What I mastered about remote working

24 July 2017 Reading Time: 7 minutes

It’s been almost a year since I started working for Enhancv remotely from Dublin. And I’m excited to share that we’ve joined the Global Work Remote Day and our whole team will be working remotely on August 4th!

Today, we have a number of remote employees in Dublin, London, and Barcelona, while the HQ and the majority of the colleagues are in Sofia, Bulgaria.

I have experienced both the challenges and benefits of working as the only remote team member from Dublin. It allows me to get into the flow state quicker and stay focused for longer. I have also put a lot of conscious effort to master remote working and to deal with the risks of:

  • Feeling isolated
  • Getting demotivated & disengaged to deliver
  • Disconnecting with people and company’s problems

In the past year, I’ve tried various approaches. Today I’m at that point when I can say “I nailed it! I mastered it!” How do I know I succeeded? The short answer is – I’m  happy and productive, most of the time.

To master remote working, I focus on 3 main things:

  • Creating & following a routine
  • Mindfulness
  • (Re-)connecting with the team

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Creating and following a routine

It’s easy to just go with the flow and depend on the energy of the rest of the team when everyone is in the same room. It’s hard to rely only on your energy and motivation every single day when you work remotely.

Before I started at Enhancv I dedicated some time to think what will give me energy and help me tune into my own rhythm. I created a daily balanced routine allowing me to deliver daily. I’m still following it almost a year later.

This is what most of my days look like:

  • 7 am – wake up, fill in my Five Minute Journal, shower, do exercises, make breakfast and (sometimes) lunch for work
  • 8.30 am – walk to Cluster, my co-working space, and grab a herbal tea on the way (that used to be a single espresso shot in Kaph, but I gave up on coffee a week ago, as it was making me too anxious)
  • 9 am – in the office and ready to kick off
  • around 12.30 pm – lunch – I always have a 30- or 60-minute slot for that in the calendar even if I’m having a lunch on my own. The team in Bulgaria is two hours ahead of me, so when it’s lunch time for me in Dublin, they have just had their food and want to call me. If I don’t have the slot blocked, it’s very likely I’d skip lunch and the break and that’s not sustainable when you want to deliver daily.
  • at a random point of the day – dedicate 15min technology free, to relax my mind
  • 6 pm – usually done by then. I make sure I finish by then, so I can enjoy the evening, rest well, and come back fresh in the morning.
  • 11 pm – go to bed, (hopefully) read a bit, fill in my Five Minute Journal

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This table in my personal notebook works as my daily checklist. It allows me to stay accountable to myself if I stick to the things that are important for me as a routine. If I’m not, then I can dig deeper and decide if I should drop this activity or approach it in a new way.

It’s not about a 9-to-6 mentality. Respecting my time outside of work and enjoying it with people who I care about is what allows me to get into flow state in seconds, and be in it for hours every day.

Interruptions? No one interrupts me in Cluster, the coworking space I work from. Everyone is disciplined and focused on their own work (okay except for one guy who watches Netflix!) I love that everyone is friendly and ready to help out if you want to talk or need advice.

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Mindfulness has helped me approach and successfully deal with anxieties and frustrations.

Remote workers are more likely to burn out.

It’s easy to leave the office when everyone else leaves. But it’s hard when you are the only person and there’s so much more to do and you want to get this one more thing done. It’s important to know when your working day is over.

