After living in the Shropshire countryside for many years, or “The Shire” as it’s known locally, my partner and I made the jump to city living and moved to Manchester. So far we’re loving the city life.
Thoughts on Remote Life
Relocating to Manchester also meant going remote, so creating a healthy and productive environment was a top priority. In my case, I’ve dedicated a room to my home-office, allowing me to have somewhere to focus without household distractions. I see myself as a satellite office as opposed to someone that just works from home.
I have a 10-step, stress-free commute, and the means to dress appallingly without judgment. Be warned though, it can be easy to not leave the apartment for several hours or days and consuming copious amounts of caffeine, which I’m told isn’t healthy.
My Advice for Remote Workers
1. Communication is key.
Sounds obvious, but deliberate, regular communication is crucial if you’re a remote worker or have them in your team. Get this right and you’re 90% there, it’s that simple. Invest in the best technologies you can afford to support this effort. By this, I mean both professional as well as congenial communication. I’m a happy hermit, but to combat the lack of social interaction, I always try to have video calls with colleagues, and often casually chat on slack (assisted by only the best gifs of course) to drum up some light-hearted conversation. Little things like this make a big difference when you’re remote.
2. Figure out a routine and stick to it.
Getting a routine established can be tricky to start with, but will pay dividends in the months to follow. Try different things to find what works for you and set some regular office hours. Don’t forget to add in some exercise if you’re not already. Check out my routine below.
3. Invest in a workspace.
Establish an area you can call your office, this could be a desk, a spare-room or a co-working space. Having a go-to place to work will help you stay focused and minimize distractions.
4. Embrace “Do Not Disturb” time.
New remote workers tend to overcompensate for not being in the office and are hyper-responsive to their colleagues. Buck this trend and get into the habit of using tools such as Slack’s “status” functionality, don’t be afraid to let people know you’re in the zone or busy.
How I Organize My Day
I start my days with a shower and listen to my latest audiobook on Audible, usually a biography or something businessy. Following that, I brew up a big pot of coffee and eat some breakfast before signing in around 8.30. I try to handle all of my communications in the morning along with any admin as I’ve found clients and colleagues to be most responsive during this period. After that, I round off the morning with any smaller tasks before taking a break for lunch with my partner, who is also remote.
The afternoon is time for focus (cue Spotify ‘Deep Focus’ playlist). I restrict my notifications and plunge deep into my work. I’m most productive during this period, throughout which my time is spent actively designing as well as browsing the web for inspiration.
Once the work-day is over, I hit the gym. Having an element of physical activity in my routine is essential for my wellbeing, although getting there is not without struggle, especially after a long day.
Outside of that, I commute to the company headquarters every couple of weeks, which takes around 2 and a half hours but is a welcomed journey. This helps keep me socially connected and provides a healthy change of scenery, not to mention the high-quality office banter.
When it comes to workspaces, I’ve always tried to strike a balance between tidiness and practicality (and maybe pinch of fun - glances at terminator bobblehead). Too much minimalism feels sterile, and too much clutter makes it easy to get distracted or lose focus. For me, the workspace is a vital part of being productive.
My desk gives me a generous worktop space and a sturdy foundation for my equipment. Situated in front of the desk is a Herman Miller Sayl Suspension Back Office Chair—without a doubt the comfiest chairs I’ve ever sat in.
Attached to the worktop is a steel mounting arm which holds a 34” ultra-wide monitor. Arms make the desk look a lot cleaner than stands, and allow much more flexibility when adjusting them. The LG monitor is also superb, ticking all the boxes for size, color, and responsiveness.
On the left-hand side of the desk, I have a Tomons Scandinavian desk lamp, complete with a vintage Edison bulb, providing the perfect ambient glow. Beside that sit my dot-grid notebooks and a metal camping mug which holds my stationary. I’ve also got a few pop-culture figures which keep me company, they could also be the closest thing I have to friends.
On the right I have a mini USB fan to keep me cool on those muggy summer days, accompanied by a wooden laptop stand which cradles my sticker-enriched MacBook Pro (Intel i5 2.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, late-2013 model). Owning this MacBook for nearly 5 years, I can only say good things about it.
If you haven’t guessed by now, one of my pastimes is online gaming (#PCMasterRace), so I’ve also got a custom gaming rig stationed under the desk for when I need to let off some steam.