5 lessons I learned going 100% remote, you don't need to learn yourself

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Home Office is a test for any personal organization system: How to set boundaries between private and professional life? How do I keep in touch with peers and customers? How can you stay focused while so many distractions are right at your fingertips? Combining this with the overall extreme situation of physical distancing and potential quarantine, many of us are thrown into this environment without having the time to get used to the new way of working.

"American Fidelity Assurance (AFA) cited the ability to continue helping customers even during disasters as a key reason they’re sticking with remote work." - Heinemeier Hansson and Fried

I was fortunate enough to start this learning curve two years ago by gradually increasing my home office ratio and eventually go 100% remote by starting a freelancing business.

Here is what I have learned.

Step #1: Separating work and home - Don't overwork.

Without the natural cut between work and private life, we tend to answer just that one more e-mail or squeeze in just that one more report. This point is amplified in times of COVID-19, where the lack of private and social activities reduces the number of obligations outside work. My favorites to counter-act this tendency:

  1. Take a walk around the block before and after work: Oxigen, movement and the physical activity act as a replacement for the usual commute. Mentionable added win: You change from sweat pants to keep that social-acceptance you have been working on for so long.

  2. Set-up a dedicated working space: Separating work geographically can be as simple as using specific furniture in case separate space is not available. I am personally a fan of multipurpose items and therefore was using a foldable wall desk and a chair, which was as well used for having dinner. It was the positioning in the living room corner which was sufficient for me as a geographical separator.

  3. Morning and Evening routines: Indicating the start and end of your working day in your calendar is the easiest way of avoiding extended all-evening sessions. But more on routines below.

If all of those do not cut it for you...

Get an extra set of slippers and switch between your work set and home set as appropriate.

Step #2: Set yourself up for autopilot - Routines

Estimates range from 40-50% of our behavior is habitual without being guided by conscious decision.* An unfamiliar working environment results in less structure and higher uncertainty, which again leads to an increased number of decisions required every day. Things which were habitual before, now need our attention and these conscious decisions lead to decision fatigue, most noticeable through tiredness and indifference. Creating routines is a powerful way to increase the level of habitual behavior and with it reduce the number of conscious decisions, resulting in more energy, increased focus and an elevated ease of mind.

"People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures" - F.M. Alexander, Australian philosopher and actor.

Here are some of my favorite routines, which helped me to increase structure while working from home.

Set up a morning routine: Generally a strong start into the day, a morning routine provides us another cornerstone, to structure our daily life during home office. Possible reflection routines can include questions such as: What my energy level [1-5]? What must happen today so that you can end the day feeling satisfied? Am I expecting to fail? What resources can I use to set me up for success?

If you are up for a challenge try the Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod. Summarizing the essential components of a morning routine into the catchy acronym S.A.V.E.R.S., he suggests that everyone's morning should include: Silence, affirmations, visualization, exercise, reading, scribing. Are you struggling with following through with a morning routine like the one we talked about before? I like to take some extra time in the evening to set-up everything I need for the morning routine. This makes preparing the routine the actual routine.

Set up an e