One of the best parts of working remotely is the flexibility it provides. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of remote working for the employee or contractor is that you can work in a way that suits you. Very few on-site jobs provide the flexibility to work where, when, and how you want.
This is a double-edged sword, though. The more flexible your schedule, the more diligent you need to be about finding your own structure and setting boundaries for yourself where you need them.
Remote work comes with lots of things to take into account when designing your schedule, ranging from how you work, to your responsibilities to colleagues and those at home, to where you are geographically. Indeed, finding the right balance that works best for you can be tricky.
For many remote workers, the freedom that comes with an off-site role is part of what draws us to it. We love the opportunity of designing our own working schedule. But how do you know what suits you best?
What time do you work best?
Depending on your natural body clock, you may work well at 2am, 6pm, or 9am. You might have a natural dip in energy in the early afternoon (many of us do), or you might find your energy tanks after dinner (mine does).
Everyone’s body clock is different, but most of us fall into one of three categories, known as chronotypes:
- Morning larks: Also known as early birds, these people prefer to get up early and go to bed early. New Scientist reports about 10% of people fit into this category.
- Night owls: At the other extreme, these people like to sleep in and go to bed lateâusually after midnight. Around 20% of us are night owls.
- In-between: The rest of us (the vast majority) fit somewhere in-between these two ends of the spectrum.
A morning lark’s day, for example, might look something like this:
Night owls would experience a similar day, only it would be shifted later by a few hours.
If you’re a night owl trying to fit into a 9-5 job, you’re going to have a tough time. On the other hand, morning larks struggle to stay up late and won’t be as productive if they’re required to work at night.
Understanding how your body clock works will help you find your most productive times, lowest energy dips during the day, and best hours for sleeping.
If you’re a morning lark, you’ll want to set aside your morning hours for focused, uninterrupted work time. Night owls will probably want to save their evening hours for the same thing.
You might not fit the extreme ends of this scale, but even discovering that you’re most alert and focused late in the morning rather than right at 9am when you start work can be a useful insight. You might try starting your workday later and finishing later to take advantage of your natural peak, or starting with low-energy work like catching up on meetings and emails before starting your most important work just before lunch.
Where do you work best?
When all you need to be productive is a good internet connection, you can find so many places to work. You can even get good work done in a park with mobile internet. There aren’t many people I know who work in an office and regularly take time out to work in the park for an afternoon.
Remote working gives you the freedom to find a space that suits you best or to move between spaces throughout the day if that’s your thing (Joel Runyon calls this Workstation Popcorn, and swears by it for increased productivity). If you’re lucky enough to have a co-working space or great cafe with WiFi nearby, you can enjoy the benefits of working around other people. Or, if you prefer peace and quiet, you could rent an office (shared office suites are available almost everywhere nowadays) or set yourself up with a workspace at home.
If you like working with particular gear, such as a second screen, your own sound system, a comfy chair, or a certain keyboard, you can set up the best workspace in your own office without needing to worry about affecting other people. Or, if you prefer moving around with little more than a laptop and a pair of headphones, you can enjoy the more nomadic working style of switching to a new space every day.
How do you work best?
While most of us fit somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale, those of us who lean more towards one side or the other feel this difference acutely in our workspace.
If you’re quite introverted, being around other people drains your energy, and you need time alone to recharge. Working in a loud, open office can be terrible for an introvert’s well-being and productivity.
On the other hand, extroverts draw energy from being around other people, and tend to feel drained from spending too much time alone. Working from home with no interpersonal interaction all day might drive an extrovert crazy with frustration and boredom. (Google Hangouts can help here, but there’s nothing the same as direct in-the-same-room interaction.)
Understanding where you fit on this scale can make a huge difference to how well you set up your workspace and schedule. For instance, an introvert might try to schedule meetings or calls for low-energy periods in the day, or at the end of the day when there’s not much high-effort work left to focus on. For an extrovert, starting the day with meetings and calls could be a huge boost to their energy and help them be much more productive for the rest of the day.
If you’re not sure where you are on the introvert-extrovert scale, try this test to get an idea of where you sit. You can then use this information to guide you in perfecting a schedule that suits your energy requirements best.