During this semester, I learned a ton about myself not only as an employee, but as an independent worker as well. Currently, I am in my second co-op job and have been working in a traditional office setting for eight months. This contrast between the two environments has really made me reflect on my first co-op semester. I have compiled a few tips and things to consider when thinking about working remotely.
1. Establish a Routine and Set Working Hours.
One of the biggest perks of working from home is the ability to set your own hours. However, one of the biggest challenges of working from home is establishing a schedule. Figuring out your work schedule will take some trial and error, so don’t feel too frustrated if the hours you first set for yourself aren’t working out after a short period of time. After a few weeks, examine your daily routine and evaluate sections of the day when you tend to be the most productive. If you enjoy waking up early and feel productive in the morning, then working from 7am until 3 or 4pm might be best for you. In contrast, if you enjoy working during the evening and are a self-proclaimed “night owl”, then feel free to work into the night. That being said, do try to be sensible with your working hours. Procrastinating all afternoon and then working until sunrise isn’t the best habit to develop and becoming nocturnal might compromise the quality of your work. So, try to pick reasonable working hours that compliment your lifestyle.
2. Try Your Best to Stick to Your Set Working Hours.
Most freelancers and those who work from home will say that sticking to a schedule can be one of the biggest challenges of not working in an office setting where most people come in around 8 or 9 in the morning and leave between 5 and 6pm. Like any job, there are busier times than others and putting in longer hours will happen in order to meet certain deadlines. Although, having a daily routine and trying to stick with it is helpful for a number of reasons. Foremost, having a set schedule will prevent you from working an excessive number of hours, which can lead to burnout. After a certain point, working an unreasonable number of hours is counter productive as the work you are producing past this point is likely not your best. Overworking, particularly if you are sacrificing an a lot of sleep, can take a toll on your body so try to stick to a reasonable weekly schedule while allowing some flexibility for busy weeks. Also, setting somewhat “normal” hours (ie. 9 to 5) will ensure that you are able to socialize with your friends and family as you work roughly the same hours that they do. This leads me to my final piece of advice…
3. Avoid Isolation.
Like any work environment, there will aspects that you enjoy and some aspects that you dislike. I found one of the most challenging things about working from home was being alone for most of the day. During this term, I frequently used the SFU Harbor Centre Library as my “office” and I would often meet up with friends and work while they studied. I found that being around other people eased this feeling of isolation and made me more productive.
With the rise of freelance and remote workers, a wave of co-working spaces have popped up in and around Vancouver. Much like a car sharing network, co-working spaces are office environments that charge users hourly, daily or by short-term rentals to work in a traditional office space with other freelancers and remote workers. These spaces are something to consider if you find yourself working from home and feeling isolated or unproductive.
This semester was challenging at times, but it was incredibly rewarding as well. Working from home helped me become a more independent worker, and I have been able to use these lessons learned to help me make the most out of my current position. I would encourage other co-op students to give self-directed jobs a try as there is much to be gained from working in less traditional positions.