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Best Practices for Remote Working

One of the enticing elements of working remotely is having the freedom to create and tailor your work environment to your individual requirements. This means playing music as loudly as you want and setting the A/C just right, but it’s also about choosing a set up that promotes productivity. Without others around, it’s easy to slip into bad habits or forget to put healthy practices in place.

As big advocates for remote work, we’ve gathered an extensive list of remote worker best practices.  

So, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for a while, here are our best tips for making sure remote work works for you and continues to for the long run.

Set up your workspace for productivity

Setting up a home office doesn’t have to mean a complete remodel of your home. Although, it equally shouldn’t be an afterthought once you’ve thrown out your back from working at the kitchen counter for 3 months.

You’ll, of course, need all the equipment and infrastructure to sustain remote work requirements. It’s also helpful to create a space you’ll actually want to spend time in.

Depending on your individual work, non-negotiables may include a fast internet connection, an ergonomic chair and desk set up and of course a working computer with all the necessary software.  As being remote requires online communication with the team, noise-cancelling headphones, microphones and webcam capabilities will likely become essential desk accessories too.

While not everyone can have a separate room for their home office, it’s helpful to have a dedicated space to work. Having your laptop consistently set up on your dining room table makes it much harder to switch off at the end of the day or to take productive breaks during work hours.

Have places you can go during the day 

Working from home can be rewarding, productive and promote a healthy work-life balance. It often removes the need for a commute and gives you back hours of your day you’d otherwise spend on the train or in the car. It can also be isolating.

If you’ll be physically alone throughout your working hours, it’s helpful to give yourself a reason to get out of the house. Try taking your laptop to a local café, book a co-working space once a week or maybe do your grocery shopping during the day.

It doesn’t have to be much, but a simple outing and interaction with a barista can make a massive difference to your overall mental health.

Have regular commitments outside of work and stick to them

For remote workers, the in-built structure of having to be in an office by a specific time no longer applies. The flexibility and freedom around location often extend to work times and can mean remote workers let go of the 9-5 structure altogether. While inherently helpful by encouraging work during more productive hours, it can also be somewhat unmooring to no longer have a place to be or a time to be there each day.

Having weekly commitments like a team sport, yoga class or trivia at your local pub can help keep some of that structure while still maintaining that freedom.

If night-time activities aren’t your thing, a strong daily routine can have the same effect. Whether you pack your mornings with exercise, cooked breakfast and a 10-step skincare regime or a simply enjoy a walk to your local café, routines and small rituals ground us and give us something to look forward to each day.

Communicate with your team

When we posted a tweet asking for the number one holy grail tip for remote workers, nearly all of the responses said something about communication.

While communication is an essential part of any team, it’s especially important for those who work remotely. Without having your teammates sitting beside you, you’ll need to put in a bit more effort to reach out, keep everyone updated on progress or ask for help.

Lisette Sutherland, author of Work Together Anywhere and creator of Collaboration Superpowers, recommends creating team agreements which outline the ways you’ll communicate within your team. 

This could be anything you decide, but the idea is to make a clear outline for you and your team to follow. It may include how long you’ll take to respond to emails, whether you’ll use video chat for briefs or if sending a slack message will suffice. By outlining this early on, you’ll remove any assumptions and reduce confusion.

Give updates and ask for help

When you’re largely communicating asynchronously or through written text, it can be challenging to pick up on how someone is doing without them clearly offering up that information.

Co-located managers have the opportunity to pick up body language and have quick, unplanned check-ins after meetings with clients or about current projects. In these circumstances, it would be reasonable to mention a client wasn’t happy or there was a delay of some kind. With remote work, these updates need to be more intentional. 

Make an effort to give an honest and open account of your progress, whether you’re on track to make deadlines and whether you need help or support. You’ll likely already have scheduled meetings to receive briefs and share updates with your manager and team, use them to your advantage. Issues arise, and projects rarely run entirely smoothly, so don’t be afraid to share what’s really happening.

At the end of the day, your manager is there to support you to do your best work.  They will likely prefer to hear ahead of time of any issues rather than finding out at the delivery time that something is missing or running late.

By providing regular updates, you’re also giving your team the best chance at scheduling their weeks around accurate delivery times and therefore completing their own tasks.

Show up for team-building

Incidental team building is much harder when your team are located all over the world. There’s no chance for team lunches, coffee runs or Friday night drinks. With this in mind, remote managers have to create ways to connect their teams intentionally. But it’s not all on them, it requires effort from both sides to make it really work.

If it feels a little unnatural or forced at first, talk it through, there may be a way to make it better or another method entirely. Team-building by nature is about the team involved, so what works for one group may not for another.

Make time for breaks and have an end time 

Without the natural ebb and flow of people getting up for lunch, or slowly filtering out to catch their respective trains, it can be easy to lose track of time. When you work from home, you’re not bound by public transport schedules, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself still at your laptop late at night or to look up from a task and realise you’ve missed lunch again.

This is obviously not sustainable over the long run, and it’s a good idea to create routines and schedules for yourself to try and enforce breaks and finish times.  

As mentioned previously, having regular commitments out of the house can help give structure to your day and force you to have a finish time. It’s also helpful to set up your workspace away from your kitchen area. That way you physically have to leave your desk to get lunch ready which makes it easier to have a proper break.

If you don’t have a separate room for your office, you might set up a storage box or shelf and put everything away each night or turn your computer off at a specific time each day to reduce the temptation of jumping back on after dinner.

Experiment 

Being self-aware and knowing what works for you is an essential step in creating an effective, rewarding and sustainable remote work environment.

Discovering what works best for you can take time, but it’s worth the investment to get it right. It’s a good idea to have regular check-ins with yourself and your manager around this too because circumstances can change and what was working before may not work now.  

Ask yourself questions and take note of what the answers are. Does the bulk of your work happen first thing in the morning or later in the day? Does music help you focus or distract you? Do you need absolute silence for certain tasks? Take notes of all of this, and try to implement learnings into your schedule. Maybe you need to block out the first three hours of each day to get through urgent tasks and then meetings are better in the afternoon. Perhaps you’re a night owl and prefer to start your day later and then make up the time in the evening. The flexibility of working remotely often means the freedom to structure your day around what works for you and your individual lifestyle, so make the most of it.

– Bree Caggiati

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