Remote work: How to make the most out of the new normal

Written by Adrienn Juhasz

This year both our personal and professional lives have completely changed, more than we ever could have imagined. While remote work has been becoming more popular over the years, the rise of the current pandemic has forced a lot of us into leaving office work behind, to switch from sharing co-working spaces to sharing the kitchen table with our families. 

As a lot of companies are planning to keep their employees remotely in the long term, it is important to set up ourselves for this new way of working with sustainable and healthy habits. Based on our experience of the past few months, we have gathered the most important tricks that can help with this new chapter of your life.

1. Set boundaries

With employers announcing the temporary shutting down of their offices overnight, you probably didn’t have the chance to think about how you wanted to make the new normal work for you, you just had to go with it! It’s possible that you start working in bed straight after waking up, that you have lunch while writing an email, or that you are making lunch for your children while in a Zoom call at the same time. Don’t worry though, it’s completely normal and has happened pretty much to all of us who have never worked remotely before!

However, a work-life balance is not only crucial when you have to go into a physical office. Working from home you might be more tempted to overwork, as there is no “checkout time” at the end of your day. At the same time, you can get distracted a lot more than usual during the day, with family members around or by wanting to take care of household chores. Here are some simple boundaries that could help with all this:

  • Work only within working hours
  • Have a tech-free lunch break
  • Prepare your lunch the night before or in the morning, so you don’t need to cook in the middle of the day
  • If you can, dedicate some space in your home only to working (preferably outside of the bedroom)
  • Towards the end of your day, sum up all the tasks you have managed to take care of that day, so you have a stronger sense of accomplishment
  • Searching for a job from home is practically remote work as well. Therefore, boundaries are just as important while you have no work, especially to keep your motivation! Check out another one of our articles for ways to stay motivated while job hunting.

2. Stay connected

Working from home can get lonely, especially when you live alone. Feeling like a valuable member of your team can also become more difficult. Communicating via chats, online project management tools, or cloud services can make you feel unheard, and thus disconnected. Chatting with colleagues and participating in video calls does not carry the same sense of socializing as meeting coworkers in person, and the longer you are isolated, the easier it becomes to get used to not talking to anyone. Don’t let this happen! We are all people, we all need to interact with each other. 

We at Empower Amsterdam currently organize Weekly Online Community Chats(WOCC), always focused on a different topic. During these chats, we use breakout rooms, this way everyone gets a chance to talk no matter how big or small the groups are! If you’re curious, you can see past WOOCs on our YouTube channel or join our next session yourself!

You can try these tricks as well to stay more connected:

  • During work calls, speak up! Just because you are physically isolated, you and your ideas should not go unheard
  • Organize non-work related online socials with your team and with your friends, like pub quizzes or cocktail nights
  • Meet with friends and family in person (within the recommended social distancing guidelines of the area where you live!)
  • Organize non-work related online socials with your team and with your friends, like pub quizzes or cocktail nights

3. Enjoy the perks

There is a lot to organize to make remote working a smooth experience. However, it’s also full of perks which you shouldn’t forget to enjoy! Once you have set up your boundaries and figured out how to stay connected, then you should also consider how you can best take advantage of this new way of living! The possibilities are pretty much endless, but these are our favorite things about being remote:

  • More mobility: as long as you have a steady internet connection, a working laptop, and a quiet enough space, you can take your work with you anywhere. This can be your garden, a holiday cottage you rented for the weekend, or even your home country for a few weeks if you’re an expat! 
  • More time with your family: many of us are used to rushing in the mornings, going straight to work while our children rush to school. Now, on the other hand, you can finally have breakfast together before starting your work or help your kids with their homework between phone calls. We are not saying working from home with your kids around is easy, but it is precious extra time you have with them, so make the most of it!
  • More time for hobbies: as there is no need to commute to work, there are probably at least 1-2 extra hours in your day you can use as you want! Start your day with a run or some yoga, and finally try that dinner recipe which takes 2 hours instead of 30 minutes - now you can!
  • More comfortable clothes: just because you are working from home, you should not let yourself go, regular showers and clean clothes are important. However, there is also no need for those high heels or shirts and ties! It’s totally okay to look presentable for video calls while simultaneously wearing sweatpants. 

Remote working has many more aspects than what we have discussed here, but hopefully, these basic points can help you to feel more comfortable about spending more time at home than in your office. Embrace the new normal, because it seems it’s here to stay!

If you would like to meet new people while at home and want to help the work of Empower Amsterdam, you can also join us as a volunteer! We can also help if you are struggling with the new remote work culture, in which it can also be more difficult to find a job. Contact us and we can get you in touch with one of our international coaches.