What Remote Work is Doing with You

Remote work has so many benefits. Did you know that remote work is so much healthier for you than office work? Let’s discuss the influence what remote work has on your body and soul.

Less stress

Not having the daily commute saves not only a lot of time and money, but also a lot of stress. Many studies are showing that commuting makes you nerveless, groggily and even fat. Doctors are diagnosing sleeplessness, stomach troubles, back pain, overweight, mental illness and frequent infectious disease more often at commuters than non-commuters.

The second point what reduces your stress is the absence of the cubicles. This big open offices with their constant loudness harms you. It is clear that it distracts you from work, but it affects your health in fact. Also the distraction can increase your stress level, especially when you have a deadline.

More motivation

You have certainly heard about good stress and bad stress. I can work more than 12 hours a day and feel happy and not stressed, if it is the right work. With ‘right’ I am talking about encouraging, self-reliant and meaningful tasks. The setup of remote work creates self-guided work and freedom by itself. That means, you are more or less free to switch tasks and projects and also the time to accomplish the work. And exactly that is the reason why most remote workers are more motivated than their office peers.

More time and flexibility for sport and healthy meals

Without commuting you have more time available and with above mentioned time management by your own you have more flexibility for exercise. The other big point for our health is our nutrition. Is your cantine also packed with greasy dishes? If you work from home, you can cook your lunch with the ingredients you like. That both is the reason why remote work is healthier than onsite work.

Risk of isolation

The biggest danger for remote workers is the risk of isolation. This loniness can lead into depression as worst case. It is very important to have hobbies, which pulls you away from your laptop. This can be everything what is not including to watch on an electronic screen, be it art, playing an instrument or any kind of sport.

If you live alone, it is particular important to meet other ‘real’ people on a regular basis. You can combine that with a hobby, go regularly to the local store or simply feed the ducks at you next park.

Risk of to less exercise

If you don’t have to leave your home for work and have no dog or other responsibility like bringing kids to school, make sure you are leaving your home on a daily basis, even at bad weather! Be it for a walk, to get lunch or for one of the points mentioned above.

If you work at an office, you have to go there and have to walk normally between different offices, meeting rooms and the cantine. Home office workers have much less exercise, so please make sure you are compensating that with some other action.

Do you agree or disagree? Did I miss an important point? Please let us know at the comments!

Families are Loving Remote Work

Everyone benefits from remote work. But to share your remote work life with your partner or your family is even better.

Every experienced parent will tell you, that you should enjoy the time with your kids. But who is spending enough time with the kids? What is enough time? The overlap of your life and the life of the rest of your family is simply to small in the on-site office world. And that is not only right for parents – every couple loves to have more time together.

By far most remote workers with families are working out of their home offices or a nearby co-working space. But there are also some, who are travelling the world. We will look at both in this post.

Working from Home – Benefits

The No. 1 benefit is clearly the saved commute time which you get to spend with your partner, your kids or even your hobbies. It is really priceless to join breakfast and dinner with your entire family and be able to bring your kids to bed.

The flexibility is the second big benefit. You can return to work while the kids are sleeping in the evening. You can pick them up at school or attend a school event in a work break. You are flexible to organize the childcare – i.e. you split the time, the kids are at home, between both parents.

Michael Erasmus writes in his post ‘I found my ideal lifestyle by working remotely‘ how he is using the additional time and flexibilty for his hobby surfing. He lives in Cape Town and is checking the waves in the morning and during the day. If they are good and he has no meeting, he goes surfing and returns to the desk after a while.

All the other benefits of remote work are also present. Be it taking care for a pet (Why Many Remote Workers are Happy Dog or Cat Owners) or choose a productive work environment (The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons).

My personal favorite is the added time I have with my two 10 and 8 year old girls. Our daily routine is, that I’m taking them to their school bus stop and bring them to bed very often. Remember routines – they are essential for remote workers to be productive.

Working from Home – Risks

But there is always a downside. This is i.e. the risk of mixing up work and family time. I’m highly recommending clear boundaries in terms of space and time.

Define a corner for work, i.e. your home office and another for private internet surfing / gaming, i.e. living room or kitchen. To use even different devices is a good idea for not falling into the pit of looking at business emails in private time.

