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Digital Nomads and the Cardamom coffee

8 misconceptions that prevent remote working



If you have only a minute of a coffee break time for this article, then just read point 6 (and of course the cardamom coffee at the end).

 

What hasn't been said on this topic in the last 2 years?

Well, not much.

However, based on my own and my client's experiences in the past, it has been clarified what we need to make changes.

The emphasis is on the human factor.

By now, who stays in the office and works from home or in hybrid has been established. In this post, I deal with the home part of remote work.


 

Human beings are very disciplined, and rational, especially when they have to independently allocate their time, plan their days, and set and complete their tasks.


Oh no, that is not true!


We'd rather get lost in the details, we'll check the favorite blog post before we get down to business, - “when is the deadline? ...Oh I still have plenty of time!” - we reassure ourselves. All this creates immeasurable frustration in us, which we do not even notice because the causes of the symptoms do not reach an awareness. We only feel the increasing tension in ourselves and our family also feels it in us.

Of course, some people were born to work remotely, they have no problem with scheduling, or maintaining focus, they are disciplined, at the end of the day, all the planned tasks are ticked off and they are calmly sipping their tea in the sunset, children playing balls and a dog wagging its tail in the background.

Well, that's only in the advertisements which promote the latest digital gadgets and apps.

I don't believe in the self-improvement books which are overwhelming us nowadays, - "everyone works the same way" and "I can heal everyone with 3 magic words", as well as "the path to a happy and successful life is buying my book" - which are suggesting simple solutions.


However, I believe that our basic attitude can be changed and that this is not based on common sense. If it would be, we would all be functioning like the perfect exceptions above.

A change in attitude can only be achieved through emotions. Basic emotions such as joy, anger, sadness, fear, envy, and disgust. As we know, these work very well in advertising. They manipulate us without noticing, - they achieve a behavior change, they make us buy this instead of that - leverage our emotions.


Those who choose to work remotely, either out of compulsion or of their own volition, have to achieve a kind of behavioral change, and the hardest part of this is that they are alone. Since COVID, we have been inundated with more and more new products that help efficient operation in remote work, but for now, there are no emotions attached to the change.


In this situation, the first and most important task is awareness.


If we already know what is not working for us and have also accepted that it is okay, then we can start to change.

And here comes the emotions!

In the following, I will list the most common misconceptions that are the basis of our challenges and failures in remote work. I try to offer solutions and practices to resolve them from my own and my client's experiences.

I emphasize that the same story rarely happens; everyone has their emotional switch somewhere else, but it can help start awareness.



1. It's just like in the office.


Of course not! Ideally, we have our desk in the office with a comfortable office chair. That's our territory. We are surrounded by familiar objects mostly related to work and focus. Colleagues invite us for coffee and lunch at relatively equal intervals. These invisible frames are very important tools for our regularity and even surprisingly help us focus.


Let's not underestimate the importance of the time we spend commuting to and from work. This seems like a useless time, and it is in many ways (it's also polluting the environment, and all that...) but it helps to reset our brains and adopt a different kind of mindset, which is necessary to focus on our work. Even though it works the same backward, it is important to let go of work so that we can move on to the events that await us at home.

So if we know that these frameworks help us, then let's create such a rhythm.

Suppose we designate lead-in and lead-out exercises in advance. In that case, our brain will recognize them and we will more successfully transition to the usual office focus even in the home office.

These can be, for example, a morning walk with or without a dog. The same at the end of the work (Because it should end!).

Applications that help focus, which warn about breaks in the absence of colleagues. Let's get up, drink coffee or tea or eat something in such cases.

Snacks should not be within reach while working.



2. We can multitask


It would be good! Like robots. Research proves that multitasking does not exist. Dividing attention leads to a loss of efficiency. Although we don't drive a car in a home office, - so our own or other people's lives don't depend on it, if we fill out the Excel spreadsheet during a conference call, which is due tomorrow, or check the child's homework, or, God forbid, count the likes on our social media page, - but we still cannot direct our attention in two or more directions at the same time.


Imagine when you are driving a car and talking to someone. It seems to have no problem watching the traffic, controlling the car, and keeping the chat high. As long as something unexpected does not happen in the traffic, it is necessary to carry out an unusual maneuver. In such cases, the conversation is interrupted immediately, even in the middle of a sentence, and we pay attention to the solution to the suddenly arising task. This is because driving a car and monitoring traffic is working at an unconscious skill level, we do not need conscious focus and continuous analysis, so we can only pay attention to the conversation. It has happened to me many times when I was deep in a phone conversation while driving home

(strictly on speakerphone!) and I didn't even remember how I got home. Monitoring the traffic and driving the car remained below the threshold limit.


However, remote working is not a skill in any way.

Make sure you only do one activity at a time.

Ask the family to respect these times if they are at home.

It is worth discussing the rules in advance so that the children won't distract us during a conference call and that we also have dedicated time for their homework.



3. Well, you don't have to get dressed! I finally don't have to shave every morning!


But yes! It is important to separate the home from the office in the Home-office. One good way to do this is to not abandon our morning rituals. This includes dressing in clothes that represent the office/work for us. It also helps our brain to distinguish between our modes of operation.

It also helps our family to recognize the zone we are currently in.

For leaders, it can be important information about the mental state and motivation of their team if their colleagues show up on the conference call unkempt, in yesterday's or many days' worth of t-shirt. It can be important to intervene here.

