While there are perks to remote working, it also brings a number of challenges that you need to be aware of. If you’re not careful, for example, you could easily fall into the many traps laid out for you—the couch tempting you to slack off, infinite distractions eating away your time, or worse, the boundary between work and personal life blurring away in the long run.
In this post, we’ll walk you through some remote work best practices you can apply to your daily work routine. These tips should help you learn how to work remotely and become a successful and productive remote employee.
Remote work has been on the rise for years now. In 2018 alone, approximately 5 million employees in the US are already working remotely on a part-time or full-time basis. Even if you are not a remote employee, chances are you know someone or have a teammate who is.
For some employees, remote work is their daily reality, and they have long been facing its ups and downs. Work from home statistics reveal that there are about 42% of remote employees who have been working remotely for more than 5 years. Meanwhile, 28% of the remote workforce already experienced this for 3 to 5 years.
Source: FYI The Remote Work Report (2019)
It’s also not entirely surprising how Millennials are leading the remote employee workforce. According to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey Report, Millennials tend to stay longer at jobs that offer flexible work hours, which is why remote jobs appeal to them more than the traditional office opportunities. For about 50% of Millenials, the flexibility of work hours and work location are both important factors in considering a job opportunity.
But working remotely is not exactly a walk in the park. As a matter of fact, remote employees are more vulnerable to an intense work pace, longer working hours, work-home interference, and greater stress.
So whether you are new at working remotely or have been in this business for quite some time, you’ll benefit from the remote work best practices we have compiled in this post. Here, you’ll find the best techniques to face the remote work challenges head on.
First things first—how do remote employees manage to be productive while working from the comforts of their home?
There’s no one absolute answer to this question, so there’s no need to stress over why someone’s suggestion doesn’t seem to improve your productivity at home.
Each employee is different. Some people can work better in clutter, while some can’t do anything and concentrate until their tables are tidy. Some use music as white noise to boost their productivity, while others can get more done in a quiet environment. They’ll discover these habits for themselves as they learn how to remotely work from home.
Certain productivity rituals or routines are also effective in getting into a productive mood. If you need to prepare and eat meals, play with your pets, check your social media accounts before working, then you should freely allow yourself to do so. The idea behind doing these productivity rituals or routines is getting your day started in the right way with a productive mindset, allowing you to focus on your work until the end of your shift.
Communication is the lifeblood of any distributed company. In order to thrive and survive a remote work setup, there has to be a good communication system in place that allows you to connect with your workmates. As a remote employee, you don’t have the luxury of simply walking through the doors of your office to let everyone know you’re in. You have to make extra efforts to reach out and inform them about your availability.
For remote teams, communication is more challenging, and without a proper system, mishaps can happen all the time. In one remote work survey, 27% of remote employees agree that communication is the top challenge when it comes to remote work. Unlike in a traditional office setup, where you can simply tap someone’s back or go over to their desk to ask or clarify something, working remotely can leave you with no coworkers providing immediate responses.
Nonetheless, communication is vital for remote work. Thanks to various work from home communication tools, you can now easily connect with your team members regardless of where they’re from.
Source: FYI The Remote Work Report (2019)
We want to give you a headstart in your remote work communication setup. Below, you’ll find some of the most popular communication tools you can use:
1. RingCentral Video. RingCentral is a powerful cloud phone system that allows you to reach anyone via voice communication regardless of their location. It brings your remote team by allowing you to organize virtual business meetings using any device of your choice. With it, you can send and receive HD calls, faxes, and instant messages.
2. Flock. One of the most popular communication platforms in the market. Businesses scores the application for allowing clear communication lines, allowing seamless collaboration among teams. This allows them to work on projects efficiently and deliver on time.
3. Speakap. A leading innovator in business communications, Speakap efficiently connects teams from anywhere in the world. Designed with productivity enhancement in mind, Speakap facilitates collaboration through meaningful engagements at all times.
4. Slack. Slack is a communication platform widely used by businesses from all over the world. It allows you to create channels for your teams, projects, or office locations where you can send messages, share files, or hold audio and video meetings.
5. Zoom. Zoom is another popular web conferencing platform that you can use for online training, webinars, virtual meetings, and video presentations. Its high-quality video, audio, and screen-sharing capabilities ensure a frictionless communication, making it an ideal solution for teams working remotely.
It’s hard enough that you’re working alone—no coworkers around to ask when something seems confusing to you. But what makes things even more difficult is when your responsibilities are not at all clear. You might end up doing less of the job that’s expected of you, or you could be wasting time on a task that’s not even for you.
If you’re not sure what to do about something, then it’s better to ask right away instead of relying on guesswork. When responsibilities are not clearly communicated, your team can end up having more emails, conversations, calls, and meetings just to correct a glaring error from your workflow.
