The Millennial’s Guide to Working Remotely

By Alina Heim


So, you’ve decided to join the #digitalnomad bandwagon —welcome.

Having the flexibility to work out of your home, your favorite cafe, or even an airport (provided they have the Holy Grail that is free wifi) is a workplace game-changer. (Not to mention that this is the year your Instagram is finally going to reach *expert level*.) But before you download VSCO, learn what working remotely might look like for you.

After a year working abroad from Berlin, Germany, I’m here to hit y’all with some knowledge. Here are the 5 golden rules that will help you achieve a more productive work week while away from your peers:

1. BYOW (Bring Your Own Wifi)

In my first month in Berlin, I found myself in a lot of cafes. A) Because it was summer, and I’d be damned if I didn’t sip a cold German beer while working on any given Excel sheet and B) because the wifi in my Airbnb actually wasn’t usable. Not even a little bit. This was a pretty serious concern, since the startup I was working for had launched out of beta only days before I arrived.

Add the fact that free wifi offered in communal spaces often wasn’t good enough to support a 30-minute meeting on Skype. Or Google Hangouts. Or UberConference. There will always be technical difficulties. Make sure your Internet connection’s not one of them.

Instead, rely on your own Wifi by making your phone a hotspot or getting your own router (I hear Karma has a good portable one). It might cost you a bit more upfront, but the time you’ll save commuting between different spaces in pursuit of those magic three bars is worth it.

2. Respect the Communal Space

Need to get away from home and work in a public space? Be prepared to share it with a couple enjoying their afternoon coffee or other people like you. This means disregarding all you’ve ever known about holding down a table during finals week in the library. Throw it out. All of it. Your laptop and latte should be the only items on the table in front of you. In fact, have headphones on the ready in your bag in the case someone calls you last-minute.

If you DO want to occupy the length of a communal table however, there are places to accommodate you. Join a coworking space! WeWork has expanded to cities all over the U.S. and Europe. They have free beer and coffee with membership, guys. F-R-E-E. If you’re looking for a more low-key option, there are also a lot of smaller, independent spaces where you can work flexibly, usually at a small cost per month. I had a great experience with Betahaus in Kreuzberg, Berlin.

3. Forget the Timezone

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore, so 9–5 isn’t likely to be your timetable. Get used to it.

Before you freak out, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating for you to turn into a workaholic/zombie. Instead, I’m saying you should recognize the timezone of the company you’re reporting to, and respect it. Accept that you may need to be reachable around 11pm every day. But for that convenience you give your employer, set parameters for when you absolutely cannot be reached, i.e. 4am. 2pm. 10am. Whenever it is. Don’t rely on your managers to figure it out. Communicate clearly early on to get a schedule you can sustainably work around.

4. Fill Up Your Work Calendar

Convincing yourself that you need another cup of coffee every hour can really get in the way of accomplishing your goals. Hold yourself accountable!

Open up whatever calendar application you use and fill it up with the tasks you do every day, even if it’s something small, like dedicating a 15-minute slot for checking email. It can be difficult to work productively when you aren’t surrounded by your colleagues — physically write (or type) your tasks and goals for the day in a place you’ll see them often.

Moreover, if you decide to put your obligations on the company cloud calendar (a lot of companies use Google’s), your coworkers will have a much better idea of what you’re doing and when they should try to reach you.

5. Find a Work Buddy

While you may have ~countless~ friends on Slack, nothing beats having physical people to work with in your space. It’ll keep you on track, spur creativity, and most importantly, lessen any feelings of isolation you might have.

If you just moved in and don’t know anyone in your city yet, find a freelancer friend to Skype with (it’s almost guaranteed that there’s someone in your network also working remotely.). Video chat while working! I found that having someone else was on the line was a comfort, and would let me express my *in the moment* thoughts as if I were in an office.

Have any other good tips for working remotely? Leave them in the comments!


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