What helps me stay productive and deliver daily without burning out

  • My routine – I know when it’s time to leave
  • My productivity planner – I focus on the top 3-5 things that absolutely need to happen today. These are things that are urgent and important and would have a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. I make sure I actually have the time for those things by blocking slots in my calendar not just for meetings, but also for executing work. That makes my daily planning more realistic.
  • No distractions during meetings – I focus on the hangout where the call is taking place. I don’t open any additional tabs and I put my phone away from me. I noticed that when I’m in a meeting and trying to “get a better use of the time” by doing something while in the meeting has the opposite effect. It results in anxieties and frustration. For a while I’ve been strict about it – not getting distracted in meetings allows me to get the most of the meeting and feel better.
  • (almost) Daily sync with a founder – when I am physically far from everyone else, it’s important for me to feel close and to be heard. The founders Georgi, Dimitar, and Volen, take this very seriously and on most days I talk to at least one of them on a work-related or a personal topic. This goes both ways and we feel close to each other. We work as one.
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View from my desk 🙂

Remote workers are more likely to get frustrated. It’s easy and natural to feel supported by colleagues when they are physically around you and can notice a change in your mood or energy. They can come to you and talk to you. That’s why it’s important to know how to deal with frustration on your own. Here’s how I do it:

  • My Five Minute Journal – filling it in is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before I go to bed. I keep the journal and a pen right next to my bed.
  • A walk in the neighborhood – moving helps me relax and clear my mind. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop for a tea (now that I don’t drink coffee..), to a museum or a park. Finding something inspirational takes the stress away and freshens up my mind.
  • A power nap – when I feel tired or overwhelmed and a walk won’t help, I restart my mind by taking a 20-minute power nap. Luckily, there’s a tiny, yet cosy couch in the room of the startup Restored Hearing and Rhona, Eimear, and Chrissy don’t mind me sneaking in for a bit.
  • Talk to someone immediately – there are two people in Cluster who are my close friends, amazing professionals, and I love talking to them about anything – Cluster’s owner Goodwin, and Louis (creator of the Everyone Hates Marketers podcast & Hotjar’s content strategist). I have laughed with them, cried with them, shared insights with them. It makes all the difference in the world to have someone physically next to you.
  • A blank piece of paper + a pen – when I’m dealing with a complex problem or challenge, having access to all of the resources in the world doesn’t help. In moments like that, I switch off my laptop and put my phone away. Instead, I take a blank piece of paper and a pen. That pushes me to simplify the problem, structure it, and solve it piece by piece. Once I have this high-level plan, I can easily dive deeper and outline the details.

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(Re-)connecting with the team

At Enhancv we have a number of tools and mechanisms that allow each team member to stay up to date, feel connected, engage and bond with the others.

Using Slack, G Drive, Intercom, Trello, etc solves some aspects of it. What truly makes an impact for me are:

  • The one-on-one meetings I have with various people in the company
  • Face-to-face time – I go every 2 months to Bulgaria and spend 1-3 weeks with the team in the HQ. Some of those trips are for our annual retreat or power week
  • Enhancers visit Dublin – Tanya, our blog editor & media relations, was the first team member who came to Dublin for a week. Getting to know her and having her as a guest at home was very different from the way we had engaged with each other in the office in Sofia or during a Power Week. Georgi, co-founder & CEO, is in Dublin at the moment. He came over for 3 weeks so we can kick off the hiring of Head of Marketing, Digital Marketer, and Customer Success roles for the office here. (The timing was perfect so he can join my housewarming party!)
  • Being remote with other Enhancers – Volen, co-founder & COO, and I spent a whole month working remotely from Lisbon.

Building relationships on trust

And I build trust on open communication and transparency by being specific and giving the context. I add everything in my calendar and my colleagues can see what I do before, during, and after work. So if I’m offline when they need me, they would know if I’m at a work meeting,  an appointment with a doctor, focusing on a job spec offline, having a coffee with a friend, or attending an event. In this way, they also know how quickly I’d reply and if they need to call me to reach me immediately.

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How do you work remotely?

I would love to hear your thoughts on remote working. Feel free to post them as comments or email me directly at vessy@enhancv.com. I’m based in Dublin, so shout out if you are around for a coffee.

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Vessy Tasheva

Career Industry Expert & Talent Scout at Enhancv. I help people succeed in their jobs & careers. In my free time, I do career coaching and write about it on Medium.com/@vessytash.

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