The psychology of remote-working: Tips from the trenches

Working from Home Tips and Psychology

Today was a day in the office for me. Office day’s involve a 650km round trip from my home on the south coast, into the heart of our capital city and then on to our head office. As a remote worker, these days are the exception rather than the rule but serve as an incredibly important part of my remote working experience.

The changing landscapes of these trips (sea, country, city) never fail to make me reflect on my remote working. It still feels like a privilege mainly given its relatively limited adoption. I am a major advocate as you can see from my previous post but like all good things, you get from it what you are willing to put in.

The benefits of remote working are both quantitative and qualitative for employers as well as employees; yet the way in which the remote worker is set-up for success varies wildly. The employees themselves have many challenges to face, the most obvious being how they deal with the shift from daily face-to-face interaction in an office environment to stretches where they might not see or talk to the people they work with for days. The psychology of remote working is something that rarely gets much focus; yet, it plays a huge part in the success or otherwise of the remote worker.

So how can the remote worker survive the shift? Here are my top tips for making it work:

Strong team relationships
Before I started working remotely I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a significant amount of time face-to-face with my fellow team members and colleagues within the wider business. This time with the team was critical as it gave me the chance to create a solid foundation for the days when I wouldn’t be available physically – a trust was established. This understanding has been crucial in moments when I have felt disconnected or distant from the rest of the team. There is no doubt that periods of isolation are a real challenge for the remote worker but a timely instant message or a call from a colleague can make all the difference.

Now this won’t be possible in all situations but I would strongly recommend as much face-to-face time as possible in the early days. In my own experience, I would credit this time as one of the key building blocks to my ability to thrive remotely. It gives the remote worker and their colleague’s confidence; it establishes relationships, which have a great foundation on which to keep growing despite the different physical location.

Replace the ‘hubbub’ of the office
One thing I have sub-consciously started to do is to nearly always have some type of background noise in my home office. Mostly I listen to podcasts, keynotes or music. This is great for a number of reasons, firstly you can artificially replace the hubbub of the office – not exactly the same but it definitely breaks the silence that can at times be hard to ignore. It is also a great way of consuming content that is related to your area of work and picking things up as you get about your work.

Keep on moving
Exercise is a critical way of improving your remote working experience. As often as possible, I exercise at lunchtime and get out for a minimum of 30 minutes to run, cycle or do some weights. Walking is also great – taking some fresh air and getting some sun is a huge boost to productivity. It can also help to break-up those days when your calendar is clear and you are surrounded in silence for hours at a time. These can be tough so whatever you like to do, whether it is walking, running or swimming – make the time to move.

The benefits of exercising during the day holds for office based workers as well but it isn’t always possible depending on time and facilities. The benefit for remote workers is that they can save the showering for after work – that approach wouldn’t work so well in the office!

Keep lines of communication open
One of the most important ways to deal with any challenges you face while working remotely is to talk about them. It is especially important in the early days as you adapt to your new situation but ideally, you should feel like you can discuss this throughout your journey with your friends, family and or course your colleagues at work.

Sometimes, you may not even realise that you have an issue or feel challenged by some aspect of your set-up, which is why it is always good to discuss your progress with your manager. More often than not, you will hopefully be saying that all is going well but the acknowledgement of your situation in meetings is a huge benefit for the worker and the manager.

So that’s my take on mastering the mental side of remote working. Do you agree or disagree with my tips for making it work? What am I missing? I would love to hear your thoughts – please add any you have in the comments!


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About the author

Ray Coppinger is Online Marketing Manager for Marketo in the European region. Working with the marketing team at HQ in Dublin, he works across all Marketo’s digital marketing activity. From PPC to SEO to Content Marketing, there is rarely a dull moment! When not being geekish about marketing, Ray’s time is spent being a geeky Dad to his two young kids. More blog posts by Raymond Coppinger ››
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  • Anni Bridge

    Love the blog and think that the use of technology is also a key issue. I have been working remotely for about 2 years and the thing that has saved my sanity is video conferencing – the fact that someone is on line and I can check they have space for a quick chat about something is invaluable. It also replicates those “can I check out” moments that we all have we wrestling with a thorny issue.

    I totally agree with the exercise element, sometime I can sit at my desk for hours and not move, and then wonder why my legs are not working!

    • Ray Coppinger

      Thanks Anni! Really glad some of the post resonated with you :) Completely agree with the video element – our team meetings include video and it always helps to bring me closer to the other folks in my team. Thanks for your comment!

  • Rory

    I worked remote for a year. It had it’s up and downs. I found myself working much, much longer hours than if I was in an Office just because I felt obligated too…not by employers pressuring just my own pressure to make the remote work a success.

    I started using the background noise too…Not Podcasts because that would take my focus but radio that wasn’t particularly interesting to me or music. I would find myself not even realizing it was on. I think it helped me focus.

    A big failing on my part was exercise. I felt guilty about getting up and going for a walk. I do that in the Office. I’ll go downstairs or go to a co-workers cubicle…at home. I didn’t do that. Not good

    • Ray Coppinger

      Completely agree Rory – remote working certainly has it’s ups and downs. I think what I am trying to do with my posts is to bring balance to how remote working is portrayed. It can really work for some people while it just might not suit others – it really depends. I think the more people can talk and write about their experiences, the better the outcomes will be for remote workers as all the knowledge can be shared to arm the remote worker. Thanks very much for your comment!

      • Rory

        Absolutely! It worked out in the end just had about a 6 month adjustment period. I would think if you ask my employers, it was a success for them :-) …I bet there’s a lot of people who take the work from home as an opportunity to take advantage and do other things…but good management can weed those people out!

  • katie

    discipline, enjoyment, proactivity, better health, more time, organisation, living a life of freedom, ability to focus more clearly without distraction once you know how to make that work for you and not feeling guilty when you DO take a break because you CAN. Guilt is the main issue to start with, but once you get the hang of that balance there is NO turning back.

  • I work 2 jobs part time one is a traditional go to the office corporate job, the other is being self employed and work from home, out of the two jobs I find it more comfortable and rewarding working from home. The key thing for me was to invest in a good office setup, desk chair and technology.

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