Emotions and Remote Work

If you work from home you probably already know about all of the benefits and pitfalls that come with working in the same place that you sleep, eat, and relax. Sometimes it’s pretty great to be able to wake up, stagger to the kitchen for coffee, and then stagger back to your desk to start your day. Other times it seems like you’re stuck in place, and it’s that feeling of being stuck that can significantly impact your work performance. It doesn’t matter how great the positive aspects of working from home are if you feel like you’re trapped. You can have fantastic days where your output is almost unbelievable, and yet you’ll still feel like the day was a loss. You can have days where your output is almost negative and feel almost the same, and that is the heart of the issue. You’re working from home to increase output and job satisfaction, so once it starts to look like that might not be working you need to find new solutions, and fast.

I’ve been working from my home office for almost two years now, and in that time I’ve run the entire emotional gamut. I’ve been ecstatic about the opportunity, comfortable in my decisions on when to bother putting on pants, happy to see my kids come in the office door to tell me something interesting about their day, annoyed when my kids come in the office door to tell me something interesting about their day…and increasingly disconnected. I’m probably more connected to my family and home than ever before, which is an amazing thing, but I’m increasingly disconnected from friends and my community. It seems like that’s quickly become a significant issue for me, but it might have been creeping up longer than I realize.

Maybe you’re just getting settled into a role where you work remotely, or maybe you’ve been doing it for a lot longer than I, but either way you’re going to experience many of the same emotions and concerns during your homebound adventure.  Let’s talk about some things that I’ve learned to help get you out of the ruts.

Vary Your Workspace

Just like in an office building, sometimes you need to mix up your workspace to help spark new creativity and ideas. Coming into a room that looks exactly the same every day for months or years is not conducive to energizing your work or helping you think outside the box. Rearrange your desk, add a new item, take something away, change the direction your desk faces, add some plants, the list of small inexpensive changes you can make is almost endless. You’ll be surprised how just the smallest changes can help make things feel new, if only for a little while.

Don’t get dependent on co-working locations or coffee shops to provide you with variety. It’s a good idea to make a trip to a new work location at least once a week, but it needs to be on the day you have the most flexibility with your schedule. If you’ve got a ton of calls and important notes to review then it’s not a great day to be sitting next to the college kid telling you all about his new app idea even though you haven’t responded to anything he’s said for several minutes. Just try to be smart about your out-of-office-but-still-in-office days.

Don’t Be a Recluse

It’s a very real danger, as silly as it might seem. “If you work remotely then you can work from anywhere. I’ll just work from an new coffee shop each week.” Probably not. The draw to your home workspace is going to be pretty strong, especially when you need to concentrate and the constant stream of distraction in a public place just won’t do. At some point you’re going to realize that you’re no longer engaging with your community in any real way, and no social media is not enough.

You’re also going to occasionally get into the habit of waking up at the last possible minute, getting your coffee cup, and shuffling to your desk to sit down and start working while you’re not even fully conscious. That probably sounds pretty good if you’re used to getting ready and hopping in your car for a commute that makes a day in prison seem like a vacation. Eventually though it starts to eat at your soul. You’ve got to get and get ready for the day, no matter how tempting it is to skip your shower until lunch time (or never), and let yourself feel like a real and productive human.

Speaking of feeling like a human, get outside! Take walks during the day. Find local trails and walking parks or just walk around your neighborhood. If you were participating with clubs, groups, or civic organizations and you see that you’re no longer really going to the meetings or engaging in real world conversations then it’s time to recommit to those causes. Remember, you joined these groups for a reason and they provide a necessary outlet for decompressing from work.

Monitor and Organize Your Time Better

It’s too easy to spread out your work over a 10-14 hour period when you’re working from home, and sometimes that level of commitment is absolutely necessary for a project to be successful, but it can’t be your norm. You also start realize that you’re not necessarily getting more done in those extended hours, you’re just spreading it out more and eating into your personal and family time.

Organize your time into manageable chunks. Make lists and check things off, but make sure those things are actually doable in small chunks. If you have a project in place and one of your lines on the list is “complete project” then you’re never even going to get started. You might feel like you’re spending too much time just breaking down your workday into lists when you could just be working, and for some people that might be true, but for most of us the benefit of marking off real progress outweighs any lost time.

Be a Part of the Team

This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned in the last two years. Being several hours away from the rest of the team makes it hard to feel like you’re a part of the company. You can start to feel like a third-party contractor more than a vital part of a cohesive group. There’s a lot of ways to try and overcome this feeling, but none of them work as well as actually going to the office and seeing the people you work with in person. I make it to our office at least once a quarter, but really it should be more than that. If you live in the same city as your company HQ then I highly recommend going in and working in an open space at least once a month.

Conference calls and video chats only go so far. Don’t go into working from home expecting to never have to speak with people again. An email or Slack only existence is a lonely and unfulfilling nightmare. Don’t let that scare you away from being an amazing remote worker though, and don’t let the naysayers convince you that it’s impossible to be super-productive and away at the same time. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but if you know you can do it then just strap in and enjoy the experience!

Google Slides for Ultimate Guides

You’ve probably already read an article about using Google Slides to create your next Pitch Deck, and it’s definitely the most user-friendly option out there for creating a general image of your new company, but while working on my first “Ultimate Guide” this week I ended up using it to massively cut down on the amount of time I would have spent formatting and creating background designs. Did I end up with an amazingly unique guide that will blow people’s minds? No, but I did end up with something full of useful information, in a reasonably clean format, and with a nice aesthetic.

If you’re not familiar with Google Slides already you might be wondering why it’s special at all. A few highlights of using Slides over Powerpoint include its speed, easy editing across your entire deck, automatic Google Drive saves, and tons of integrations with other services. I’ve never created a presentation in PowerPoint as quickly as I’ve produced informative and good looking decks in Slides. That may be my own shortcoming, but I think a lot of people would fall into the same category of “I know how to use PowerPoint, but the last time I really made anything cool was in school.”

Let’s talk about the type of “Ultimate Guide” you might be considering creating, and whether using Google Sheets would make sense for you.

Text Heavy Guide – Nope. It’s not that you couldn’t use Slides to create a text heavy guide that truly is an “Ultimate Guide” to your selected subject, but if you’re producing something more along the lines of a peer reviewed article then you need to look elsewhere.

Image Heavy Guide – Probably a good choice. Most “Ultimate Guides” out there are really just thinly veiled attempts at marketing a product by providing some extra information and pretty pictures in a guide that lasts 5-10 pages. If your guide includes less than a full single-spaced page in Word worth of text then Slides is great choice. Plus with all of the free themes already out there you can easily select a solid looking presentation, drop in your text, and be done quickly.

Mixed-Media Guide – Sharing a good amount of information, but you don’t want the user to get bored too quickly? Slides makes it easy to mix images, text, and video into something visually engaging. The variety of export options make it easy to share your creation. This is the type of guide that I recently created and had a great experience overall.

Here’s some handy links that go into a lot more detail on creating in Google Slides:

Why Google Slides beats Powerpoint Presentation What is Google Slides?

5 Reasons to Replace PowerPoint with Google Slides

Differences Between Google Slides And Microsoft PowerPoint

Free Powerpoint templates and Google Slides themes for your presentations

Free Google Slides Templates

Free Templates for PowerPoint/Google Slides

Get started with Slides

10 Tips for Using Google Slides Like a Pro

Looking for the “Ultimate Guide” that I created? Head over to GetMyButton.com and sign up for the “Ultimate Guide to Emergency Alert Systems” and get your copy today! It’s totally free and you can learn about how Emergency Alert Systems might be right for you or a loved one.