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8 Ways to Be Totally Awesome at Remote Work

In the modern age of knowledge workers, the issue of where and how we work has become complicated. Here's why: remote work.
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In the modern age of knowledge workers, the issue of where and how we work has become complicated.

Here's why: remote work.

Some people are in favor of remote work. Take Jason Fried for instance. He literally wrote the book on remote work. Others are against it. Marissa Mayer took flak for forbidding Yahoo employees to work from home. Her decision was vilified as an "epic policy failure," but others called it "smart."

Like it or not, remote work is here to stay. As long as there are knowledge workers and WiFi people will be working from Starbucks, dining room tables, and Tahitian beaches.

I provide this introduction about the friends and foes of remote work to make a point: If you are going to work remote, you need to be awesome at it.


Those who are in favor of remote work are expected to prove the merits of their decision. You must demonstrate that remote working is superior, enabling you to be more productive, creative, and better looking than your cubicle-dwelling counterparts.

This article is going to show you how to do just that. (Minus the better looking thing. Good luck with that.)

1. Find a dedicated spot to work.

A dedicated spot to work creates boundaries between home and work. Home tasks can easily invade work tasks, and vice versa. Though we may never achieve that elusive "work/life balance," we can at least give our work tasks and working hours their own location.

A dedicated work spot gives you the control you need to make your working space work for you. Rather than negotiating through bedroom clutter or moving aside your kids' crayons to sit down at your desk, you're able to arrange folders, white boards, printers, and other paraphernalia to improve your workflow.

Productivity is another perk. Somehow, the physical space of a dedicated work location enables you to zone in on the tasks at hand.

2. Find an enclosed location.

Enclosure is a second aspect of remote work that will help you out.

What's enclosure? An office with walls

The benefits, according to Lifehack, are privacy, quietness, and additional space. Research suggests that "workers in enclosed offices are the happiest, reporting the least amount of frustration."

Sounds like a great way to get your remote work groove on.

3. Get a chair worthy of your butt.

Your chair matters to your overall work.

There are two schools of thought on the whole sitting thing:

  • Sit and work.
  • Stand and work.

Some people say negative things about sitting (like the fact that it's killing you). Their arguments are alarming.

Research indicates, however, that your risk for back pain is high whether you sit all day or stand all day.

The solution? Do both.

If you choose to sit down, buy a good chair. You aren't saving money by using the worn out, foam-vomiting office chair that you snagged at a yard sale.

An uncomfortable chair will wreck your body and ruin your productivity. Bill Carmody wrote, "cheap is expensive" when it comes to chairs.

4. Clearly communicate your working hours.

The worst thing that happened to me when I became a remote worker was the misconception that I was a lazy slouch who hung out on my sofa eating Doritos and watching Netflix.

My well-meaning friends knew that I worked (somehow), but they didn't know how or when. Thus, requests to help them with mid-day moving projects, random let's-grab-coffee calls, and meetings on their schedule crept in to corrupt my workday.

I had to realize that work was work. Flexibility notwithstanding, I needed to get stuff done. In other words, I had to set hours.

Remote work can easily plunge into a morass of unscheduled chaos unless you choose and control your working hours.

5. Make it look like an office.

The space in which you work should feel "officey."

Why? Because it's for doing work. It can still be cool and stylish. But avoid the this-doubles-as-a-party-room look.

The environment in which you work influences your creativity, energy, happiness, productivity, health, and work quality.

Lifehack recommends five important factors for workplace satisfaction and productivity.
  1. Natural light
  2. Live indoor plants
  3. Quiet working area
  4. View of the sea
  5. Bright colors

With the exception of the seaside view, those factors are within your control. A window, potted plant, earplugs, and a bucket of paint?

Go for it.

6. Dress up.

Working from home is synonymous with "working in your PJs."

Unless you're smart.

The clothes we wear are not necessarily for the benefit of others, though concealment and propriety are definite concerns. Clothes serve a deeper purpose: self perception.

Scientists call it "enclothed cognition," a branch of embodied cognition. The impact of what we wear has been proven to shape an individual's thinking process, skills, and actions.

Here's how it works:
  • Wear a white lab coat, and you are more likely to act like a doctor.
  • Wear shorts and a t-shirt, and you will feel more athletic and active.
  • Wear a business suit, and you will feel professional and successful.
  • Wear heels and an evening dress, and you will feel romantic and exciting. (Unless you're a dude. Don't do it if you're a dude.)

Dress like a boss, and you'll work like a boss. Just keep it comfortable.

7. Interact with real life human beings.

Something weird happened when I started working remotely. I started losing the few social skills I once had.

I found it harder to have normal small talk conversations. Random chatter with strangers felt more awkward and less enjoyable.

I thought it was just me being weird. And then I told my friend -- also a work-from-home guy -- about my issue. He related, and explained, "I feel like a moron when I try to talk to people now."

My dark secret was corroborated as verifiable fact when The Oatmeal discussed it.

You don't want to lose your social suave just because you work from home.

Here are some suggestions:
  • Use a coworking office space where you can interact with others.
  • Schedule meals and/or coffee with homo sapiens.
  • Participate in local professional networking events or meetups.

Somehow, someway, get social again. With real live human beings. Not just Twitter feeds and Google Hangouts.

8. Work outside.

Working outside is awesome. Dr. Eva M. Selhub of Harvard explains that working outdoors, specifically in a nature setting, makes your brain happy, healthy, and productive.

"It stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure and improved immune response." (From Selhub's book Your Brain on Nature)

Remote workers have the flexibility to work outside. Might as well scoot outdoors, amp up your creativity, and improve your performance.


There are a lot of awesome things about remote work.

And thankfully, you can be even more awesome at it.

What are your suggestions for becoming more awesome at remote work?

This article was condensed from an article that originally appeared on the TeamGantt blog.