Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
As you prepare for your first remote job, you likely feel a mix of emotions.
Whether you’ve been looking to work remotely for years or you’re fresh out of college, the change can be a lot like the giant hill on your first roller coaster — delightfully terrifying.
To tame your nerves, you’ve created a list of must-haves and added to it multiple times. But now? The lines are beginning to blur, and you might be overanalyzing a bit. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered!
Let’s take a look at the details. From there, you can build a plan as you prepare for a successful remote career.
Successfully Launching a Remote Career
In order to rein in your anxiety, it’s helpful to step back and analyze your new change as if it were a project you’re managing.
Break it down into three phases: preparing, launching, and maintaining your remote career.
Then, tackle one step at a time, ensuring that you set yourself — and your job — up for the best possible outcome.
Phase 1: Preparing To Work Remotely
You’re thinking this is the most obvious phase. After all, you know that you need a computer and internet, etc. But it’s easy to get sidetracked when you look through lists of home office supplies without understanding what you really need.
Before long, your credit card is crying, and you’re not even sure you purchased a computer. All of a sudden, working remotely seems hideously expensive.
Instead, start with remote work essentials, then organize a list of nice-to-haves. Treat yourself to one or two, and then work the others into your budget as you hit milestones throughout the following year.
Set Up Your Workstation
If you’re working from home long-term, you need a dedicated workspace. Whether you have an entire room or a corner desk, choose an area that is comfortable, organized, and free from distractions.
Ideally, you’ll find a location with natural lighting, but if not, consider innovative ways to light up the space and reduce eye strain.
You might need to get creative and convert a spare closet or an attic, or perhaps you can put a desk in an unused corner.
The main thing is to make sure your space is dedicated only to working and is ergonomically optimized and inviting. Once you’ve chosen your area, it’s time to outfit it.
Select the Right Tools
If you’re worried about how to outfit your office, there are must-have items that are essential to successful remote work as well as nice-to-have items that may simply make your remote work setup more comfortable or enjoyable.
These are the basic items you’ll need to create an efficient workstation:
- A reliable computer
- Desk space
- High-speed internet
- Sufficient lighting
- A comfortable and ergonomic chair
And if you have the budget and know that you’ll be working remotely long-term, consider investing in the following items:
- A simple filing system
- A standing desk to inspire movement
- An office plant or other decor to inspire creativity
- Noise-canceling headphones (particularly if you live with others)
Set Up Your Routines
Beyond those tangible items, though, the key to remote work success can’t be found in a store. Working in an office, there were social norms that don’t often come into play in your home office.
You’ll need to set yourself up for success by establishing these norms for yourself.
Even establishing start and end times to your workday can help you stay focused on work when you’re logged in and, alternatively, stay focused on your personal life when you’re not.
And while the freedom to work in your jammies is lovely, it will also eat away at your mental and physical health. Your long-term career growth requires you to show up energized for work every day.
So, shower, get dressed, and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Set your lunch break and take effective breaks throughout the day with a quick stretch or walk around the block.
Establish Work-Life Boundaries
When it comes to working remotely, boundaries are essential. It’s all too easy to work late into the night without realizing you forgot to eat dinner.
From the get-go, establish your hours and stick to them.
Let family members and roommates know that you’re unavailable during those times so they don’t bother you. But let them hold you accountable for clocking out at your designated times as well.
And yes, you’ll still need to invest in child care and ensure you can work without interruption.
On the flip side, it’s important to set expectations for yourself and others around after-hours emails or Slack messages. Letting them sit until the following day is perfectly OK and in line with healthy boundaries.
Pursue Wellness Activities
We mentioned it a few times, but it’s worth revisiting. More than ever before, you need to prioritize your mental and physical well-being.
Without teammates present to voice concern, you can easily slip into a routine that doesn’t include healthy movement, daily self-care that boosts your mood, or a focus on your nutritional needs.
Not to mention, you’ll build a love-hate relationship with your coffee pot if you’re not intentional with your boundaries from the beginning.
