17 Tips And Things To Be Aware Of Before Starting A Remote Job (From Someone Who’s Been WFH For 6 Years)

17 Tips And Things To Be Aware Of Before Starting A Remote Job (From Someone Who’s Been WFH For 6 Years)

Here’s what I wish I’d known sooner — the good, the bad, and the completely unexpected.

When I started working remotely in 2015, it opened up my entire world, allowing me to travel more, stress less, and find a better work-life balance (at least most days). But this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. And, of course, every company’s remote work policy is different.

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Remote work literally changed my life. I started as a newbie freelancer with unlimited freedom. Then I worked full time for a fully remote company and have since returned to freelance, working for several clients who all have different expectations of me. 😅While it’s been great for me, some people miss human interaction or the structure of an office workday, while others feel a remote job doesn’t offer enough flexibility. 

So before you sign that work contract, there are a few things you should know to ask. I also have some hard-earned WFH tips that you might find helpful too.

1. During the interview process, get a feel for how the company defines remote work.

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Some companies expect their remote or work-from-home employees to clock in and out at set hours and to only leave their desk at designated breaks. That may be perfect if you’re used to (or like) the structure of a typical in-office work environment, but it won’t be conducive to anyone hoping to do laundry midday, work from the coffeeshop a few times a week, or pop out for an hour to get a haircut. The solution: Before you accept a position, ask the hiring manager exactly what a work-from-home day looks like, and then be honest about whether or not it matches your expectations.

2. If the company says working hours are flexible, you’ll have a whole new level of freedom. But don’t forget to clear your plans with your boss.

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In my opinion, one of the best things about working from home is the ability to squeeze your LIFE into your workday. As long as you’re getting your work done (or putting in the expected number of hours), it shouldn’t matter if you’re working 9 to 5, 7 to 3, or 8 to 1 (insert a two-hour bike ride) and then 3 to 6. 

3. Depending on your company’s flexibility, you might be able to work from the car, the airport, and on the plane, allowing you to live your life without dipping into your PTO.

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This one depends on the company you work for, but in all my previous roles I was lucky enough to be able to pull this off. Sure, it can be stressful, but if you’re like me, it’s worth it to work on planes, trains, etc. and save that PTO for a day when you’re actually doing something cool.

4. But no matter how flexible your company is, keep in mind that you’ll probably still need to schedule your day around calls and meetings.

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You may prefer to work 7 to 3, but if there’s a company-wide call at 4 p.m., you should be willing and able to adjust your schedule. In addition, depending on how involved you are in a meeting (and how important it is), you might want to make sure you can take it at home. Chances are it’s quieter, and the internet is more reliable.

5. Ask if working from coffee shops, your friend’s house, and your camper van is an option. Some companies require their employees to literally work from home every day.

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If you work in the healthcare industry, for example, or a company where the work is confidential, hopping on your favorite coffee shop’s Wi-Fi may not be an option. Before you get your hopes up, make sure to ask if the company is OK with their remote workers clocking in from public places.

6. If you can work from anywhere (or close to anywhere), you may be able to make longer-term travel a reality.

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This is a HUGE perk of remote work in my opinion. Rather than hustling home for a long weekend, you can work from your parents’ house for the week and spend time with family in the evenings and on weekends. And if your company is very flexible, you may even be able to work while traveling. All you need is your work-from-home gear, a solid internet connection, and a willingness to make sure you’re online when your team is. 

7. If you’re hoping to work while traveling internationally, make sure to ask if that’s an option.

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Again, this totally depends on your company’s expectations and rules. Clocking in from the airport or your parents’ house in Vermont may be fine, but working across the border in Canada may be a no-go. If you’re hoping to travel internationally and take your work on the road (something I really love doing), make sure to ask if that’s an option. 

When I was working a full-time remote job, I was able to spend a month working from Paris and another month working from Amman, Jordan. The company just couldn’t let me stay for longer than a month due to tax reasons. 

8. Make sure you’re clear on the time frame of your remote position.

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Some companies have only gone remote because of COVID-19, and they may push for employees to come back to the office when things calm down. In addition, there’s a ton of talk around hybrid jobs — positions where you split your time between working from home and working in the office. So before you accept any position, make sure you have a clear idea of what remote work will look like in the future, and make sure you’re on board with it.