The best way to avoid this is by bringing your team together and coordinating each of their responsibilities to the project you are working on. Having regular meetings can help your team stay on the same page in the long run. As long as each individual has a good grasp of which tasks are required from them, your team can function efficiently despite their locations.
Thanks to various task management solutions available today, assigning responsibilities is as clear as day. With these task monitoring tools, managing a remote team becomes easier. Below, you’ll find some of the most popular task management solutions that you can use to monitor your team’s tasks.
1. monday.com. monday.com is a task management platform that helps remote teams work together with its workflow automation and collaboration tools. It gives you a complete overview of your projects at a glance and allows you to manage and track the tasks assigned to each member of your team.
2. Wrike. Wrike has all the features you need for an efficient task management: project dashboards, real-time activity newsfeed, discussion boards, workload management, and more. It also comes with enterprise-grade reporting tools, allowing you to visualize your team’s project performance.
3. Trello. Trello is known for its user-friendly Kanban boards, lists, and cards that simplify the collaboration of teams working remotely. It allows you to manage multiple projects, see who’s working on each task, and track each person’s progress.
4. Asana. Asana is a task management software that helps you follow through the progress of your projects and tasks throughout their entire lifecycle. It offers collaboration tools like activity feed, task lists, and workspaces to improve the efficiency of your workflows.
Your workspace setup can mean the difference between distraction and productivity, so it’s essential to have the right workplace arrangement right from the start. However, looking for the best way to set up your home office is a matter of trial and error.
You can start by finding the best times for you to work, the room where you feel most at ease, and the type of clothing comfortable for you to wear. Trivial things like the comfort level of your chair, the temperature of your workspace, and your screen and audio setup all add to the setup of your workspace, and unless you feel comfortable enough, it will be hard for you to focus on the day’s tasks.
Working from the same designated workspace on a daily basis can also increase your productivity. This helps your mind become used to working in your special workspace, allowing you to have the utmost concentration whenever you are inside your workroom.
Another challenge of working from home is that family and friends often see you as available at all times. In this case, you need to set boundaries by explaining to them your availability and keeping your workspace off-limits to other housemates. This way, you’ll be free from any unnecessary interruptions.
The great thing about remote work is you have the total flexibility to set up your workspace. As long as you work that to your advantage and couple it with self-discipline, you can stay productive in a remote work setup.
As someone working far from the office, it’s important to let your boss and your coworkers know that they can rely on you regardless of your location. But unless you make the move to make yourself visible at all times, you’ll be reduced to a name on a chatting platform’s sidebar, with no one knowing what you’re working on or which team you are a part of.
One way to stay visible at work is by informing or reminding your teammates or your manager which tasks you are handling. Other effective methods include checking in with your team, being online on communication channels, attending virtual meetings, and sharing resources and documents in real-time.
Sometimes, there’s no need to message everyone—a simple Slack or Skype status can do the trick. Most project management tools also make your tasks visible to anyone from your team. This way, your teammates will know you are working diligently on your tasks.
Quickly responding to messages or comments from a document tool also increases your visibility to the team. This doesn’t mean you have to make yourself constantly available at all hours and be open to chat interruptions. However, the faster you reply to questions and clarifications, the more visible you become.
This is also why instant messaging services, along with VPN, file management tools, and collaboration software, are one of the most used tools of work-from-home employees. With the use of messaging platforms, remote employees can easily reach their workmates no matter where they are.
Source: Staples Workplace Survey (2019)
There are also dozens of file sharing tools that can improve collaboration with your colleagues and help you organize and manage your team’s work. Below are some great examples of file sharing platforms you can use in your daily operations:
1. Dropbox. Dropbox in an industry-leading file sharing platform that allows teams to access, store, and retrieve files easily. It’s a cloud-hosted solution that syncs all file activities in real-time, whether you are adding, deleting, or modifying files and folders.
2. Google Drive. Google Drive offers a cloud storage platform where you can store up to 15GB worth of documents, images, videos, and other file types. It’s a user-friendly platform that makes a great choice for businesses that need an accessible and reliable office suite.
3. Box. Box enables a secure collaboration and file sharing between teams operating in multiple location. It allows you to create folders, add files, and share them to specific individuals across your organization.
4. OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business is a product of Microsoft and an integral component of the Office 365 or SharePoint server. With it, you can store, share, access, and sync business files, documents, and other work materials.
5. Synology Drive. Synology Drive offers a web-based file sharing portal where you can easily add, store, and share files with your colleagues. It also enables multiple account users to create and edit files in real-time, allowing your team to work on the same document, sheets, or slides.
In a traditional office setup, it’s easier to see if everyone’s paying attention in a meeting. You can immediately spot disinterest—employees fiddling with their pens, looking at their devices, or simply dozing off. By reading the body language of your team members, you can easily tell their reactions to the day’s meeting agenda. Of course, it’s also easier to get your points across when explaining details in person.
