Without the right mindset, environment or method, remote working can be isolating and exhausting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t let yourself lose the fight; gear up, get focused and take action with this killer guide that any zombie could follow. Survive and thrive, remotely.
1. Learn how to be independent
(Image courtesy of the I Am Legend film)
Whether you’re mowing down a herd of zombies or working an eight-hour day alone, you have to trust yourself. If you can’t rely on yourself to get the job done, you face the risk of falling behind on work and letting your team down. Or, you know, you’ll be eaten by zombies.
Here are a few ways to find faith in your abilities:
Ignore the undead - enjoy your own company
As clichéd as it sounds, you need to know yourself well to work alone comfortably. If you don’t, there’s no way you can improve your own methods. Ask yourself these questions: What motivates you? What environment do you work best in? What tools do you need to improve your productivity? Does music hinder your work or help it? Is working in the same room as your friends or family distracting?
Set workable, zombie-free hours
You know when you work best. When remote working, you have flexible hours – or, at least, you get back the time office workers spend on their commute. So, find your sweet spot and make the conscious decision to work when you know you’ll be most productive. Maybe that’s not the usual 9-5.
Cease fire and take time out
The great thing about not working in an office is getting away from noisy distractions. The problem, however, is that those same distractions often spur us to get up and take a break every so often. Remote workers have to take breaks on their own terms. When working from home, it’s easy to let the time pass by without stopping. This doesn’t help your health or your productivity – so make sure you get up and take a time out.
2. Invest in your health and well-being
(Image courtesy of Zombieland)
You must pay attention to your needs throughout the day; keeping an eye on your mental wellbeing, and yes – like with any desk job – paying particular attention to your physical health. As Columbus says in the film Zombieland, ‘Cardio’ is the number one rule for survival.
- 45 percentof people spend more than an hour commuting to work each day. Instead, they could be spending that time having breakfast with their family, getting in some exercise or reading a book. Imagine that. Think how happy people will be with more time for themselves.
- Flexible working also means you can fit work around your other responsibilities, like walking the dog or taking care of sick children. This is a great way of accommodating for the inevitable times when personal life has to take priority.
- This argument is controversial but hear us out. Denmark wins the happiest country award almost every year. Why? A lot of it is to do with culture. Without a conscious effort placed on happiness – like the practice of Hygge – happiness is a hard thing to maintain, especially as our brains tend to focus on the negative. Culture must be prioritised. Done wrong, it’s isolating. Done right, flexible working means colleagues no longer take each other for granted. They must put in that extra bit of effort to communicate and collaborate. The result? A more connected, more in-sync, happier company.
In the UK, employee absenteeism costs the economy £18 billion per year. Flexible working is freedom, and freedom is loyalty. When people quit jobs, it’s often because extra responsibility means closed doors in personal lives. A new project, for example, means longer working hours. Less time for us results in unhappiness, demotivation and dissatisfaction. Stress and poor mental health are the real dangers to watch out for in the apocalypse.
3. Remember, you’re not alone
(Image courtesy of Shaun of the Dead)
Shaun knew the importance of friends and family in Shaun of the Dead. When things get too hectic, it’s okay to ask for help. If you’re facing a difficult problem or you’re feeling lonely, reach out to your colleagues. Don’t face your zombies alone.
In today’s digital age there are many platforms you can use to contact colleagues. Fortunately, you’re not stuck in a technology-lacking apocalypse. Your communication methods aren’t as basic as rusting walkie-talkies, so there’s really no excuse for going it alone:
- Instant messaging. Apps such as Slack and Facebook at Work allow remote businesses to recreate an office rapport. You can even create different groups to separate the work talk from the water-cooler chat.
- Video calling. Software such as Skype and RingCentral are modern-day miracles. It can be hard to decipher tone and mood in written communication but video calls allow for a more natural way of talking to colleagues.
- Shared work applications. It’s important to be transparent with your teamand clients. Websites like Basecamp are brilliant for sharing projects and letting your colleagues know what you’re working on.
4. Be nomadic
(Image courtesy of The Walking Dead (TV series))
It’s unlikely that you’ll be sharing your home with zombies, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t become riddled with distracting nuisances.
Luckily, remote working doesn’t have to mean working from home. Some people like to separate their workspace from their living space. If working from home isn’t your preference: move. Don’t force yourself to work in a space that isn’t right for you. It’s as simple as that.
As a remote employee, you can work almost anywhere. Providing there’s a WIFI connection (and it’s not infested with the undead), you’re good to go. Just remember to:
Look out for new base camps
Try working outside, in a public space or in a dedicated temporary work space; there are many options available. If you’re lost for ideas, search on Workfrom for workspaces near you. What’s more, you can share your own favourite spots online for other remote workers to find.
Team up with an ally
Remote working doesn’t mean that you have to work alone. If you and your colleagues live within a reasonable distance, arrange to meet up for a couple of hours. You might not get the opportunity to fight some zombies, but it’d be a nice way to bounce ideas off one another and socialise.
Lead the pack
If your boss is a sceptic, reassure them that flexible working offers benefits on both sides. For an employer, a totally remote workforce means no paying for office space or any associated bills. And the employee cuts down on travel costs. Flexible working means employees don’t waste time (or expenditure) on unnecessary travel. Crunch the numbers – what could you save?
5. Choose your weapons
(Image courtesy of Ash vs Evil Dead (TV Series))
There are lots of survival guides, books, tips and ‘hacks’ for mobile working and managing distributed teams. Seriously remote working, however, requires further consideration. Working from a remote cabin in the Scottish Highlands is a bit different to working one city over from your company’s HQ.