9. Take a couple of weeks to feel out the company culture, but be over communicative when you start a new remote role.

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When you start any job, remote or not, there’s a period of time when you have to figure out the company’s unsaid rules. Are you expected to check in with your boss every morning? How involved do you need to be in the company chats?

My advice is to err on the side of being over communicative, at least at the beginning. Your boss will likely appreciate that you check in with them in the morning, say goodnight when you’re clocking out, and take time to participate in whatever Q&A or small talk is going on in the company chat. 

10. Your lunch break can be whatever you want it to be.

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Forget about eating that soggy PB&J in your cubicle or downing a salad in the canteen. When you work from home, you can spend your lunch break making a hot, delicious lunch — or, better yet (IMO), getting in a workout, catching up on household chores, or meeting up with a friend at your favorite lunch spot.

11. Start a weekly ritual of meeting up with other remote workers for a “work date.”

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I love remote work, but even I find that it can be super lonely and challenging. There’s nothing worse than realizing that it’s 3 p.m., you’re in your PJs, and you haven’t left the house all day. To keep yourself well socialized, make plans to meet other remote workers at the local coffee shop, or take turns working from each other’s homes. They’ll understand that you actually have to work, and the socializing between tasks will do wonders for your mental health.

12. Download work apps on your phone so you can check in on the go.

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This one feels a little sneaky, but I’d argue that it’s essential. Chances are your boss is going to message you the moment you step away from your desk to do the laundry or use the bathroom. If you download your work apps and totally forget about a meeting, you can join in from your phone in a pinch.

13. Creating a separate work space in your home is key…no matter how small.

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I was honestly against this concept for a while because I loved the freedom of working from bed, then the kitchen table, and finally on the couch. But ultimately I realized that a separate work area is so important. Not only is it better for your posture (seriously, my poor back), but I’d argue that it also positively impacts your mental health and productivity.

I’ve seen people turn closets into offices, create a work space in the corner of their bedroom, or (my personal favorite) clock in from the garage. 

14. Buying a monitor, keyboard, and mouse is SO worth it. And if you can swing it, pick up a standing desk.

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Your company may provide all of these items, but if they don’t, I believe they’re worth every penny. I worked on my tiny laptop for over four years, but now that I have a giant monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse, I’ll never go back to my old ways. I do, however, rely on just the laptop when I travel. 

I currently work on a standard desk, but due to back pain (and some restlessness) I’m thinking of getting a standing desk — I’ve been eyeing the bamboo Kana Pro desk from FlexiSpot, which a couple of my friends love. Reviews to come!

15. Wearing your PJs all day might feel fun, but it’s a horrible, dreadful idea.

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Even if you have a workday where you are 100% sure you’ll see no one — even over video call — resist the urge to lounge around in your PJs. It feels fun for the first few hours, but by the time afternoon rolls around you’ll just feel sh*tty about yourself. Showering, brushing your teeth, and getting dressed will do wonders for your attitude and mental health — trust me.

16. Get really good at setting boundaries for yourself, your neighbors, and any family or friends who live nearby.

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Once word gets out that you work from home, everyone will assume you’re just sitting around at home. You’ll have friends calling you to chat in the middle of the day and family stopping by to say hi. This is where boundaries come in. Let everyone know that you’re working a real job that requires your attention. If needed, put your phone in the other room and hang a little sign on your door to let people know you’re on a call or have a busy day (I’ve done both).

Just as you set boundaries with others, set them for yourself, too. This is even harder to do. When your computer is in the other room, it’s too easy to work late or send off a few emails over the weekend. Keep strict working hours, and treat your personal time as sacred.

17. Because you’re not commuting (or in some cases, even leaving the house), you’ll be moving less. Use that free time to exercise, stretch, or do something to keep your body and mind happy.

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If you’re used to taking the train or bus to work, you’ve been getting exercise without even realizing it. And even if you drive, you still have to walk to and from your car. To counteract the lack of movement that might result from working from home, schedule time to exercise, and make sure you’re getting up throughout the day, even if it’s just to sit on the deck after a high-pressure call or pet your cat for a little stress relief.

Do you have any great tips for remote work that I missed? Drop them into the comments below.

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