Making Remote Working into Rewarding Work


Perhaps the newest virus that is sweeping like wildfire across the web is that of remote working as CoronaVirus drives people to work from home. 

For a while, led by rather flashy digital nomads, the phrase ‘remote working’ has been akin to taking two weeks in the South of France back in the 50s: something available only to the privileged few who have attained a lifestyle that lesser mortals can only aspire to.

“Here I am” screams the dreamy Insta photo as the vista across their laptop and glass of fresh juice scans across a misty mountain.  “Work isn’t work for me. No not when I choose where to be” goes the mantra.

Well, having tried it, this is true to a point.  It is great to set your own boundaries and hours and to respond to emails and clients and ‘work stuff’ in your own time and in a place of your choosing.  However, having worked for an International charity I can also vouchsafe how frustrating it is when you are in an African country and the wi-fi goes at a speed so slow that the little whirring circle barely moves. When it takes two hours to send an email and you are being bitten by mosquitos during the process. Also, your time zone and ‘availability window’ may not always dovetail with those you work with or for.

Now working from home for the majority of my work and passions, I thankfully have, on the whole, great Wi-Fi plus a decent computer. And a comfortable chair. Plus, a fantastic selection of teas and even a rather amazing view.

What I don’t have is real connection. Those water cooler moments when you shoot the breeze and just take your mind away from the work you have been doing. The camaraderie. The support.

Remote working is, rather like a virus, an unseen and often unsettling thing that creates dis-ease. The sense of isolation can be crippling.

I belong to several networking groups and whilst some serve as a marketplace for us to buy and sell our services to each other, many more are really a support network for me and others. Somewhere we can join with our tribe to be educated and entertained and, throwing caution to the wind, to just get a hug and some tea and sympathy or good advice.

We are basically tribal people and our wellbeing is tied to connection. The greatest punishment you can give to a person, apart from something physical, is to isolate them. In prison, this will be solitary confinement. A sailor marooned on an island. Peoples sent into exile. It is all about disconnection.

When I was Head of Marketing & Communications for International Charity The Leprosy Mission what I learned from traveling to remote places and meeting people was that however poor, they are bound together in connection. From the family to the tribe to the community. For people with leprosy, the most devastating thing about the disease often isn’t the awful physical ailments but that they are driven out of their communities as people fear they will become infected.

Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease, and depression. Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29%

So how do you connect?  Especially if you are forced into quarantine or self-isolation?

Start with yourself. Come to know yourself, love yourself, feel that you are good enough and that perfection is just an air-brushed illusion. Take good care of yourself in a holistic way by nurturing your body with good food, your mind with positive thoughts and taking time out. Aim to sleep at least seven hours a night. Take care of your body through exercise. I do yoga everyday. There are a number of amazing free online classes especially Yoga By Adrienne that you can follow.

Then connect to something greater than yourself; to God, to nature, to a faith that guides you. Connect to making the World a better place by being a conscious consumer. A friend of mine told me that recently her nine-year-old daughter decided not to spend her pocket money on a cheap item of clothing as she said: ‘There must have been a price to pay for this Mummy if it is so cheap’. I am hearted by young people drawing attention to climate change. The future is theirs.

Finally, connect to others as best you can. I’ve learned to be vulnerable and open to saying when I’m hurting or down or in need of help.

It took a long time to master but now I practice it daily.

So, here are my Fab Four antidotes to the virus of lonely home working:

1) Find a tribe. A real one where you can actually go out and connect. Until we are all shut up in quarantine then human connection is key.

2) Invest in systems. Have the best internet and computer and all the systems you can afford to invest in at your disposal to support you and free you from the frustration of trying to fix things on your own and eating into your true gifts and offerings. Get support when you can afford it: shout out to my amazing assistant Lauren here!

3) Track your time. Make time for coffee and a chat (even virtual – I now have a virtual coffee several times a week with others). Don’t lose time on sorting out the washing when you have a deadline to meet. Keep the household chores to ‘household times’ just as you would if you went to work. Even ‘commute’ in the morning by rising at the same time and taking a walk, perhaps to get a coffee, at the time you may have been previously hitting the freeway.

4) Be Transparent. Check in with yourself and if you are not enjoying it then seek help or support or connection or even a new way of operating. Give it time and establish your own routines but always ask yourself if this is working for you. If not, adjust accordingly. There is enough uncertainty in the world so create as much of what works for you in your own life now.

I hope you found this helpful.