However, when working remotely, meetings are on a whole new, different level. For one, gathering everyone for the meeting can be difficult. You have to be mindful of connection issues, the audio and video quality of your web conferences, and other potential factors that can disrupt your meetings.
In remote meetings, it’s also much more difficult to know if everyone is paying enough attention. At the other end of the line, you simply have no idea what your workmates are doing. They could be playing with their phones while talking to you, petting their dog, or working on something else.
That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your camera always on during meetings. This will help you be on your best behavior and pay attention during meetings. By practicing a proper meeting etiquette, the whole team can get easily through eventful and successful web meetings.
Remote employees often face an infinite number of distractions at home—kids running all over the place, pets playing with your furniture, and house chores awaiting your return. Not to mention unexpected visits from friends, the addicting social apps we all use on a daily basis, and just the entire Internet itself.
Apparently, the freedom and flexibility of remote work comes with the chance to become easily distracted. The only way to overcome this, however, is to resist all sorts of temptation that can lead you away from your work. Non-work related activities are for short breaks, so try to avoid doing them during your shift.
Creating a priority list can also help you stay on top of the tasks you need to finish. Without a boss peering over your work from time to time, this list will serve as a reminder of the things you have to do for the day. This should help you avoid distractions until you’re done crossing out everything on your to-do list.
In the end, it all boils down to self-discipline. Easier said than done, yes, but there’s no other way around it.
Working from home should not give you an excuse to drop your exercise routine and healthy eating habits. Sure, when you’re too busy, the easiest to do is to dress in your most comfortable clothes, sit back, order takeout, and work round the clock. But this could lead to negative effects on your physical and mental health.
A study by the American Psychology Association warns that social isolation can cause poor heart health, sleep disturbance, cognitive decline, and depression. While remote workers are not under total isolation, they still face a lack of in-office connection, which can decrease productivity and creativity. Hence, working remotely can make you vulnerable to these adverse effects.
What you can do, however, is to practice a healthy lifestyle while staying at home. Select a few healthy activities that you can do before or after your shift, or even during your breaks. You can practice exercise routines, take walks, go hiking on weekends, or just spend some time in nature.
Keeping your nutrition in check can be tough, especially when the fridge full of snacks is all yours the entire day. Snacks are hard to resist, but a healthy eating habit can go a long way. As a matter of fact, studies suggest that balanced, nutritious food can help increase your productivity. Try to schedule your snack and meal times, and make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day.
One of the most dreadful things about not having an office is the lack of social opportunities. There’s no office culture for you to experience—no bonding moments with your workmates, no lunch outs, no grabbing drinks after work, and no parties to look forward to.
However, working remotely doesn’t mean you can no longer do the activities listed above. Even if it’s not with your workmates, you can still catch up with your friends or meet new people every once in a while. As much as possible, go outside and avoid isolating yourself from the rest of the world.
It’s also a good idea to take your work outdoors sometimes. For a change of scenery, you can work from the library or coffee shops. There’s also an option for you to join co-working spaces that provide a social working environment for those who wish to work with other freelancers or remote employees.
What’s scary about working from your own home is how it obscures the boundary between your work and personal life. Since you have your work at home, your work environment is no different from your life’s setup. You start your day by eating breakfast while checking your email, take a bath, get dressed, check in for work, and you keep going throughout the entire day. It’s nightfall, but you find yourself left with more tasks due for the next few days.
The process is simply never-ending, and without pausing to catch a well-deserved break, this can lead to social isolation, depression, or a major burn out. Unplugging is important for anyone in the workforce, but more so for remote employees.
One way to do this is by strictly keeping to your work schedule. Work hard to finish all the day’s tasks during your shift, but avoid going over the time limit. Once your work day is done, make sure to turn off all email or other work-related notifications. This should help you relax and avoid feeling like you’re working all the time.
Helped by the proliferation of remote work solutions, businesses are now navigating the next iteration of work. But that future is here now—and there’s nothing left to do but to take your best shot and apply as many of the best remote work practices you can find to maintain business efficiency.
Today, the focus of interest on remote work has only grown and become more significant, especially as more companies were forced to implement it as a response to the negative effects of the global pandemic COVID-19. As a result, many organizations are just now discovering the many benefits of remote work—no daily commute, more flexible work hours, increased productivity, and greater employee autonomy.
If you wish to succeed in the implementation of a work-from-home policy, then these 10 best practices should be of second nature to you. Of course, you should also have a complete picture of the best remote work tools that you can use to streamline your business processes and communicate with your remote team.
With the ideas presented above, hopefully, you’ll find remote work rewarding for your team. You may also check out these remote work trends to keep tabs on the latest developments surrounding the remote workforce.
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