More employees than ever are working remotely today. Given that there are many areas that are now within your control, as a remote worker, you need to ensure that you’re properly set up to allow you to be successful. This guide will provide you with a starting point on things you should take note of when working remotely.
1. Setting Up Your Work Environment for Remote Workers
2. How to be Productive when Working Remotely
3. Communicating with your Colleagues as a Remote Worker
Setting Up Your Work Environment for Remote Workers
As a remote worker, you have to create a new, safe and comfortable work environment to facilitate productivity. At this stage, you should try to create an environment that is tailored to your needs, success and even personality. Here are some practical tips that you can apply to setting up a work environment that is ideal for your remote office.
Set Office Hours
Remote work allows you the flexibility to work your own hours, however, you’ll find yourself quickly losing track of things unless you decide to control when you work. It is essential to set clear office hours for a number of reasons:
- It lets clients know when you are available.
- It establishes when you should be working.
- It makes you more productive.
- Friends and family are more likely to respect your work time when it is specific and routine.
- It creates work and life balance so you can manage your work and freedom to enjoy personal time.
- You maintain a perception of professionalism.
Dress Up For Work
One of the perks of being a remote worker is that you can wear whatever attire you want, when you want because a professional look isn’t really necessary. That being said, you could benefit from dressing up while working remotely. Here’s why:
- Maintaining a professional look is useful not only for your own morale, but if you are scheduled for a Skype meeting with team members, for example, dressing professionally sends a visual message that you are working.
- It elevates your productivity; the adage goes – the better you look, the better you feel, the better you perform. One study suggests that the symbolism behind certain clothes and the physical experience of wearing them could increase productivity.
- If company policy requires it, dress the part. Many companies have a particular culture or mandated dress codes, and if complying with that culture or dress code could mean the difference between having a job or getting a pink slip, forget about the yoga pants and tee or PJs for work.
- Professional dress while working remotely can establish a boundary between work and your personal life. The line between the two can become easily blurred, but work attire can offer a clear distinction which separates the two, and is an indicator of your work/productive self vs. your leisurely self.
Designate a Work Only Space
The least you can do when working remotely is to carve out a designated spot in your home to call your workspace or home office. Here’s why:
- A common problem of remote workers is combining work space with personal space and not having a clear boundary of which space not to invade with work tasks and vice versa. It’s important for remote workers to have a proper end to their day and having a designated work space can bring your workday to a close.
- It doesn’t matter if your “work only” space is an entire room or a cute corner desk, this will be the space where you perform and store your work. You can establish a routine when you have a designated space and prep daily for work. When it becomes habitual to use this space, it will become easier to connect it with work.
- A “work only” space can help to establish work-life balance because working where you live can be a challenge. You can easily get caught up in doing house work when you should be working or relaxing when you need to be working. Having such a space can lessen the potential for stress, burnout and poor productivity.
Make it Look Like an Office
A work environment that feels like an office will tend to be more appealing and get you in the mindset to work productively. Make it look and feel like an office that is cool, stylish, and has a personal touch. The best office environment is one that sparks creativity, energy, happiness, productivity, influences work quality and health and wellness.
Here are some simple ways to make your work space “officey”:
- Let some light in: Natural sunlight is one of the best ways to influence the comfort level of your work space, as well as productivity.
- Have plants: Low maintenance plants in the office could prove beneficial in minimizing stress levels and improving air quality.
- Eliminate distractions: Make your work space a quiet zone by not bringing in a TV, and making use of distraction blocking apps, such as SelfControl and Cold Turkey.
- Choose bright colors: Certain colors can improve focus and efficiency, including green and blue, while energy and optimism can be drawn from yellow.
- Have inspiration close by: Whatever your inspiration, having a representation of it in your office not only adds a personal touch to your work space, but it can also be a source of positive motivation.
Keep Healthy Snacks
Remote workers generally have full access to a refrigerator and pantry twenty-four-seven, but while you sit at a desk for hours, it is a good idea to have a healthy snack within reach. Why?:
- It can keep your mood elevated and your mind sharp.
- It will keep you energized throughout the workday.
- It prevents you from making unnecessary trips to the kitchen and interrupting your work.
- You avoid mindless overeating.
Tips for Eating Healthy While Working Remotely
- Plan and prep your meals ahead for the entire week, including snacks
- Consider signing up for a health-food snack subscription
- Stay hydrated
- Stock your kitchen with healthy foods to have a productive day
Here are some healthy foods for remote work snacking:
- Snap peas
- Berries-raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries
- Greek yogurt
- Dark chocolate
- Celery and hummus
Setting up your office for your remote work is important to your comfort and productivity. When creating that space, set office hours, dress up for work, make it look like an office, designate a work only space and keep healthy snacks close by. Create the environment that you would want to work in.
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How to be Productive When Working Remotely
Also known as telecommuting, remote working provides workers in dozens of industries with the opportunity to continue to contribute to their organization in a unique way, along with having better work-life balance and greater control over their working environment. The flexibility that remote working provides have led to debates about the productivity of workers who have adopted this form of work arrangement. Based on a 2016 self-reporting survey of American remote workers, roughly 91 percent of individuals who work from home feel that they’re more productive than when they’re in an office environment. To ensure maximal productivity when working remotely, here are some simple tips that you can apply to your daily routine.
Use Distraction Blocking Apps
Distractions are everywhere, including in a remote work-space, where it can be easier to get sidetracked. In order to stay productive, it is important to find ways to block intrusive elements, such as social media notifications. Since we are so tied to our technological devices, here are two distraction blocking apps that you could find useful to your productivity and staying focused.
- SelfControl: While this popular app is mostly available for Macs, it allows you to personalize your restrictions, blocking certain distracting websites, your mail servers, and just about anything on the Internet, for a period of time that you see fit (24 hours max.) An alarm will sound at the end of the blocked period, restoring access to the blocked features. A bonus feature of SelfControl is that even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will still be prevented from accessing the sites that you blocked until the set time has expired.
- Freedom: This app can block apps and social media, or the entire internet on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows computers. For up to eight hours at a time, Freedom blocks you from the internet, granting you the freedom to focus on your tasks, increasing your productivity. Unlike SelfControl, there is a way to disable the app by rebooting.
Despite the stereotypes of remote workers slacking on the job, many have a tendency to work more when in a home office because the line between work life and personal life can become blurred. To avoid burnout it is vital that you are able to pull yourself away from work. Take long and short breaks, which can be accomplished in a number of ways.
- Take Regular Breaks: As a remote worker, you may not have coworkers, but you can still take breaks like you would in a typical work environment. Take 15-minute breaks every few hours. Grab your coffee, move about or do your laundry.
- Take advantage of your free time: Use your free time to take care of you. You can do a bit of exercise, go for a quick walk , cycle or meditate. You’ll find that your day can be more manageable and you’ll even feel more productive.
Task Management/To-do Lists/Schedule
Task Management is essential to the successful completion of a project, and can involve creating a to-do-list, scheduling tasks and prioritising your tasks based on due date and urgency level. Here are two online tools that you can use to simplify your tasks:
- Asana: This is a great tool for creating tasks, to-do-lists, reminders and make requests of team members. Additionally, Asana allows you to organize your tasks as lists or boards, track a team-project from start to finish without scheduling a status meeting, and make announcements to your team.
- Basecamp: The functionality of this project management system allows you to organize your communication, projects, and client work on a single screen. Basecamp allows you to monitor tasks, discussions, documents, scheduling, milestones, and collaboration, in a centralised location.
in a remote working environment can be achieved in a number of ways. The use of distraction blocking apps, auditing your productivity at the end of the day, taking breaks, and managing your tasks are all useful habits that you can apply to be a successful remote worker. Remote work is certainly changing how business is conducted, but productivity does not have to wane.
Communicating with your Colleagues as a Remote Employee
In a remote work environment, communication comes with its own challenges and can be even harder then in an office with teammates. Communication is a vital aspect of a remote team and there are ways to build strong connections with your teammates. Here’s a list of tools that can help enhance communication with your colleagues.
Provide a Fixed Schedule as to when and how your colleagues can reach you
A fixed schedule is a timetable that lets your colleagues know your working hours and working days from week to week. In a remote work environment it is useful in the following ways:
- You can make time to chat about work and answer or share questions and have a dialogue about a project.
