and obvious) tip for remote workers. Communication is different over the phone/skype/messaging app/email than it is in person. It is important to communicate clearly when the communication is in writing. It is also important to plan how you engage regularly with your colleagues. I just recently visited our Helsinki office as well as our German office in Wiesbaden and noticed that meeting and having discussions with colleagues really boosts my energy levels and motivation.

4. Find the best meeting practices – Embrace video.
I have not used video that much myself yet, but when I have tried it few times in meetings, I have really found it helpful. It is much more engaging to have a video call when you can see the reactions of the others. I think this is something that should be generally used more at work. But even when you are not using video, it is really (really!) important to make sure that the audio quality is good for everyone participating in the meeting. When you cannot hear the discussion, you feel quite disengaged.

5. Limit the distractions.
That one has been quite easy. There are lot less distractions at home than at the office.

6. Have breaks.
I try to have a proper lunch break every day or go for a walk or cycling during the day. I really helps to keep me focused and productive throughout the day.

Besides the things listed above, I have noticed that the main challenge I have faced when working remotely is the lack of direct contact with colleagues (or other human beings in general), which sometimes makes me feel isolated. Therefore, I have found that the most important thing is to actively seek social contacts – for example through hobbies or other interests. Social networks (e.g. Linkedin, Meetup) are also very helpful in finding people that have same interests or are in similar situation.

I find it extremely inspiring and motivating how RELEX as a company trusts its employees and gives them flexibility to work remotely, something that is not encouraged in all companies. Having this possibility has enabled me and my wife to fulfil our life-long dream to move and work abroad.

Tuomo works as legal counsel in the RELEX Finance & People Central team. He holds an LL.M. degree and regularly supports sales teams in getting contracts signed with customers, helps making sure that RELEX complies with the applicable laws, and answers to a broad spectrum of questions from his colleagues relating to legal topics. Tuomo has recently moved to Berlin with his family and works most of the time remotely from home. When not working, Tuomo likes to spend time with his family, go bouldering & climbing and do outdoor activities.

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