10 top tips for being an effective and happy remote worker
It's now more common than ever for employees to spend at least some of their time working remotely. Some roles, and even some businesses, have even leaned into the work from home rush by going fully remote. But, whether you're on a hybrid schedule or working entirely from home, remote work comes with its share of challenges. So, for part 4 of our series, here's our list of remote working top tips to help you succeed.
Over the years, we've looked at some of the crucial topics around remote working. From its impact on mental health during the Pandemic, to the importance of tech equity in hybrid workplaces. Remote workers can easily keep up with their office-based peers. It's just a matter of making sure they're engaged at work. So, we thought it would be handy to provide a list of our remote working top tips.
Before the Pandemic, we'd occasionally hear of companies trialling remote working. Often, they would decide it's not for them and rolling back to an office-based approach (we see you there Yahoo!). And yet, for every failure that seems to be a success. For every Yahoo!, a dozen Buffers, Auttomatics, and GitLabs (all 100% remote-based) stand triumphant. Workplace tech has come a long way over the years.
Thanks to platforms like Microsoft Teams, and a whole host of app integrations to improve accessibility, remote work is no longer just a way of papering over the cracks in an emergency. It's a valid, fully effective way for individuals and businesses to operate.
To help you have an effective remote work life and better boost the gains you're going to be serving up for your company, here are our remote working top tips from our own experiences at Weekly10.
Remote working top tips for work/life balance
Working from home can blur the line between our personal and professional lives. When you remember something, and your desk is right there, it's all too easy to sneak in a bit of unplanned overtime. So, our first remote working top tips should help you to draw some essential lines in the sand.
1. Set up a separate workspace, dedicated to you
As we mentioned in the first part of our series one of the key benefits to staff of working remotely is the ability to control your own workspace. No co-workers around mean that you can control everything in your work environment. From what desk you use and where, to screen position, airflow and which Spotify playlist to have on.
Creating a perfect work environment for you means you can remove those distractors, and optimise for speed and comfort.
People often ask how they can keep themselves motivated while working remotely. While there are numerous strategies and techniques you could employ here, one is really simple. Studies have shown that having your own bespoke workspace can offer up a huge boost to motivation too. The sense of freedom and control it offers up can encourage innovation, creativity, and flow.
In the second installment of our series, we took a long look at wellbeing. One potential pitfall of remote working is the lack of ability for remote staff to "switch off" and separate work and home life. Especially when working out of a home office.
The secret to success here is compartmentalisation. And it's one of our most important remote working tips.
Separating where you do your work from where you do your living is extremely important in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Then, shutting off at the right time of day and leaving work until the next day is vitally important.
Ideally, have a separate room or location to work out of. If you don't have space or resource, simply having a dedicated desk in the corner of a room somewhere used only when you work is a perfectly suitable alternative. But, if there's really nowhere suitable in your home, coffee shops or co-working spaces can be a passable alternative.
Provided you have the option, turning a spare bedroom into your home office is ideal. That way, when the end of the day comes, you can shut the door and forget about work. Just like those office-based colleagues of yours do most nights.
Avoid working in key living spaces. For example, the kitchen table. The place where you may have to tidy away all your work paraphernalia at lunch, only to get it all out again once you've demolished that BLT. You don't want to be hosting family dinners with all the environmental cues reminding you of work and the stresses associated.
3. Make it habitual
Related to compartmentalising, is finding a routine and settling into it, every day. As noted in the third part of our series, one of the biggest remote work benefits is greater control over your daily and weekly routine. But it can be a little harder to stick to a routine when you're the only one following it.
One thing working from an office does is it gives us habits and restrictions on time that we need to stick to. Like catching the right train, going for lunch at the allotted time, or grabbing a quick coffee with a colleague. The freedom offered up by working remotely means it's very easy to fall out of a routine. And that can be disastrous for remote work efficiency.
It might sound silly but shower and eat breakfast before you start work. Put on clean clothes and grab a coffee, tea or juice. Set yourself up for a successful day just like you did when in the office.
At lunch, take some time away from the desk. Stretch your legs with a run. Head to the local shops for any key supplies, or even simply do the laundry.
Split your work into chunks too. Set aside certain times for certain activities and where possible stick to them. Keeping to a set routine will help you focus. It'll keep you motivated, and you'll be able to track your performance across tasks much easier. Without a habitual approach to working remotely, you'll find yourself working from the bed in your underwear far more frequently than you'd care to admit.
4. Take regular breaks
Research has shown that remote workers are 13% more productive on average than their office-based peers. This is due to the fact that remote workers tend to work longer hours, with fewer breaks due to a lack of distraction. While this may sound great on paper, particularly to your boss, it's a sure-fire recipe for burnout.
One of the things we often overlook about working in the office is the frequency with which we are distracted. This is, of course, a double-edged sword. On one hand, distraction hits our productivity. But, at the same time it provides us much needed physical and cognitive breaks which refresh and rejuvenate us.
Taking breaks is an important part of managing your energy across the day. Don't feel guilty about taking 10 minutes here and there. Get up, grab some fresh air, have a stretch and stick the kettle on.
For inspiration, why not read this fantastic piece from Michael Leonard over at Better Marketing. It's a useful example of someone utilising the Pomodoro method to split up his writing sessions to maximise efficiency.
Our top tips for staying productive when remote working
As useful as WFH options can be, employees can feel judged for taking advantage of them. This is due to the outdated notion that working from home is somehow a lazier alternative. But our next couple of remote working top tips focus on forming habits to deliver consistent results to shut those nay-sayers up for good.