You should not be distracted by your kids in the home office. Think about the possibility to work in a café or co-working space for some hours. Normally the closed-door-policy works pretty well at home – just remember to lock the door while being interviewed by BBC…

Do not mix time for work and family. So make your schedule clear to the entire family. There is nothing worse than kids, who are expecting dad or mum at home means 100% play time and are disappointed all the time.

Please don’t think you can work and look after the kids at the same time. Use their time in kindergarden, school or bed for work. And if you need the time the kids are at home awake, hire a babysitter for some hours.

Tips from the Buffer team: ‘Working From Home with Kids: 21 Tips From Our Remote Team‘.

All in all your familiy life will thrive if one or both parents are able to work from home. Even all mums have the possibility to return to work part-time after giving birth whenever they want.

Digital nomads

Is the life as digital nomad conflicting with relationships or having a family? Despite most digital nomads are single travellers, there is a rising number of travelling couples and even families with kids. Well known examples are ‘Digital Nomad Family‘ and ‘Bucket List Family‘.

Travelling as a couple is really great, because it avoids the otherwise lurking loniness. Travelling with small kids is also nice, however special in some cases. I.e. you are looking for yourself constantly about the nearest available pediatrist.

You have to make a decision until your kids are turning into kindergarden or school age. Many parents decide to settle down then and allow the kids the routine of school, friends and building relationships, which is important for their development. Only a few decide that the travelling gives them more than that and start to ‘home’ school the small ones on the road.

What benefit is missing? What is the biggest impact of remote work to your family life? Please let us know at the comment section!

What a good remote project manager needs to know

What is a remote project manager? That’s easy, its a project manager of a remote team. So what is different between managing an onsite or a remote team?

Most articles about this topic are not highlighting, that most methods and approaches are the same. Time, resource and budget planning, controlling or stakeholder management are nearly the same with onsite and remote projects. But if you take the PMI methodology for example, it says that you have to adjust all methods to the specific circumstances of the project anyway. The location and composition of the team is, of course, an important characteristic.

What are the major different topics, the remote project manager has to deal with? They are:

  • Communications
  • Tools
  • Team Management
Communications

The known principle is ‘everyone has to know everything what is important to his / her work at any given time’ – not more and not less.

The diffuculties with remote teams are, that you don’t have talks from desk to desk and you don’t have the informal meetings at the water cooler or coffee maschine. According to the famous book Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, are the employers of Basecamp encouraged to use their chat software Campfire as a ‘virtual water cooler’.

Instead of that you have to assure that all inforamtion will be exchanged in written (i.e. design specifications) or via chat, phone or video conference. The advantage here is, that agreements are more binding, but on the other hand, it is hard to get the mood of the participants and the reading between the lines.

Use the communication tools according to the urgency of the information:

  • urgent: make a call (but think about the time zone)
  • less urgent: reach them via messenger
  • not urgent at all: use email

Be very cautious if there is a little misunderstanding or you sense a bad mood at any form of communication. Normally that is only the tip of the iceberg. Get over this with temporarly even more communication, be it written, via phone or video or even face-to-face if needed.

Tools

We can’t do remote work without a number of tools. Remember that only the tools enabled us to work with distributed teams around the world.

The variety of tools in unbelievable. Its very hard to get a good overview or to make suggestions. Its also continuously envoling as we know the matter with software. Let’s focus on the tasks we have to address with the tools:

  • project management (schedule, resources, timetracking)
  • communication (VoIP, video, chat)
  • document management
  • source code management with version control, if you create software

Commonly you will use the tools which are in place at your company or at the client. If you have the choice, check out tool comparisons and have a close look on what will help the team while avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy.

Team management

Together with communications, managing the team is the most important topic for the remote project manager.

The great advantage of remote work, that you can hire the best talents (for the best price) worldwide, comes with the challenge that you will maybe not work in the same time zone. And even if – you should maintain a plan with the actual (remember travelling digital nomads) time zones and preferred working hours of all team members.

Get a very good overview about everyones experiences, skills, characteristics, position in the company, etc. At best you make longer one-on-ones at the beginning of the project. It is very good, if you have a face-to-face kickoff or get-togethers once or twice a year.

To enhance the collaboration, allow some time for personal conversation. So start every phone conference with some small talk and encourage the team members to exchange some information about hobbies, family situation or about the home or current city or country at other situations.

The project manager is the critical role in a distributed team. He enables all the remote work benefits, if he / she makes a good job and can destroy the project and the reputation of remote work if he / she skews it up.

Contact me if you need a remote project manager or even a coach for your project manager!