That is why it is highly recommended to conduct conference calls with live video. This can also help against the temptation to multitask.



4. I can even work in bed


This is a straight path to lower back pain and/or depression. This point is in many cases a continuation of the previous one.

Our bed is a place of rest, relaxation, and intimacy. Let's keep it that way!

Making our bed should be a part of the morning routine, even if we have neglected it so far.

Now let our bed be taboo during the day.

It is very attractive to lie down a bit, but if we have a break, it should be a walk. Our backs and our souls will thank for it.



5. It's good that I don't have to listen to silly stories from my colleagues!


If we used to work in an office or a group, the change, our breaking away from the usual groups, leads to social isolation. It's unnatural. For certain ethnic groups in the East, ostracism, and forced abandonment of the group were tantamount to a death sentence. We consider ourselves much more individual beings than that. But this is not so!

We need companions to survive, even if they treat us to their silly stories daily in the office.

We don't even realize how important these are to us in maintaining our mental health.

That's why we should try to keep our groups - workplace, friends, family - alive and run on virtual platforms. Fortunately, we already have the tools for this.

Let's initiate a video conference with our colleagues instead of a telephone one.

Don't lose your social connections! It’s life-saving!



6. In addition to work, I will have more time for housework/children's lessons/gardening/my favorite series


This is the biggest myth. There are only 24 hours in a day. The time we save is commuting, what we lose is the opportunity to focus on our work.

I have already mentioned above how you can help yourself and how your environment can help you in the matter of focus.

When preparing the daily/weekly/monthly plan, do not commit to everything that has not been done around the house in the last 5 years.

This period is not a holiday, but rather a difficult working environment.

Always write the daily/weekly/etc list in the calendar with the time frame dedicated to the task. In this way, it becomes more visible what fits in it, and at the end of the day, the many unchecked lines on the list do not frustrate you.

Set reminders in the calendar application at the end of each task and try to stick to them. If you failed to complete a task, - if possible - let it go for the next day, to avoid major slippages, but allocate time for it in the next day's program based on today's experience.




7. If I'm sitting in front of the laptop, it's work after all.


The art of procrastination.

Yes, there are a few of us who, seeing the elusive, big task (design application, thesis, new manuscript), would rather do anything else than tackle the big elephant. Besides, we are at home where there is any other task.

The elephant is big and scary, so we run away.


The way to eat the elephant is not to swallow it whole, because that really won't work. It has to be cut up! Divide larger tasks into daily/half-daily portions. This is the only way they should appear on our task list in the calendar.

Always focus on the next play. That way, it's no longer scary, and it doesn't overwhelm us.

Let's take the breaks that I mentioned earlier, it helps to get inspired.

If we manage to get through the first parts of the task at our own pace, it creates a sense of accomplishment, releases endorphins, and motivates us to continue.



8. Only other people get fat, I won't!


So be it!

How difficult it was to get ourselves to buy the gym pass on the first of January. Even more, so that we go. But it happened, and some kind of muscle has already started to form, but if the previous point is even the slightest bit characteristic of us, we will have no fewer problems with this either.

Never mind, we'll eat less. But what?

We don't think that healthy eating and exercise should be the most important questions for a professional blog post about remote working. Although it is from the point of view of preserving our mental health.

Let's plan our exercise and nutrition, just as we plan our work and daily schedule. If we are lucky, we have a dog, if not, we borrow one. This already gives our walks a daily routine.

Try to spend our breaks outdoors, not browsing the accumulated social media posts.

Intake of the right nutrients and hydration is important not only to avoid obesity but also to reduce stress and increase our ability to concentrate.

In this article, I don't want to give nutritional advice or talk about the coolest yoga app. Everyone can find this on the relevant pages.

I would like to draw attention to the fundamental effect of nutrition and exercise on our mental state. Movement and the high-quality nutrients we consume influence our hormone balance, which in turn has an impact on our well-being, physical processes, and stress level, which ultimately affects our emotions, thus we become happier.




Finally, everything is connected


I tried to summarize the challenges exposed by home office/remote work in 8 points. However, these points cannot be separated, they are closely related. In this case, it is no longer about certain tasks, time management, or proper hydration, but rather about our relationship as an individual with the world, nature, and our inner existence.


It is a kind of test of our becoming adults


How can we internalize our tasks and not only meet external expectations? How capable are we of setting a new mindset for ourselves?

And then the emotions can come!

The emotional charge in this process is that if we manage to create the right rituals according to our own decision and see that it works well, it fills us with satisfaction and joy, which turns into a self-affirming process that helps to fix the rhythm.


Together, these 8 themes can even be the elephant. Although they are related, we should not try to change our attitude in all areas at the same time. Let's divide the task into pieces and if we succeed in one topic, it will inspire us to continue. It is important to start dealing with a new topic when the previous one has already become fixed and routine. If we want to change our behavior in too many areas at once, it leads to disintegration and failure.

And finally, we don't have to be alone in this task.

Let's ask for help!

The topic of my next post is the leadership side, How to Lead Teams in Remote Work. If you are involved, interested in the topic, and don't want to miss out, you can subscribe to the Cornelis Chords newsletter here.






I didn't have to think much about today's coffee story, the titled Digital nomads brought the cardamom coffee.


Perhaps many of you know that my original profession connects me to the construction industry. I spent a big part of my career there. Wherever I go in the world, local architecture