5. Align expectations and over communicate [Priority Remote Working Tip]
In part three of our blog series, we looked at the huge benefits remote working can offer to productivity and company performance.
To unlock these benefits, keep your manager on side and avoid any confusion around your remote working day. It's vital you sit down with you manager (and maybe team) to discuss exactly what you and they expect whilst working away from base. Overcommunication is one of the must-have tips, not just for remote working but all staff.
That's not just performance-related expectations but also time/day management too. If you are thinking you'll begin work at 7 am, break at 10 am for an hour of running and then finish at 4 pm every day. Then make sure that schedule works for your company.
Likewise, if your manager wants you working certain core hours, you need to know. You need a frank and honest discussion around what works for everyone at the start, before issues escalate. It's the best way to ensure a harmonious and effective working practices.
It's better to be overly specific than leaving things open to interpretation. So, if you have questions or worries, get them cleared up asap!
6. Set and review goals often
Earlier this year we discussed the importance of a self-sustaining culture of feedback to a companies success, particularly in unlocking high-levels of employee engagement. Part of this process focuses on frequent goal-setting. For our clients, we offer their choice of either SMART Goals or OKRs (Objective and Key Results).
For remote workers, a regular employee check-in and analysis of current targets are even more vital than for office-based staff. It allows both manager and employee to get on the same page. It also ensures working time is being spent efficiently and energies are being focussed in the key places. With the lack of face to face time often experienced in remote work, effective asynchronous communication is key to keeping on top of task management.
Weekly10 is a valuable tool here for all business, remote focused or otherwise with our dedicated OKR tracking feature. Managers and staff can review, align and set SMART-based goals weekly, ensuring no wasted time or outdated targets.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Any job that involves a lot of sitting can pose a long-term risk to employee wellbeing. And remote work is no exception. Cutting out a big chunk of weekly travel makes people exercise less. Who knew?
So, with that in mind, here are a couple of remote working top tips for helping you stay active while you work from home.
7. Keep active during your day to stay in tip top shape
It's easy to underestimate how much physical activity we do across a day without even realising it. Even if you drive to the office every day, the likelihood is you are up and about at work. Going to meeting rooms, getting documents printed, popping out for lunch and or takin the stairs to the loos.
Working remotely often means working in a smaller, local space that requires less moving around. Often lunch and toilet breaks might be the only time you get up. In other words, you're moving potentially a couple of dozen metres at most.
However, the additional free time you unlock working remotely through the lack of a commute is the perfect opportunity to find some time for a run, walk, sport or gym session. If you're not a fitness fan, invest in a standing desk. Or one of our favourite remote work tips, replace your office chair with a yoga ball.
8. Eat well
You likely don't have a staffed canteen at home (if you do, who are you!?). You might not have any eateries or shops in easy commutable distance. So, food planning when working remotely can be extremely important. Plan meals ahead of time. Take advantage of the fact you (likely) have a fully functional kitchen at your disposal. Cook up a storm at lunchtime to fuel your body with all the nutrients you need for an active working afternoon.
Avoid snacking too frequently. It becomes all the easier when you have fewer beady eyes watching what you eat and colleagues to chat with distracting you from faux hunger pangs.
Connect socially as a remote worker
Remote work social isolation hit its peak during the Pandemic. There may no longer anything stopping us from going outside, or making plans with friends and family. But remote work still means spending a certain amount of time by yourself. Aside from social wellbeing, this can make people feel isolated in a professional sense too. So our last remote working top tips aim to help you branch out socially as a remote worker.
9. Communicate with the whole team
Regular communication and feedback is the lifeblood of a cohesive and engaged team or business. This is doubly true for remote workers who have less direct contact with their managers and peers across the working day.
Frequent communication in the workplace has a whole heap of benefits. From facilitating innovation, building team effectiveness and rapport, to managing staff responsibilities and performance and ensuring transparency.
It is therefore vitally important that you communicate often with both your manager and colleagues. You never know what you might miss out on if you're not communicating effectively with the business and it's very easy for your office-based peers to have unofficial chats around the kitchen, or across desks in which plans are developed. Sharing your progress, success stories or difficulties with the wider team may well unlock new ideas that ultimately help you out and improve your own working life.
Whether it's regular meetings, web-conferences or the use of team-focussed communication tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, finding the perfect way for you to communicate with your team and leaders needs to be a primary focus when remote working.
10. Socialise with your remote working colleagues when the opportunity arises
And finally, somewhat related to the previous remote working tip, get out and meet up with your colleagues when the opportunity arises.
In our remote work wellbeing blog, we looked at the impact of loneliness on remote workers. It's important to combat this and feel like you and your peers are a team. Even if separated by miles and miles of land or sea. Doing so helps to keep away that feeling of being a bit of an island when it comes to work. It also building bonds with your colleagues and manager offers up huge gains when it comes to productivity.
Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg says connecting distributed workers and creating productive face to face time is key in building a successful remote workforce. A couple of times a year, he has all his staff meet up together for short intense bursts or work and play. The primary goal he says is connecting people.
While you may not be in a position to arrange a company-wide meetup, ensure you reap the benefits of really knowing (and ideally, liking) who you work with by arranging team events or accepting invites to them.
Grab a copy of our latest best practice guide: Employee Engagement in a Remote Working World for some more tops tips on maintaining employee engagement and productivity.