So here are a few tips, tricks and tools for those who have embraced remote working in the far corners of the globe. With these, you’ll be better placed to manage your time and priorities, get things done and not go stir-crazy.
Bookmark a time zone converter
If you’re working from a remote location, chances are your colleagues are in different time zones. Calculating the time difference between London and Paris isn’t so hard, but things get a bit trickier when we’re talking about places like Buenos Aires or Novosibirsk.
This is when a time zone converter comes in handy. Simple ones like this are great. Some converters even let you compare times and dates in multiple cities. A time zone converter will make it easier to plan meetings, set deadlines and generally keep you on track.
Boomerang your emails
A recent survey found that more than 55 percent of UK professionals check their work email outside of standard work hours. In the US, that number is as high as 81 percent. You may be among the few who have the self-discipline to stay off email outside work hours, but the reality is that most of us are wired-in 24/7. That’s why, if you’re remote working, it can be nice to put a delay on sending emails until your colleagues are sitting at their desks for the day.
Use an email-scheduling tool like Boomerang, you can make sure your emails don’t land in your colleague’s inbox at 9pm. It might seem like overkill but caring about your team’s wellbeing is important - even from a distance.
Use technology to schedule meetings
Scheduling meetings and conference calls from afar can be a nightmare. Fortunately for you, modern technology has the answer. There are a number of great tools out there worth trying, like NeedToMeet and Doodle. Give them a go and find one that works for you, your team and your customers.
6. Have a secure setup
(Image courtesy of The Walking Dead (TV series))
It’s impossible to survive a zombie apocalypse without a decent setup. The same goes for you and your business. While zombies are a less likely threat, you do face many other security risks. Don’t let yourself become a victim; protect your data and devices by using the following tips:
You don’t want your devices to get infected. Download antivirus software onto all your devices (mobile phone and Macs included) and ensure that you scan for viruses regularly. There are plenty of free programs available, such as Windows Defender and Avast Antivirus.
Just like your apocalyptic weapons, keep your browsers, plug-ins and software up to date too. These updates can patch any security breaches that come with out-of-date software.
Strengthen your passwords
It’s important to use strong passwords. To make it harder for hackers to access your data, update them on a regular basis and use different passwords for different accounts.
7. Dress appropriately
(Image courtesy of World War Z (film))
In World War Z, Gerry Lane cleverly avoided zombie bites by duct-taping magazines to his arm. Be as smart as Gerry and dress appropriately for your job.
It can be tempting to stay in your pyjamas when you’re a remote worker, but it’s hard to be productive when you’re not wearing the right clothes. In fact, studies show that dressing in informal clothes can kill your productivity. On the other hand, wearing work-appropriate clothing can increase your attentiveness and help you focus.
8. Know the rules before you break the rules
(Image courtesy of Warm Bodies (film))
Despite the fact that we’ve written this whole guide to tell you what to do, this is our reminder to you: you decide how your working life should look.
Remote working isn’t for everyone, but it does mean you have a little more room to decide your own fate. Start a little early; start a little late. Take an extra half hour at lunch and make up the time at the end of the day. Dress in an elaborate steampunk costume; dress in a four-piece suit. Work at a desk; work in the bath. Listen to heavy metal; listen to the Cranberries. You do you, boo.
Dare to be different. You might find you like the new you.
9. Find a cure
(Image courtesy of Z Nation)
The book ‘Peopleware’ highlights the problems with the modern-day office:
'Today's modular cubicle is a masterpiece of compromise: it gives you no meaningful privacy and yet it still manages to make you feel isolated.’ – Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
Mobile working has hit some roadblocks in the past. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer famously banned it for the company, and IBM has recently followed a similar line of thought. If you want remote working to remain an option for you and your colleagues, you have a part to play in proving its efficacy, otherwise it’s back to zombies in boxes.
Some managers have worries about productivity, team collaboration and maintaining a ‘professional’ culture. They get tempted to return to the old office-bound ways. The burden is on remote workers to prove their methods work and be part of the cure, not part of the problem. So, it’s vital to prepare for these ‘compromises’ from your manager:
‘We have to give everyone the same environment or they'll complain.’
Have you ever seen the office layout where the cube farms are clustered in the middle of the floor so nobody gets a window view? Same does not equal good. Some people like a cosy cave and some like a bright, sunny spot. Giving people options is not the same as not treating them equally. And, of course, you can set up your home office exactly the way you like.
‘Hot-desking is the way of the future.’
Wrong(ish). People like to feel comfortable in their own space. So, while this is somewhat efficient for people who aren't often in the office, you need to give people a range of ways to customise their workspace, which is best done by offering the choice to work from home.
‘Open plan equals open communication.’
No. It equals headphones for people who want to concentrate and constant disruption for everyone else. Give people lots of meeting space to cut the noise and lots of tools to encourage other forms of communication. No matter how far away people are, a decent WIFI connection is all it takes nowadays for real-time collaboration.
‘We just need a better way for me to keep track of everybody’s work.’
If your manager says this, you need to make sure your remote working is supported by project management software. With the right software, you can keep track of your activities and deliverables, comment on project discussions and share what you’re working on.
Not only will this help your colleagues see what you’re up to, it will help you stay organised. It can be difficult to know how to prioritise without a team around you, but with everything kept in one place you’ll be able to see what you need to do. And, so will your manager.
At the end of the world, remote workers are happy workers
(Image courtesy of Shaun of the Dead)
The likelihood of a zombie apocalypse is slim, but remote working is a craze that’s on the rise. If you follow these tips and adjust your working habits to suit your environment, you’ll be able to work remotely, productively and happily.
And who knows, if a zombie apocalypse ever does arrive, maybe you’ll be ready to face that, too.
[Edited and updated in 2019]
Employees , Lessons , Productivity , People management