From day one, you should establish and maintain a routine that includes focused mental and physical health exercises. If you get off track, you can create a weekly check-in to review and tweak.
Phase 2: Launching Your New Role Successfully
Once you have your workstation set up and your routines in place, you’ll be ready for the first day of your new remote job.
Remember that first impressions matter, so your goal should be to convey that you’re communicative while balancing initiative.
Review and Clarify Expectations and Resources
Your new manager has probably scheduled meetings and introduced you to the team.
But after you’ve handled orientation and other onboarding tasks, take the initiative to review all of the materials that pertain to your role. Make a list of questions after reading up on the company’s remote work and communication policies.
Ensure that you’re clear on the expectations surrounding collaboration and response times. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Even if it feels like a small thing, ensure you’re on the same page before missing a deadline.
Connect With Team Members
Once you’ve been introduced and have a feel for the communication standards, reach out and say hello to a few coworkers. It can be simple and brief. After all, everyone is likely to be working diligently.
But it’s OK to send a simple Slack or instant message saying, “Hi! I’m looking forward to working with you!”
Some companies make this easier with general Slack channels. Share your interests and respond to team-building questions.
The key to building virtual relationships is to seek information, rather than simply sharing yours. Ask open-ended questions and express interest in the posts they’ve shared.
Schedule Routine One-on-One Time
Ideally, your manager will have scheduled regular time with you to discuss workload assignments, timelines, and goals. But if they haven’t, remember to reach out and schedule a one-on-one meeting as you get up to speed.
This is your opportunity to ask questions, review progress, or provide feedback or ideas on current projects.
These meetings are also great to build rapport and a relationship with your manager. It’s trickier when you’re not able to stop by their office.
You’ll need to show professional interest without visual cues, like personal art, team affiliations, and family photos.
Pay attention during Zoom meetings. You might hear them mention their pet, houseplants, or kids without being nosy or intrusive. Discovering common ground or expressing interest is a great way to grow a respectful and professional relationship.
Revisit Your Time Management and Workflow
Regardless of how long you work remotely, you should include routine assessments of your processes and workflows.
Are you still managing your time well? Do you need to adjust your strategy at a particular time of the year? How are you staying focused when distractions flare up?
Asking yourself these questions can help you keep ahead of any potential derailment and make sure you remain productive.
Phase 3: Maintaining Long-Term Career Success
Once you’ve built up your systems and you’re cruising along, comfortable in your home office, don’t let your career take a back seat.
Remote work can be isolating, so you must stay on top of your career development.
Create a Career Development Plan
Set SMART goals and carve out time to research career paths, attend online workshops, or reach out to mentors or peers who are further along in their professional development.
Routinely analyze your skills and opportunities to increase marketability and momentum.
Stay open-minded, and don’t limit yourself to a predefined vertical career ladder.
Look into other roles that you can use to gain experience and move up in the company or your industry.
Review Your Flexible Options
Are you thriving with your current schedule? Once you’ve had some time to establish your routines and blend your work-life balance, you can determine if there’s extra flexibility that might meet your needs.
You may be working a flexible schedule but need the accountability of required hours.
Or, maybe there have been changes to your family structure, and you’d do better with an alternative schedule now.
Evaluate where you’re at and if your job is still the right fit for you and your work style.
Grow Your Network
Finally, remember to grow your network. Virtual networking can be intimidating, but remember that you’re simply having a conversation.
Start with coworkers and others inside your company. After that, ensure you’re investing time regularly to update your LinkedIn profile and interact in industry groups.
And even though you’re working remotely, you shouldn’t neglect in-person events when they’re available. You can also take advantage of volunteer and freelance opportunities to increase your experience and connections.
Navigating the Phases of Your First Remote Job
Working remotely can be a great way to improve work-life balance and explore new career opportunities worldwide. Successfully launching your new remote role requires creating transparent systems and processes at each phase.
But taking the time to do so ensures that you’ve set yourself up for a healthy and productive remote career.