Why and how we work remotely at BuzzFarmers on Tuesdays and Thursdays
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I wake up, get ready for work and drive toward our beautiful office in Pawtucket, Rhode Island from my house in Southeastern, Massachusetts.
But, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I roll out of bed, grab my laptop and check my work email. Boom! I’m already working before I’ve had the chance to make myself coffee or even brush my teeth. (Don’t worry, I brush my teeth immediately after breakfast, and I’m a very hungry person in the morning, so I always make myself a nice, home-cooked breakfast, too!)
Well, here in the BuzzFarmers office, we all work remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We tested it out about nine months ago, and it’s been a huge success for all of our team members. In fact, we’re not the only company that enjoys working remotely. Some companies, like Buffer, have their staff scattered all over the world for full-time remote work.
What is working remotely?
Simple – working remotely is when you work from a location outside of your employer’s workplace.
You might have heard the terms “telecommuter” or “work-at-home” or “remote worker” to describe a person who spends some of their time working out of the office. In truth, remote working is an ever-evolving definition. It could be someone who works once a week at home for childcare reasons. Or, it may be someone who works 100% of the time in a different location (heck, maybe even a different continent) than the rest of their counterparts.
Why do we work remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays?
As I mentioned, we tested it out nine months ago, as a way for all of us to get some super-focused writing done without the distractions of the office. We have writing shed offices that give us privacy when we need it, but frankly we all learn from one another and could easily spend all day brainstorming with eachother without some forced solitary.
So on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the bosses let us spread our wings and work wherever we want. Sometimes we work at home, sometimes we go to a coffee shop or one of our favorite places to unplug around the Ocean State.
A glimpse at how I schedule my day:
Remote work is different for every person who does it. Some prefer to leave their house and work from a coffee shop, library, or co-working community space. Others have a dedicated office space in their home. For me, I’ve worked from almost every room of my house (including my son’s room when my wi-fi is flaky, and he’s at school). My favorite spots are my dining room table, living room couch, or my bed. What? I like to get comfortable!
Those aren’t the only places in my house that I enjoy working. I never believed I’d be this person, but I love to write while walking on my treadmill. I didn’t even need to buy any fancy setup to get this to work. The book lip on my treadmill is big enough to fit my laptop fully open. I set it up, grab a water and type as I walk. I’ve tried running while typing, but I’ll be honest with you. It did not work at all.
I don’t often work outside of my house on my remote working days, but sometimes you need a change of scenery, and on those days, I take to the library or a local coffee shop.
When I drive to work, my day starts at 9:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm. This isn’t to say that I won’t occasionally sneak a little work in at home on those nights (I do!), but I’m pretty strict about my work hours because of the amount of traffic I drive through.
The same doesn’t always happen when I work from home. Like I mentioned before, I usually check my email right away on work-from-home days. This could be as early as 7:00am. Sometimes I jump into work right away and other times I’ll do some household chores before beginning my work day. I mean, who wants to stare a dishes in the sink while they’re working on a deadline?
It’s usually pretty easy for me to get into the zone while working from home, and I tend to work right through the workday. While making breakfast is usually the first thing I do on my work at home days, I often need to remind myself to eat lunch.
The only trouble I’ve noticed with working from home is that sometimes I don’t know when to stop. Hi – my name is Erin, and I’m a work-a-holic. I can find myself easily working through dinner and throughout the night.
It’s important to set some rules for yourself when working remotely. It’s fine to schedule some long workdays if that works for you, but it’s also important to have a healthy work-life balance. The most important thing I do is prioritize my work for the week on Mondays and stick closely to my schedule. If I don’t do that, I find myself overworking. If I stick to the schedule, I always seem to have free time to enjoy my family once I close my laptop for the night.
If you plan on doing any remote work, it’s really important to figure out what are good distractions and what are bad distractions. I have friends who work at different companies who keep the television on as background noise when they work. I could never do that. I’ve tried it before, but it’s a time-sucking trap for me. The television is always off when I’m working from home.
There are many out-of-my-control elements (such as loud garbage trucks, landscapers, or children walking home from the nearby school) that can sometimes rattle my work days. If I find I’m too distracted, I make the decision early to work from somewhere else. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to take a 10-minute drive to a new location than it is to be consistently distracted throughout the day.
But don’t let me fool you. Not all distractions are bad distractions.
Since I started working from home, I’ve been spending more time with my dog. A few times a day I bring her outside so she can use the bathroom. That gives me a second to ruminate about whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes in the middle of the day when I just need a break between tasks, I’ll throw a load of laundry in the washer. By taking small breaks like this, I’m able to take a pause and reframe my thoughts. The key is finding out what works for you and what doesn’t.
Because we all work differently in our own environments, I asked my co-workers for tips and tricks to remote working, as well as any pros and cons they might have noticed about working from home two days a week.
What is working remotely, and what are our opinions about it?
The cons of working remotely are that if you do it for too long, you may forget what it’s like to go outside. You might even get a little panicked in the presence of fresh air. Also, if you’re like me, you start working earlier and stop working much, much later. Getting into the office and leaving the office at least encourages breaks. And you need breaks, or you’re going to burn out, and then what good are you to your clients?
The pros are that if you’re just doing it once in a while, you can work from your favorite coffee shop when you want, or just curl up on the couch and focus for an extended amount of time that you don’t get in an office environment. When Patrick and I work from home, we take “Vitamin D” breaks, which is basically us going outside for about 15 minutes to stretch, play with the dog, and get some sun.
After our extended period of working remotely, I’m very different about our occasional work from home days now than I used to be. For our first few years running BuzzFarmers when it was just Pat and me, I used to basically roll out of bed and open my laptop right away, and possibly not even move from it until midnight.
Now that I’m (hopefully) wiser, I’d recommend to anyone working from home for any kind of extended period of time, that they get a desk/office to separate work from life, get up and immediately shower, get dressed like you’re going out, and get to work. Eat lunch when you’re hungry, end work at a reasonable time. Oh, and go out for dinner.
But if you’re just doing it once in a while, make the most of it. As long as your productivity doesn’t suffer, do it your way. Work at a coffee shop, on the couch, at a desk, listening to music, while walking on the treadmill (Erin!), whatever floats your boat. I’ve been known to cook epic from scratch gourmet lunches when I work from home – that’s my greatest work from home sin.
And if you’re a biz owner with remote employees and are feeling uneasy about the whole thing, just use Slack or Hipchat with your team. Trust your team until they give you reason not to. Are they hitting their deadlines? Great. Yep, they’re probably going to walk the dog “on your time.” Get over it!
Here’s a tip for anyone who’s just starting to work remotely– have a dedicated area to work from in your home. If you can go to your dedicated space daily, it’s a lot like going to a workplace. Your mind will know that it’s time to begin work, and your creativity will kick in.
At the same time, finding a good public space to go to from time to time is helpful for me, because a con can be the lack of human interaction you get if you’re working remotely and not going into an office space.
Pros of working remotely: Free coffee! My dog provides a valid excuse to get out for a walk and clear my brain, and it is really helpful when the kids have a day off school.
Cons of working remotely: I can see the laundry or dishes that need to get done, but the flexibility is great. I can get the laundry done, it just means that I might be working on a project later in the evening.
Tips for anyone who’s just starting remote work: I like to change up my environment. I can sit outside on nice days or go to the library or a coffee shop to get different atmospheres. Sometimes, the different backgrounds help trigger ideas or inspiration.
Create a Workspace: A space that is designated for work should be your top priority when your working remotely. This could be a room in your house or apartment or even just a desk. Get yourself setup within this space with everything you need to get work done. Don’t underestimate how little things will get in the way of you starting work. Have your laptop or phone charger, pens, notebooks and other assorted cables at the ready in your space. When I’m traveling and working remotely, I don’t always have the luxury of having a private space to work, so I carry a good pair of headphones and a Grid-It Organizer to store all my essentials I need for work.