Remote work for everyone?! What we stand to gain

I’m never really sure whether I’m quite good or quite bad at this! I tend to work best when I can work flexibly - taking a couple of hours off mid-afternoon when I’m less productive, for example - so in many respects the work pattern I’ve been forced to adopt since the end of March has played to my preferences. Having experienced a prolonged phase of physical ill-health in my early/mid-20s (due, at least in part, to emotional and physical burn-out) I am more mindful these days of the need to step away and say, ‘no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that now’ or ‘I’ve done enough for today’ - but I still find saying both these things very difficult. As @johncoate suggests, those of us who seem to be hard-wired to be highly attentive members of our communities (virtual, physical, otherwise) have been, and perhaps will always be, at greater risk of putting our own needs and well being further down the list than just getting a couple more emails sent. Now I largely work from home, I find it easier to take breaks from work in some respects - I can go for a midday run with my neighbour, or do half an hour of weeding in my garden - but work still seeps into my evenings and weekends more than it probably should. But then, it did this pre-Covid, too. (I think this is just reflective of how unhealthy a place academia is right now!) The fact that I live in a village, in rural North Wales, is good for getting me away from my desk - I have lots of beautiful places to walk and run. I also have a few hobbies that are good sources of mindful ‘flow’ - getting lost in the process. I spent this weekend sculpting in stone, which is total bliss! A definite antidote to screen time!

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During the Summit we talked about the importance of members of coworking spaces being able to let themselves in and how there are various apps and physical products for handling that in a group. One of them involved regular keys, that being the simplest and least expensive. And many spaces have remote cameras to see who is coming and going.

This is a rather cautionary report that points out how one can never really rest when using high tech to accomplish tasks involving security:

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Yeah I remember one of the first companies I came across during the pre-covid crypto currency/blockchain-isahammer-everythingisanail boom was one trying to reinvent the physical key…

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I find simple daily rituals such as, taking a walk before I start work and working out once I’m finished for the day, helps me make that mental shift between the personal and professional areas of my life. I think many of us working remotely often push ourselves too hard, fearing that we’re not doing enough. I would definitely advise anyone working remotely to create similar ‘traditions’ to help signify the start and end of a work day. It can be all too easy to slip into a habit of over working and neglecting your personal life.

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So true, also we underestimate those small exchanges (casual chats, coffee’s together, social interactions) also know as watercooler moments - that happen in physical workspaces that help us to destress and disconnect from our screens. Hence, one of the reasons I like coworking spaces for the sense of community and better work-life-balance it naturally supports.

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Looks like @jamieorr might need to expand, given what’s going on in her area:

It affected all of us, even me and I have had a home office for years now.
Early on I realised it’s not so good to be so isolated at home and decided to go more to various events and seminars of interest. I also expanded my subscription at the coworking space so on some days I could work from there and mingle more. It’s not only the social aspect, it’s meeting like minded people or entrepreneurs, creatives with very different perspective on things…just exchanging ideas and experiences and giving birth to something new :slight_smile:

Each time I would realise something is wrong, I would search within to figure out what it is, then look for causes/solutions. I would write down my idea of the solution on an A2 paper and put it on my office wall, so I would get reminded each day of what is important during that specific period.

Here is an old example (the only one on my computer) of what I do when I realise I got derailed or stuck in habits which aren’t so beneficial for me.


I stay flexible though, if I want to walk - it’s after lunch or dinner. If I want to go swimming, it’s in the morning or before lunch (I don’t do that now unfortunately).
Ofc that A2 changes, depending of priorities, but I keep the old ones :slight_smile:

As Nadia and Noemi already said, the phone separation is very important. Managing the exposure to the huge amount of information constantly pouring in, work related or not. I still don’t have my company mail on my phone, in 5% of the cases it would have made things easier because I could be more responsive during busy days outside or when travelling. However, 95% of the time it’s a good thing and if it something urgent it usually isn’t sent by mail. If it is, it just means I or someone else failed at organisation :wink:

@nadia I also have full gear at home but I somehow keep “forgetting” or “not having time” for exercising, HELP! Give me some habit/brain hacks for that. I know it’s really important but, I keep prioritising other things :frowning: . The only thing I constantly do are long walks.

@noemi for mental being me and my partner go to Ardennes every 3 weeks or so, enjoy the weekend off the grid. Nature, peace and lots of physical activity.
We are both used to spending summers on vacation so that means so much to us right now.
Going this weekend to trois points.
Also we do regular events at home every few weeks with the same group of friends. We can host an evening for Edgryders in Bruxelles but considering corona issues, not sure who would come :stuck_out_tongue:

I found also one really bad thing about working from home and not creating clear boundaries. People get into a habit of you being accessible all the time, so they slowly start calling and writing to you at the weirdest of times or they become less and less punctual with the schedule and that was very annoying.
Dealt with it easily though, after I implemented similar system the airports have haha. Each person gets a slot, you miss your slot and you are at the bottom of priority.

