April 6, 2020

Working remotely can be the perfect arrangement for companies, often reporting higher levels of employee retention and engagement, reduced turnover, higher employee satisfaction, increased productivity and autonomy, and lots of other benefits.

People in all kinds of careers have been doing it for years. But most people are accustomed to one day of work at home occasionally. With the current state of the COVID-19 coronavirus a large portion of the workforce are now expected to be skilled at the art of working remotely.

For most companies working from home is a continuously developing situation whilst staff learn to adapt to working remotely and HR create the policies to support it. The positive is that there are opportunities to save money on office space, this would potentially open more flexible options for staff to navigate the demands of their job and home life and more freedom and autonomy in general.

If you’re one of the many starting to work remotely for the first time or engaging in full-time remote work for the first time, you are probably discovering that it’s not as easy as you may have thought. Here are some tips to set yourself up for success.

You will feel left out occasionally

The “loneliness of the long-distance worker” is a double-edged sword. On one hand, solitude can be immensely beneficial to productivity. On the other, constant isolation can quickly become its own terrible distraction.

Communication tools can help bridge the gaps between distributed teams but there will be times when you miss out on news circulating around your company – whether it’s important updates or the latest gossip. Many companies allow or encourage the use of Zoom, Skype and Slack and other online tools to help teams stay in touch, so be sure to take advantage of these kinds of tools if they’re available.

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Your time and place

Set a schedule and stick to it. If you set a schedule every Sunday and let your family and friends know your working hours, they will be more likely to respect your work time.

Create a protected workspace. If you live alone it’s a lot easier to treat any area of your home as a workspace, but make sure you have some place other than your work area to relax. If you live with family, having a home office room is ideal but not always possible. Discuss and commit to an area that you can work from without interruption.

Schedule breaks to get up and get some air, you may be amazed how much you can go from getting distracted by everything at home, to having zero reason to stop working. Schedule time to go grab lunch.

If time management isn’t your strongest suit, there are plenty of apps that can help you stay focused. If you work more productively at night than during the day, then work at night. However, you choose to do it, think of your newfound professional freedom as a skill to be mastered.

Networking

If you don’t have a cause for regular engagement with key people, then you should proactively schedule reminders to reach out with an email or call. When working remotely, people need to be shown you are thinking of them. Don’t rely on them to connect with you. There are also other ways to stay in the loop. LinkedIn groups are surprisingly good at this, so be sure to join groups that are relevant to your role and industry and get involved in the discussion.

Working remotely forces you to become a more skillful communicator. It also forces you to be more resourceful; as you’re now IT, Office Manager, receptionist, plus more. Communicating online has never been easier, but it takes skill to communicate well online.

Reporting

Expectations on how much you should be getting done may vary. Just because you don’t have any (human) coworkers to bother you, it’s unrealistic to assume you’ll be able to work all day, every day, with no interruptions.

Since this is a new experience for everyone, you should err on the side of over-communicating, especially with work progress, until remote working norms are established. Send updates to your manager and clients vs. waiting for them to ask you for them. Ask them what preferences they have around frequency, content and form of updates.