I've Been Working Remotely as the Founder of My Company for Over 12 Years. Here Are the 3 Top Lessons I've Learned.
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Long before working remotely was popular, I set up a desk in my home office and started plugging away on the new business I founded. More than a dozen years later, and the company has grown exponentially. I've hired contractors throughout the country, from book designers and editors to illustrators. Anyone who doubts the validity of remote work can look at my experience as proof that success can be achieved in business without stepping foot into a centralized office.
Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned working remotely for more than a decade.
1. Use technology to your advantage.
Instead of paying for a large office for my business, I’ve spent a great deal of time and money building my company’s infrastructure online using systems such as Salesforce and Basecamp. Every one of my remote workers, including myself, can use those two online-based systems to access the same information in real time.
Meetings can be held virtually as well. Zoom is a popular option for this, along with regular phone calls that can be scheduled in advance through an online scheduler. Slack is also a great tool for quick, real-time messaging among team members. Earlier this year, I also implemented Community, which allows us to connect with our clients and potential clients via text messaging. As for our service contracts, we use an online digital signing platform that eliminates the need for paper contracts.
Obviously, if you sell physical products it will be more difficult for a large percentage of your company to work remotely. But for most service-based companies, the move to remote work makes a lot of sense. Lawyers, therapists and even doctors are seeing their clients online nowadays and with a lot of success. Technology is at the heart of all of those interactions.
2. Invest in a comfortable home office setup.
If you’re going to be working from home, it’s important that you focus on ergonomics. Buy a quality office chair with plenty of back support. Don’t skimp on this — your back will rebel if you do. As someone who has had plenty of back issues throughout the years, I can tell you that the single best investment I’ve made in my home office is my comfortable and supportive chair.
Another consideration should be your monitor. According to Mayo Clinic, your monitor should be at arm’s length away and your eyes should be level with the top of the screen. It’s best for your wrists to be straight and your hands should be at or below elbow level when working with your keyboard and mouse. You can usually achieve this balance by adjusting the height of your chair.
3. Set clear boundaries with your household members.
If household members are home during your business hours, you’ll need to make it clear to them that you’re home, but you’re not actually available except when you’re on lunch break or unless it’s a legitimate emergency. Have a respectful conversation with your entire household and tell them that when your office door is closed, that means you're unavailable. Allow them to text you if they need something, but if you don’t respond, that means you’re either on the phone with a client or nose-deep in emails. You’ll get back to your household member through text once you have a break.
Keep in mind that boundaries can be painful for some people. They may feel rejected or disregarded. The key is to communicate with them beforehand and do so with a kind and respectful tone. Also, remain consistent with your boundaries so that you're not sending them mixed signals.
Setting clear boundaries will allow you to stay focused on your work and remain efficient.