Each to his own but for me, probably the most important things for mental health are human interaction and movement.
By movement I mean movement of your body, mind, spirit. Keep yourself agile, create new environments for yourself, explore new ideas, concepts, do new things. Movement is essential for evolution. As soon as you stop, you start to decline…the mind numbs, body gets out of balance, both on chemical and energy level.

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Especially now that Belgium gov has made available free railpasses that are claimed by over 2mill people - staycation and weekends in your country now look much nicer. :smiley:
https://www.belgiantrain.be/en/tickets-and-railcards/railpass/free-pass

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The rail pass program is a nice idea. Like all public transit these days I imagine they have seen a drop in riders.

Well I haven’t applied for those tickets as my gf still doesn’t exist in Belgium officially.

@jasen_lakic your post really resonated with me. That you need movement in mind, body, spirit. As a remote worker and knowledge worker, the focus can be on your brain power and exercising that only. I find I need to think holistically, in total. Stretching it all!

Since the (horror) experience of confinement here in Spain, I find I have to leave the apartment to concentrate fully and be focused. I need my coworking space to provide me with that support. So grateful for it!

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Same here: after the hard weeks in March/April I had already resumed work outside the house and it made a whole lot of a difference.

Just realised: I actually have 3 de facto co-working spaces I am using

  • the Edgeryders office 1 day/week
  • a foodlab and shared food production space with shared office 2-3 days/ week
  • an office in a green businesses building 1/2 day a week

The rest of the time is spent also in the PC, but on trains :slight_smile:
All in all, it’s good because different places have different dynamics and energies, and help you focus on the specific project you are working on in the moment…

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Yes, during the confinement period here in Belgium I realised my most creative moment of the day was my walk.

I would take my notebook and a pen, walk for half an hour into the nearby forest, sit there for an hour or so just enjoying in it, directing my mind towards important matters and writing down ideas flowing in.

Once I would get home, I would go through it all, refine it, expand it and try to implement it where relevant/possible.

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My husband now goes for walks for some of his conference calls. Just today we have been experimenting on how to make his microphone more windproof.

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I thought that I might as well contribute some experiences, given that I’m a remote worker since forever … except for about 80 days of work as a truck driver, which is also remote but in a different sense …

I noticed that most contributors in this topic (with the exception of @rebecca) seem to advise for setting clear boundaries between work and non-work, between professional and private life, even including the choice of location. Such as:

That is surprising, as I have the the opposite in my own remote work philosophy, and am quite sure I’ll not change that aspect. It’s called “full work-life integration” in my mind, and really means that: I have no concept of “after hours” or “weekend” since I started self-employment in 2008, but I do have concepts of freedoms and flexibility that I use to mix work and non-work in my days. I usually mix in too much work, but to me that’s a separate issue from “is it advisable to mix”.

I’ll quickly explain how (I think) it works for me … maybe it provides some inspirations:

  • I want the freedom to switch between on-the-job activities and other activities at a moment’s notice, and use that a lot. For mental wellbeing, I need the space to think, to follow ideas and inspirations during the day, to take two hours off and research about a new cool invention that popped up in my mind. The idea that an employer would force me into an office building and then force me to deal with on-the-job things for eight hours straight is horror to me, and a reason why I never took up such a job and instead became self-employed.

  • Me and two of my brothers (also remote digital workers) are the only people I know who like using a time tracking software to make the split between work and non-work at the push of a button. (We even all use the same time tracking tool called tom-ui, written by one of my brothers.) So while certainly unusual and perhaps due to genetics, for us it definitely helps: no need to feel bad when taking time off “at work” or working during my freetime, as designating time as work or not is just a click of a button, with the natural consequence of being paid for worktime and not paid for other time.

  • For claiming and using the mental freedom to work when you want and not work when you don’t want, it definitely helps to be self-employed rather than being an employee. As an employee, it’s natural to feel under pressure to answer immediately etc. to keep up a good impression among so-called “superiors”, while as a self-employed person working among peers (or as a teamleader) the concern is rather with getting the project done in an efficient and enjoyable manner. And a need to answer immediately may just indicate a legacy culture of synchronous communication while remote work profits more from asynchronous, parallelized workstreams (at least according to my manual).

I hope that nobody working with us here in Edgeryders feels pressurized to perform well in a system that “we” (whoever that is) have set up; in that mindset, it’s natural to try to get away from work as far as possible in your hard-earned freetime. What I like to see is when people instead step up to improve the processes that make their work at Edgeryders tedious or boring or something that stresses them out when they have to touch it in their freetime. Haven’t seen that too much in Edgeryders, but was happy to see that @amelia started such an initiative just a few days ago.