- It’s an expression of your professionalism.
- It makes navigating time zones easier.
- It is also much easier to plan team tasks and projects strategically.
Initiate Updates about your work progress
- It is an effective and efficient way of keeping a team informed and connected.
- It creates a framework for accountability.
- It establishes trust.
- It provides an opportunity for you to get help if needed from your colleagues or to identify issues.
- You keep transparency in your work.
- It confirms whether or not you are a productive remote employee.
Schedule Regular Meeting and Catch ups
Staying in touch while working remotely is a great way to stay visible. Check-in with your team and discuss the progress made and schedule these meetings regularly. It is paramount to reach out and communicate as much as you can for the following reasons:
- It adds value to your working relationships, for example, letting your manager or supervisor know when you are working on a project and providing updates, gives him or her an idea of what you are doing and how it is coming along. It keeps your manager in the loop.
- It keeps everyone on the same page, helping people to understand their role amid the larger goal.
- It’s useful for tracking progress in work and helps in fostering a relationship with your manager and/or colleagues
Different catch ups can include:
- Team meetings on a weekly basis via videoconference or teleconference
- 1-on-1 meetings between you and a manager via videoconference weekly
- A daily standup via teleconference or chat, where everyone in the team briefly explains what their task is for the day
Tools you can use
Here are key tools that can facilitate communication with your colleagues as a remote worker:
Video: A conference call with camera creates the opportunity to chat with colleagues over video, whether it’s a big meeting or a company social event.
Pros of video conferencing:
- It improves communication by allowing the opportunity to see gestures, expressions, and body language.
- It can be easier to arrange meetings held via video conferencing because it is cost effective and convenient.
- Remote employees can use applicable screen to share documents, while virtual whiteboards, for example, can facilitate work on group projects.
Cons of video conferencing:
- It can be harder to engage with colleagues via a video screen, and can be harder to concentrate on what is being communicated.
- There is the potential for awkward delays and poor sound and/or video quality.
- Remote workers are completely at the mercy a technology that can stop functioning at anytime during a meeting.
Phone calls: Teleconference can allow group members to dial in a phone call using an internal or third-party service provider.
Pros of phone calls:
- Connects several colleagues at once in real-time
- Cost effective and easy to use
- Enable flexible meetings, allowing colleagues to log in and out of the call without disruption.
- Colleagues can be in multiple locations and across different time zones
Cons of phone calls:
- Communication is not face-to-face, and so, it can be difficult to determine who’s speaking or the meaning behind the conversation/discussion.
- It doesn’t allow colleagues to brainstorm and work together and arrive at creative solutions to problems.
- It can be difficult to control who is speaking, interruptions and speaking over each because of multiple participants.
- Divided attention because colleagues tend to multitask
Instant Messaging: This is a great way to send and receive messages in an instant using a single pop-up screen that can facilitate multiple users.
Pros of instant messaging:
- It allows you to communicate with other colleagues, located anywhere in the world, in real-time without the hassle of having to schedule an appointment.
- It can allow team members to work collectively.
- Enables the convenience of conveying your message instantly which is much faster and more intimate than an email.
- Display who’s online and tracks the messages that are exchanged.
Cons of instants messaging:
- Distracts your colleague from his/her routine work in order to respond to your instant message.
- Not the best tool for in-depth discussions
- Sometimes instant messaging software is vulnerable to hacking
Collaboration Technology: There are certain project-specific online workspaces that allows for collaboration, such as SharePoint.
Pros of collaboration technology:
- Ease of file and application sharing
- It’s easy to keep track of projects
- Team members can be located anywhere as long as they have Internet connection
- Documents are stored in a single place, allowing easy access to team members
Cons of collaboration technology:
- Insufficient stand-in for face-to-face interpersonal communication
- Software may not be compatible with your computer, which would need to download, making access difficult
- Can decrease efficiency, since many tasks are done more productively outside the group
- If the server with your groupware is down, work is halted, unless members do so separately
- Concern about security risk
When working as a remote employee, communicating efficiently in order to be productive is essential. Engaging your colleagues, providing updates on the progress of a project, having regular meeting and catch ups and using certain technological tools are all useful in facilitating communication. Find what best works for you and for your colleagues.
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