Remote work has transformed the workplace as we know it.
It's not just mainstream anymore, it's the future of the working world, promising benefits like greater productivity for employees, more efficiency in the average team, and even reduced costs for the modern employer.
In a world where anyone can be connected thanks to the power of cloud computing and the internet, there's no need for staff members to spend their day within a specific office at the same desk every day.
It could be far better for your workforce to have the freedom to choose when and where they work instead.
According to a study by Upwork, about 63% of companies now have remote workers, and 48% of businesses use freelancers.
The demand for flexible working is growing.
However, it's important to note that these remote initiatives only work with the right strategy in place. People can't simply jump into a mobile working environment and maintain the same level of productivity and accuracy they had in the office.
There needs to be a way of ensuring that high-quality outcomes are still achieved by workers that aren't present in the office.
What is Remote Working Like?
One of the biggest problems that we currently face with the rise of remote working is that there's just not enough accurate information out there to explain what it's actually like.
Working away from the office doesn't mean spending every day on a hammock at the beach while you lazily respond to emails on your phone. It's also not about hanging out with friends all the time and drinking cocktails.
Misconceptions about remote work have perpetuated the idea that freelance and mobile employees are lazier and less productive than their counterparts.
However, the truth is that remote workers can be just as valuable - if not more lucrative than their in-office colleagues. All they need is the right strategy to keep their mind focused and pave the way for deep working.
With the right project management tools and the correct strategy, any remote worker can tap into the deep, valuable working processes that business leaders prize.
What is Deep Work?
So, what does it mean to implement "deep work" into the daily schedule?
To understand that, you need to take a look at the work of Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University, who coined the term deep work in his world-changing book.
According to Newport, Deep work refers to the professional activities that we perform in a distraction-free environment. These activities require a level of concentration that make the most of our cognitive abilities.
Through deep working practices, it's possible for today's employees, wherever they are, to create new value, develop their skills, and deliver transformative opportunities to their business.
Deep work has also been proven to contribute to better outcomes and greater creativity levels.
This idea of concentrating exclusively on a specific task for a long period doesn't quite align with the images that have been thrown around the internet regarding remote work. However, that doesn't mean that deep working and remote working can't exist together.
The decision of whether or not to engage in "deep work" belongs to the individual employee.
If a staff member chooses to concentrate on a specific task and ignore other distractions, then they can make the most of the benefits offered by a flexible working environment.
The key to success is thoroughly preparing for your new remote working venture.
Step 1: Find Your Work Tower
The first step in making sure that remote working and deep working can go hand in hand is finding what Cal Newport refers to as a work tower.
In his book, Newport explained that the psychiatrist Carl Jung built a tower for himself in Switzerland, where he could retreat to focus on his world. The tower was the source of some of Jung's most productive periods of writing and research.
Today's remote workers don't necessarily need access to their own literal tower, but they do need to understand where and how they do their best work so that they can create an environment where their productivity will flourish.
- For some outgoing people, this could mean visiting coworking spaces so that they can be surrounded by the noises of the workplace that they're used to.
- For other, more reserved individuals, the work tower might be a quiet and secluded environment, equipped with just a computer and the right software - no distractions around.
Everyone works differently, and the beauty of remote working is that employees are not forced to exist in the same environment regardless of their preferences.
Instead, mobile workers can find the space that's most appealing to their needs, and take advantage of that environment for true inspiration, motivation, and focus.
Step 2: Remember The Importance of Flexibility
Remote workers often live very different lifestyles.
The term "remote work" doesn't just apply to people working from home, but also employees that log into tools from cafes, freelancers who work from different locations, and digital nomads.
The varied nature of remote work means that a certain degree of flexibility is crucial from day one.
People exploring their own remote work opportunities need to figure out when they need to push themselves to accomplish more, and when they need to slow down and take a breather.
One of the most appealing things about the mobile working environment for today's employees is the idea that it can provide more control over work-life balance.
If you know that you do your best deep work during the later hours of the day, because you're distracted by children earlier on, then you also know that you need to adjust your schedule accordingly.
When moving into a remote work environment, people need to be open to finding out what kind of schedule and space works for them.
While anyone can attempt to force deep working, the truth is that productivity and performance happen more naturally when it suits your lifestyle.
According to Gallup research, employees are 43% less likely to experience burnout when they're given a choice on when and how to complete their tasks.
However, the same freedom can also lead to burnout because employees feel indebted to their employers, making them work extra hard.
The key to success is to find a flexible strategy that suits you and your employer without causing feelings of guilt.
Step 3: Empower Yourself
Having the right schedule and the right environment to work from is crucial.
However, today's mobile employees and freelancers will also need to make sure that they have access to the tools they need to be as productive as possible too.
Sometimes this means simply taking advantage of the applications and software that their employer provides via the cloud. Other times, however, freelancers will discover that experimenting with additional tools makes their life easier.
For instance, if your workplace checks up on you with regular phone calls once a week to see how things are going, you might not feel as connected to the team as you did as an in-house employee.
Implementing video conferencing may help you to feel less isolated, which also makes you more engaged in your work, and more able to focus.
Additionally, tools that allow you to switch off distractions when necessary such as collaboration apps with presence notifications where you can set yourself to "do not disturb," increases your chances of building an environment for stronger deep working.
Similarly, you should also feel free not to use some of the tools your employer is offering if you think it's harming your productivity.
Some employees try so hard to support their remote workers that they end up overwhelming them with disjointed tools that crush productivity.
Step 4: Have The Right Mindset and Ritual
Finally, it takes a certain kind of person to thrive in a remote working environment.
If you're easily distracted and need someone watching over your shoulder to get work done, then you may never be able to complete deep work in a remote work environment.
In this case, your best option would be to work in a coworking space where you feel as though you're getting the same experience as you would in an office.
In the other hand, if you know that you can focus, as long as you're in the right environment, use ritual to get your brain into work mode.
The moment you step into your workplace tower, your mind should switch over into career mode, with no thoughts of snacks, shows, or distractions.
A good ritual, like drinking a cup of coffee, putting your headphones on and going through your calendar can help you fall into a routine that makes entering your deep workspace as easy as walking through the door to your home office.
Just make sure that you have a ritual to help you wind back down into "personal life" mode at the end of each day.
A third of workers say that they can't switch off thanks to the tools that keep them connected to the office. The problem can be even worse for remote workers.
Decide how your day should start and how it should end to make sure that deep work is a space that you visit, not the environment you try to live in. You might check your email after you log in, but you should never start focusing on tasks again after you're done for the day.
Deep Work Requires Ongoing Practice
Like any change in routine, learning how to embrace the deep working philosophy in a remote environment is something that requires concentration and practice.
The more time someone spends in their remote working routine, the more they'll begin to see where they can be more efficient and productive by blocking out distractions or changing their atmosphere.
As remote working continues to grow more popular, the employees of the future will gradually learn how to enter "deep work" mode regardless of where they are, or what industry they're working in.
About the Author:
Ashley Wilson is a digital nomad writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference Harry Potter quotes in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.