Take a second to think of Gollum.
With his terrible, hunched over posture and computer tan, and little more than a loin cloth, Gollum is the dark side of remote work that most people want to deny.
His withering arms, strung out eyes and unusual eating habits are representative of someone at their sink-or-swim stage. They’ve tasted the freedom of controlling their day, and the complete lack of social norms has allowed them to do things they normally wouldn’t.
This stage is a reality about remote work that most people won’t tell you, and it will determine whether you succeed or fail.
The fact is, though, that only after some experience (and the honeymoon period has worn off) does the true side of remote work reveal itself.
It isn’t all Skype meetings in your underwear and a shirt, or sauntering into work when you’re ‘ready’.
The truth is that while you may be the captain of your own time clock as long as you produce results, you will start to miss out on the things that make you human. The same very things you were incidentally exposed to in your former life as an in-office worker, without thinking.
And in particular, there’s two things you may notice when you’re no longer on the front lines in the cubicle.
First, there’s community and a social circle.
The virtual water cooler is much tougher to maintain than simply walking past someone in the kitchen. It can’t be dialled in, and you have to actively partake in every discussion, chat or email to ‘be alive’ in your community.
Beyond that, there’s the physical and mental affects of the lonely home office. Health risks and consequences have included increased stress, depression, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, altered brain function and alcohol abuse.
The difference between visiting an office every day, thriving and full of people, and spending the majority of your day alone, is huge. We need community and social interaction at some level to maintain productivity, positivity and happiness.
Ryan Carson, founder and CEO of Treehouse, manages more than 40 people remotely. Part of his approach is to include a virtual water cooler (Campfire), Go-To-Meeting + Google Docs for meetings and a company wide, 4 day meet up every quarter in Orlando.
Secondly, there’s the incidental, and intentional exercise.
Humans need play. They need to move. They need to stimulate both their mind and body to fulfil their potential.
Now, while working in an office building, it was easy for me to get to the gym. It was less than ten minutes away (only 5 stories below me, in fact), and I had ample opportunity – the gym was open before, during and after work.
Your situation may be slightly different, but the idea remains the same. Working in an office forces you to have some level of exercise (intentional at the very least) on a daily basis as you walk to and from public transport, around the office, and out for lunch.
And DHH should know. Not only does his company operate with a strong remote work focus (he and Jason Fried have a new book, REMOTE, coming out on October 29th, 2013), but they also believe in letting employees make the most of their own fitness.
If the pros understand the importance of community and fitness in remote work, this is something you should consider adopting.
Building A Personal Remote Community And Making Fitness Easy: A Quick Introduction
For the past 12 months, I’ve been part of a regular master mind. Every Friday, we jump on the phone and talk about our week in business.
We’re honest and challenging. We confess our sins of slack, praise each others productivity and work towards helping each other in business goals.
But this hour per week alone is not enough. On top of the Mastermind, I’ve developed relationships with other entrepreneurs and remote workers in my local area. Sometimes we won’t see each other for days, but other times will happily grab a coffee or lunch.
In many cases, just knowing that someone is available to connect with, bond with or talk out a tough problem face to face is a good start.
Again, the key is finding people who are at similar stages to you in their career and working with them to continue your growth.
And then there’s the infamous sweat sessions to boost your dopamine, improve your focus and concentration, making every day.
As a remote worker, the opportunities for exercise and fitness are nearly unlimited. You have access to gyms at the quietest times of the day, and can, for the most part, pick and choose what you want to do.
Martial arts, yoga, cycling, gymnastics, stronglifts 5×5, and CrossFit are just a sampling of what’s on offer for you.
But as is the case with most new habits, the harder it is to do, the less likely you are to follow through.
If you had to choose between knocking out 20 push ups, 20 sit ups and 20 jumping jacks now, or travelling 15 minutes to the gym for a 45 minute weights session, which one would sound easier? Which would you be more likely to follow through with?
This is at the heart of any habit you choose: how hard will it be to make it stick?
One of the main reasons we recommend Bodyweight workouts to remote workers, employees and entrepreneurs alike, is because they are the easiest to get started with.
There’s no change of location required, no fancy equipment needed, and it’s easy to get started with – even first thing in the morning, straight after you get out of bed.
Whether you choose to do a bodyweight workout every morning because it’s the easiest place to start, or go straight to the deep end with Stronglifts 5×5, what matters is that you start.
You’ve gained your freedom. Don’t waste it on becoming Gollum.