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This resonates very much with me, with the difference that I always worked to do things in efficient and enjoyable way. I realised very early I will not really be happy working 9-17 for somebody else so my only desire was to learn while there and do a good job. I didn’t care about good impressions or anything like that.

Well my mind is almost always working in a way, I guess because it’s for my own projects. I really enjoy working on them so I don’t consider it work. I also pressure myself unknowingly…that’s why I need reminders on the wall I guess :laughing:

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Thank you Matt, an original perspective as always.
I have to say, I’ve always looked up to you and @alberto for being such ‘conscious workers’, for the lack of a better term: autonomous, but also in complete control of your responsibilities and likes.
But for many of us who are not wired that way, it’s harder to integrate work and relaxation in the same way. Even when we are as passionate about the work as maybe you are, in some cases. Even when we, or I, are also self-employed!
My brain can’t simply relax for two hours in between the paid tasks. Which means I have yet to discover how to take a walk in the middle of the day to relax, enjoy it, and then come back and enjoy the remaning of the work day. Perhaps it has to do with neuroticism, I don’t know… or managing my energy well.
But you two really shine in this, so thanks for providing the inspiration.

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Wonderful to hear all these different perspectives and ways of maintaining personal preferences, alongside fostering healthy work-life-balance. It is so individual. And starts with self-awareness on what you need.
But note - magic can happen when you understand each others preferences and personal contexts across the ER virtual team i.e. that @noemi might need to break in the middle of the day and that @jasen_lakic likes some reminders to break (I use post-its by the way for this) …

I work with remote teams (mainly employer based) and many with more traditional company structure, and more formal contracts and terms. One of the exercises teams can do is record “personal communications preferences” via team charters in interactive workshops. During these sessions people have the opportunity to share their preferences and most importantly, others hear them, and begin to respect and care for them. Supporting each other in healthy habits and behaviours, as part of the overall team culture. You are doing that naturally on here. Well done :slight_smile:

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I agree, word for word.

Maybe I should explain that I used to earn my living a rock musician. In that trade, it is completely evident that the maker is the product: people buy not only into the music you make, but into your cultural project, even your persona as an artist. The worker is the work.

So, my activity would consist of apparently random stuff. Daydream at the piano; read Latin American crime novels; listen to other people’s music; do my tax returns; shop for surplus Eastern Germany military clothing, for a long time my signature look onstage an off; build the band’s website (late 1990s). Occasionally an idea for a new song would come out. Occasionally that became a full-fledged song, which occasionally would later be recorded, released and performed live.

Good luck finding a notion of “productivity” in this.

Instead, what made sense to me is this: my life is a kind of project. The project changes over time, but there is always a project. I use the project to interact with the world, meet people, fall in love, make friends and sometimes enemies. Everything I do is part of this; some activities are monetized, others are not. I don’t care, as long as the project is going well and I am not starving (which would make the project go very badly indeed).

Productivity is not a major concern for me, and I only track my time if I have to or if I suspect I am doing things wrong. My concern, instead, is integration and coherence: I resent activities that are not advancing me on my project. This is where my aversion to bureaucracy and management techniques comes from.

Of course, remote work is a great match for this. Like Matt says, when you are pursuing a fairly broad life project, you need a lot of freedom in mapping it onto a whole range of idiosyncratic activities, some of which will result in false starts, etc.
Most of these buildup activities are best done alone, on your own time. If you try to do them in group, you are going to spend most of your time waiting for others. This was very clear in music. For a band of 6-7 people to rehearse together a 4 minutes song, you would normally need 10 or more minutes, between coordinating to start, giving each other feedback, toilet breaks etc. This work is still necessary, but it will flow best if people have already learned how to play their parts at home.

Conclusion: I like to work remotely, with high-energy, highly coordinated in-person sprints every now and then. And the money comes from whatever direction. It’s worked well enough so far, and this amount of freedom would be very hard to give up.

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For me it depends on what kind of work. With bodywork, definitely yes. With anything else - that’s my idea of a nightmare :grimacing: :grimacing: :grimacing:

During the brief stint where I was giving pilates classes I was working out, or working other people out, hours and hours everyday. When not working - I was learning about anatomy, cooking, etc. But it did not feel like work because…I was high all the time. Not as in weed high - high on endorphins and very very relaxed.

The confinement was a double disaster in this sense. And more remote work means more of the same by definition - unless ofcourse you are running outdoors with great connectivity wherever you are and fancy equipment that filters out all noise and dynamically switches your mic on and off bases on reading from movement and heart rate sensors so no one can tell when you are sprinting or whatever. Also, no video, so people don’t see you sweating.

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