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Starting a remote job can have huge benefits alongside some pretty significant challenges.

How to start a remote job & be a great remote worker

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Thanks to a certain virus, remote work is obviously the type of job flexibility that’s getting the most attention right now. But even before it became a means to adapt to the pressures of COVID-19, remote work has been highly sought after by employees in many sectors around the globe. 

We all know starting a new job can be a daunting prospect at the best of times, but if you’re starting a new job right now, the chances are you’re doing so whilst not being in the “normal” workplace. Or if you’re just taking on your first fully-remote role, it can be a lot to get used to. 

Getting your approach right to starting a remote job (be it temporarily remote or not) and hitting the ground running is an interesting challenge. Hopefully, my own experiences mixed with some top tips for remote work luminaries will help guide you through the maelstrom of the remote work life.  

Why work remotely?

Remote work is a high priority for many potential employees. A survey of US workers by the flexible workspace provider IWG found that 80% would choose a job that had flexible working options over a job that didn’t, and the recently released State of Remote Work 2020 report found that 98% if surveyed remote workers wanted to keep working remotely in at least some capacity for the rest of their careers.

What makes remote work so broadly appealing is its convenience, but more importantly, its accessibility. We’d all love to use our would-be commute time to get a bit more sleep every now and then. But remote work opens up jobs to applicants who may be unable to commit to a classic 9-5 office schedule, like people with disabilities or health conditions that can impede travel, as well as those caring for small children or the elderly.

It also increases the geographical reach of a company’s hiring process, as applicants do not necessarily have to uproot themselves and go to a new city or even country to take a job. This opens up the size of the job pool, allowing a wide range of talent to be considered.

I believe that talent and intelligence are evenly distributed throughout the world. But opportunity is not

Matt Mullenweg – Founder/CEO at Automattic

Setting up your physical remote workspace

When you’re settling into remote work for the long-term, it’s important to establish a workspace where you can be productive. Sure, there’s a novelty to sitting in bed while you work the first day or so, but if you care about your back and legs, you’ll want something a bit more ergonomic.

In his TED Talk entitled “Why working from home is good for business”, Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg highlights the benefits of the workspace stipend he provides his remote employees. This is money they can use to get the proper equipment like seating, keyboards and monitors. Or they can spend it on anything else they feel would improve their remote working life.

If your organisation can budget for this, it can be great for employee wellbeing. But lockdown has forced many professionals to work remotely for the first time with less organisational support than they might have normally. Given that many have had to improvise, some important points to consider are:

  • Ergonomic furniture and equipment
  • Decent lighting to avoid eye strain
  • As few distractions as possible
  • Good internet connection
Starting a remote job can be a daunting task if you haven't done it before.
Optimising your workspace is a key step in remote work success.

Setting up your virtual workspace

During his TED Talk, Mullenweg discussed one of the key aspects of the modern workplace, and how it translates to working from home:

‘There are so many apps and services that help with day-to-day communication, video conferencing, project management, you name it. If you look around the office, the things that changed how you work probably aren’t objects anymore. They’re things you access through your computer. So try things out, and experiment with different tools that enable collaboration.’

A while back, we published a list of top tools and services for remote workers, and we’d still recommend everything in there. But to briefly recap some of the key points, some important online tools you’ll need are:

Communications software: This means both video conferencing software and a direct messaging application. Microsoft Teams has both of these features, and is effective and easy to use. Another popular direct messaging app is Slack, which allows users to set up groups and channels for different purposes. Both Teams and Slack also have Weekly10 integration.

A file-sharing service: Efficient, secure file-sharing is a must for remote workers. Services like OneDrive and Google Drive provide a decent amount of free upload space, and are ideal for sharing documents with your colleagues. The former is even integrated into Microsoft Teams. For temporary disposable files, WeTransfer is a service that lets you share download links that only remain active for seven days, perfect for sharing documents with clients or other third parties.

AGILE management tools: By this, we mean tools like Trello. It’s an aid to collaboration and idea development using virtual notes that can be added to, commented on, and organised into columns. As well as being a great point of reference, Trello can be set up to alert co-workers via email when notes enter a specific column, making it an easy way to update everyone on your progress.

Trello is part of Atlassian’s suite of remote project management services. Their other tools include Jira project management and IT support services, as well as Confluence, which is a shared virtual workspace.

If you’re settling into a remote leadership role for at least the foreseeable future, then one of your first challenges could potentially be filling certain roles on your team. But if you’re hiring remote workers, then services such as Odro can be perfect. Odro is a video interview service that allows managers to conduct live video interviews, or to create a series of questions and then have applicants record their responses.

Staring a remote job can be a lonely experience if you're not used to it. Maintaining social contact with colleagues and ensuring your social wellbeing is good is a key step.
For new remote workers, creating social bonds with new colleagues can be tricky.

Good habits for effective remote teamwork

If you’re telecommuting for the first time, the change can take some adapting to. It really helps to get into the right habits to ensure you’re working with your team as effectively as possible.

Communicate effectively and consistently: When you’re working together from separate locations, it takes a certain amount more conscious effort to keep others in the loop. We’re not saying you should be spamming your team’s group chat at all hours of the day, but you need to keep lines of communication open. It can even be something unobtrusive, like moving a card on a Trello board, or taking a few minutes to complete a scheduled check-in for your line manager. And remember, good communication is the best way for remote workers to highlight their strengths, and show that they are proactive.

Maintain a social connection with your team: While this sort of falls under the umbrella of that first point, it was more from a project coordination standpoint. But it’s also true that social bonds improve workplace satisfaction and wellbeing. This is just as important for remote teams. Whether through video stand-ups or the occasional in-person gathering, ensuring some level of face-to-face interaction is a good way to get people working in sync despite the distance between them.

Mind your mental health: In any job, it’s important to make sure that the workload and any difficulties don’t tax your mental wellbeing too much. Remote work comes with its own issues in this regard. Remote staff members are at a higher risk of isolation than their centrally based colleagues. Obviously this issue has become even more prevalent since lockdown began.

But that’s not the only risk to mental wellbeing. One of the benefits that make remote work an attractive prospect is the supposedly greater level of control over one’s work/life balance. But if it’s poorly implemented, such as if an employee is being remotely micromanaged, the line between their work and personal life becomes very blurred. It’s important to schedule yourself effectively, and have a clear point in mind when you can step away without worry.

Figure out the level of remote work that’s right for you: In the 2020 State of Remote Work survey, almost a hundred per cent of remote workers reported wanting to work remotely in at least some capacity for the rest of their careers. Of that sample, a little over half were full-time remote workers, while the remainder also spent some amount of their time at a company workplace.

So while it’s an extremely popular form of flexible employment, not everybody wants remote work to make up their entire day-to-day. So our last piece of advice for today is to figure out what balance will help you be happy and productive. Whatever approach to remote work you choose (providing you have the choice) then we wish you luck in your new career. For more information on working remotely, visit the Weekly10 blog.

If you manage remote employees, why not check out Weekly10 to see how we help keep feedback and performance front and centre for great employee engagement and productivity no matter where your people work?

Head of People Science