10 Top Tips For Being an Effective and Happy Remote Worker
Gather round one and all, we’re here to talk (Weekly)10 Top Tips!
Following on from our recent blog series looking at some of the crucial topics around remote working, we thought it would be handy to provide a list of Weekly10 Top Tips for effective remote working and keeping happy while telecommuting.
Occasionally we hear of companies trialling remote working, deciding 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. Whilst remote working won’t be (and in some cases, can’t be) for everyone, where an unsuccessful remote work trial does crop up, it often feels like some of the issues faced, could have been avoided with some better forward-thinking.
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 top tips from our own Weekly10 remote work experiences:
- Set up a separate workspace, dedicated to you.
- Make it habitual.
- Take breaks, regularly!
- Align expectations (from the beginning).
- Set and review goals often.
- Keep active during your day.
- Eat like a champ.
- Communicate openly with the whole team.
- Socialise with your colleagues when the opportunity arises.
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 that get in your head when in the office, and optimise for speed and comfort.
A frequent question asked is “how do I keep myself 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 our second blog post of the 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.
Separating where you do your work from where you do your living is extremely important in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Ideally, have a separate room or location (co-working spaces or coffee shops are always a good choice) 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.
If 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, like those office-based colleagues of yours do most nights.
Avoid working in key living spaces. For example, the kitchen table, 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.
One thing working from an office does is it gives us habits and restrictions on time that we need to stick to (catching the right train, going for lunch at the allotted time, grabbing a quick coffee with Jeff at 3pm every day etc.). The freedom offered up by working remotely means it’s very easy to fall out of a routine, which 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, 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. Don’t be that gal/guy!
4. Take breaks, regularly!
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 whilst 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.
5. Align expectations (from the beginning).
In part three of our blog post, 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.
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. A frank and honest discussion around what works for everyone at the start of any remote working period is key to a harmonious and effective telecommute.
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 or OKR (Outcomes and Key Results) review.
For remote workers, a regular check-in and analysis of current targets are even more vital as it allows both manager and employee to ensure 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, an effective digital tool 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.
7. Keep active during your day.
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 during the day, 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, 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 replace your office chair with a swiss ball to unlock some easy activity wins.
Give this post on avoiding being too sedentary a read at some point for some top tips.
8. Eat like a champ
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 and 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 to frequently, which 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.
9. Communicate openly with the whole team.
Regular communication 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, managing staff responsibilities and performance and ensuring transparency to name but a few.
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 – it’s very easier 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, finding the perfect way for you to communicate with your team and leaders needs to be a primary focus when remote working.
Read (and see) all about Weekly10’s bespoke Slack integration tool here.
10. Socialise with your colleagues when the opportunity arises.
And finally, somewhat related to the previous 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 not only keeps away that feeling of being a bit of an island when it comes to work but 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.
There you have them, our (Weekly)10 Top Tips for being an effective and happy remote worker. Now get out of bed, stick on some clean clothes and go boss your remote day!
Enjoyed this blog post? Why not catch up on the rest of the series: