Before setting up Money Tree Fundraising in 2010 I had a “proper” job as a Fundraising Director and worked from home a day or two each week, so had some sense of what remote working took. Today Money Tree Fundraising is proud to be an entirely remote company. It is a conscious and deliberate decision to continue with this model and if you want to know more about why, then I have a sister blog to this one, aimed at employers, that you can find here.
Plunging into a solitary world of my own four walls seven days a week was, however, next level for me back in 2010 and I’ve learned a lot about myself and remote working in the intervening 10 years. Here are my top tips:
How much do you need meaningful physical human interaction?
How much of that can you achieve outside of work and how much is your non-work network able to give you what you need?
Also consider exercise. As a commuter I failed to notice how much exercise I was racking up simply b stomping around London. Now I don’t have to walk further than the kitchen to my desk I have to build active exercise into my day.
You Need Discipline
It is easy to lie-in, take naps, catch up on TV, do the washing, walk the dog, spend half the day on social media platforms under the guise of work…
It is also easy to get up first thing and work till late at night without ever showering or getting dressed.
You need to find a balance and you are the person who needs to police the balance.
One option is to set a new routine. I know several remote workers who use their previous commute time to undertake a walk so that they are in the right frame of mind for “work time” when they get back home.
Also, your family may need discipline. Mine struggle to understand that I work even though (A) I am at home and (B) I don’t dress for work. They need to respect your work time as if you were in the office.
Clothing is another area of discipline. It is too easy to wear PJs all of the time. One of my team reminded me today that you really must wear work-suitable attire on the bit that gets caught on video but she added that for her it’s about work “mode” as much as anything else.
Find Your Productive Time
When you have to be in an office between 9am and 5pm there’s no need to discover your productive time because it has to be within those hours, right? But what if you’re really productive between 7am and 11am? Being a remote worker could give you the freedom to set up your day for maximum efficiency by working when you are at your best and doing more menial tasks at less productive times of the day.
Having ready access to all of the food in your house can be worse than the office treat table at times. If you had gone into the office you would either have purchased a specific meal or made yourself a meal. So do the same now you’re at home – plan your lunch meal just as you would your evening meal.
Don’t Get Isolated
This one can creep up on you and is worth keeping an eye on. Always have someone you can call during the day. If that’s your Mum then still refer up to the Discipline point and make sure you’re not making a problem for yourself down the line. But call someone if you need to.
We have regular team calls as we are a remote team. The calls always start with chit chat to make sure we all have a chance to hear about each other’s stuff. It’s part of bonding, which is harder remotely but just as important. Also, I insist that these calls are video calls rather than phone calls. It really does help to be able to see a face or two in real time. We also have a team Whats App group for quick stuff like baby photos, Happy Birthday messages, letting each other know if we’re off sick or our dog is sick.
As we are all part-time, remote and long-serving in our roles our calls are twice-monthly to top and tail the month and to check-in mid-month, but they used to be twice weekly. They are a lot more structured than a face-to-face team meeting can often be and include everyone sharing what they’ve achieved this month, how and why that differed to their plans for the month and any help or input they need before outlining their plans for the coming month.
Find virtual networks
I am thankful for Fundraising Chat on Facebook and several other online groups where I can wear my mum hat, my consultant hat, my fundraiser hat, my fundraising-consultant-mother hat… and that takes away from the isolation for me.
Just don’t get sucked in and definitely don’t kid yourself that time on these platforms is part of your real work – it rarely is!
Find actual networks
I founded a monthly Work Together Day in Kent last year because sometimes, virtual just doesn’t cut it. We simply turn up at the same place, laptops and mobile phones in hand, order our own coffees and lunch and both crack on with work, share problems and solve problems as a group. There may be one of these groups near you or you may need to start one. [LINK: https://fundraising.co.uk/2020/01/17/shared-co-working-events-for-fundraisers/]
Buy Good Coffee
Part of my working routine used to be to pop and get a flat white on the way to work. I’m missing out on nothing when I consider cost and calories but I did miss a good coffee so I bought real beans, a grinder and a decent cafetiere so now I can make a decent coffee. If there’s a small thing that you will miss by not commuting (coffee, the free paper, a croissant…) then find a way to replace it. This is not meant to be a punishment.
This won’t always be in your gift if you work for other people but wow, does it help to have good computer systems and the right software in place. This means being able to video call the team, share documents, collaborate on projects, access the CRM. Some of this starts with a decent internet connection but a lot of it is based with your organisation and it’s openness to virtual services.