Sam Laliberte on Remote Working Tips, Tricks & Strategies

SAM LALIBERTE is the founder of Freedom Lifestyle, an online community and podcast series that empowers the movement and entrepreneurial shift towards flexible work.

As we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians are being forced to work from home. With this being uncharted ground for some, it can be difficult to adapt to this change of environment. Sam Laliberte shared her thoughts on how you can be maximizing your productivity whilst remote working.

AC: What inspired you to start the Freedom Lifestyle movement?

SAM LALIBERTE – I was at a time in my life where I needed to make a change. I knew that traditional office life and a “9-5” schedule wasn’t for me. It didn’t allow me to work when I was most productive and I hated having to stay in the office even after my work was done for the day. I was also in a long-distance relationship and it was getting expensive flying back and forth for short visits.

So, I decided to launch the Freedom Lifestyle podcast and online community for people just like me. Those who wanted an alternative to 40 hours in an office but weren’t sure what the options were and how to start!

AC: Do you think COVID-19 will change attitudes towards remote working?

SAM LALIBERTE – Absolutely! Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of remote work in a massive way. Employers who were resistant and skeptical are forced to “make remote work, work”. Employees who thought they needed an office structure to be productive are experiencing its perks for the first time.

It’s going to be very hard to go back to “40 office hours” as the default. We’ve found a way to continue business operations remotely under the most globally challenging and stressful period we’ve seen in our lifetime. Just think about how much more effective remote work can be under “normal” circumstances! 

AC: Why do you think people are often resistant to the idea of remote working?

SAM LALIBERTE – Employers worry their employees will take advantage and “slack off” if no one is watching over them. Many have also doubted the ability to conduct effective strategy sessions and build relationships virtually. The reality is that many of us have been successfully working remotely for years prior to Covid-19. There’s an existing technology foundation and a playbook for remote work. We’re not starting from scratch!

AC: How have you benefited from remote working?

SAM LALIBERTE – The freedom to work from anywhere has made a massive impact on my life. Work is what we do most! The ability to “be” anywhere I need or want has been extremely liberating. With that said, it doesn’t always entail poolside conference calls from Bali. 

What’s actually the most rewarding for me is getting to spend extended, quality time with loved ones. I’m very close with my Grandmother and working remotely allows me to visit and live with her for weeks at a time. Prior to working remotely, I’d only spend a few weekends with her a year!

AC: Does remote working have the potential to destroy work-life balance?

SAM LALIBERTE – The risk that remote work poses on work-life balance primarily revolves around expectations and structure. If you’re working with a global team with various time zones, it’s extremely common to receive messages late in the evening and then feel the need to respond immediately to “keep things moving”. I’ve also experienced burn out by not scheduling or taking proper breaks when I’m working from home/remotely by myself. 

In an office environment, breaks happen organically and there’s a clear start and an end time. When working remotely, you need to create clear expectations with colleagues as to when you are available and plan when you’ll take your breaks throughout the day.  

AC: When you’re constantly getting distracted during a working day, what can you do to stay focused?

SAM LALIBERTE – I work in 60-minute sprints. Set a timer and give yourself one hour to work on a specific task/outcome. Close all other tabs and put away your phone to minimize distractions. After the one hour is up, give yourself a quick 5-minute break to stretch, refill your water or check your emails. 

After that, start another sprint and an entirely new task. This motivates you to complete work efficiently because you know you’ll “only have 60 minutes” to get the task done before you have to move on to something else. You can always come back to that task later in the day but it’s helpful to switch up what you’re working on so you don’t lose interest and ultimately your focus by working on the “same thing” for too long. 

AC: Do you have any practical tips for boosting motivation whilst remote working?

SAM LALIBERTE – I like to gamify my breaks. “When I finish X, I get to do Y” type of structure. I make sure the reward for completing a task is something I’m looking forward to, such as playing a quick game of cards with my partner, taking a walk outside or reading a chapter of a novel I’m hooked in. I find it super motivating!

AC: What does your daily routine look like?

SAM LALIBERTE – I create my to-do list the night before and focus on three needle-moving tasks I must complete before I start anything else. 

I have a morning routine I do before going online that includes a quick meditation, enjoying coffee, applying some skincare and stretching. 

I try not to respond to emails or social media before 10 am and leave that type of work for later in the afternoons when I’ve hit an energy wall. 

I do 45-60 minutes of fitness before dinner and then give myself a final 60 minutes of work execution after I eat. I find that the final evening sprint makes a big difference between maintaining my workload and getting ahead. 

I turn off my screens (laptop, phone) after 10:30pm and have an evening routine that involves reading, playing with my cat, completing a five-minute grateful journal, setting goals for the next day and more skincare. 

I aim for 8 hours of sleep and a 15 hour fasting period between dinner and my first meal the following day.

AC: Has this altered since the outbreak of COVID-19 or is it business as usual for you?

SAM LALIBERTE – I feel fortunate that I had been working remotely for almost three years prior to Covid-19. I had a structure I had previously created intentionally that I knew worked. I’ve been able to maintain it; however, I’ve definitely suffered from lower energy levels from lack of social interaction. I’m used to being able to work from co-working spaces and enjoying that sense of community or attending networking events throughout the week. It’s been hard to make the social aspect of my life 100% online. 

How can remote workers increase the amount of human interaction they have?

During COVID-19, I’d recommend utilizing social video apps like Houseparty to stay connected with family and friends. There’s been a ton of co-working spaces who’ve launched online memberships with virtual co-working sessions and events. If you have a big team who is now working remotely, this could be an opportunity to initiate virtual happy hours/lunch breaks together on Zoom. 

Once COVID-19 wraps up, I’d really recommend joining a co-working space to work from a portion of the time. They are an amazing resource when travelling and working from new destinations. If you really love working solo and alone – that’s cool too! Get into the habit of attending meetup style events throughout the week to create human interaction outside of work hours. 

AC: What can a remote worker do to overcome feelings of loneliness?

SAM LALIBERTE – Similarly to how remote workers need to schedule breaks, we also need to schedule social time. Get into the habit of calling a friend while going for a walk or scheduling a few video calls throughout the weeknights with your close relationships.