9 Tried and Tested Tips to Optimize Remote Work
So you’ve finally joined the remote work club. Welcome aboard. I personally know many people who work from home who have taken vows never to return to an office.
But is that possible?
Don’t all you people go crazy at some point?
Of course, we do. But not from working remotely. So what’s the secret? How does one stay productive, creative, inspired, and fulfilled while working in their slippers and morning coat?
For starters, lose the morning coat and get dressed properly.
Ask what you need
If the company you work for supports your home-office setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a few days when you realize what you need. This is more important than you may think because you want to start with your full potential and not have the technology or the lack of it pull you back.
This equipment might be the bigger monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, desk, and software.
If you’re working for a recruitment company, you know how much time your team members spend sending proposals to your client’s potential new hires.
But if you use automated proposal software, you have all the proposal details pre-written. You just need to add a few client specifics.
On top of it. The entire proposal is editable – this includes the colors, text, images, layout, and everything.
Better Proposal templates would not only improve the efficiency of your team but give you a powerful tool to track the success of your sales and fine-tune your approach.
Companies that have regular remote employees often have a budget for home office equipment and sales software. Ask what you can expect and how often it is renewed. You also need to ask whether it’s a loan agreement and who pays for return shipping or disposal of outdated equipment.
On the other hand, if you’re working remotely short-term and are expected to return to an office after a given time, you may still ask for what you need, but expect to make some compromises. You can also suggest renting hardware on a flexible schedule so your company only has to pay for hardware as long as it’s actively used.
Know your working style
Before you start your remote work journey, it’s good to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
For example, some people need absolute silence, while others like being surrounded by white noise. I love the hum and dull roar of a cafe. I also never say no to the rustling of leaves or the sound of the ocean. As long as I can find a safe spot where no one bothers me.
If you’re more of a silent type, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Do you like listening to music while working? We have a few recommendations.
Other than the environment, you need to figure out whether you’re more productive in the morning or in the evening. Do you find motivation in small breaks during the day or maybe a midday nap to recharge?
These are all great problems to have – these are what makes remote work beautiful – getting to work during your best hours, at your favorite location, and the way you prefer.
Never too much communication
Communication is key to being successful in any professional role, whether remote or on-site. However, in remote work, it’s an essential skill and asset.
You’re not only a few desks away from your team members or manager, so you must rely on 1:1 meetings on a weekly basis to catch up on your goals, daily tasks, and upcoming projects.
Don’t be a stranger who communicates only when absolutely necessary. Share updates with your team members, coordinate tasks, or simply use the different channels to check on them.
State the progress you’ve made in the past week, which goals you’ve achieved, and which projects you’ve started. It can be difficult for your manager to keep up with your progress, so don’t hesitate to bring up important milestones on your own.
Stay visible to others
When you have an office, your coworkers can verify that you’ve arrived by checking out your desk.
This isn’t always good.
For example, if you have a bad hangover or aren’t able to get any sleep.
But in most cases, that’s pretty good. Your boss can see you every day and ask you what you’re working on. You bump into people all the time and you’re on people’s minds. They invite you to meetings and social events.
More importantly, people drop by your desk and say hello, which helps team building. You can even run into your CEO and give them a quick elevator pitch on a pilot project you’re working on.
When you’re working from home, you miss many of these luxuries. Meetings aside, you’re reduced to a name on a Slack sidebar in a few channels that concern your position.
Unless you take steps to become visible as a remote worker:
- Tell your manager what you’re working on
- Tell your team what you’re working on
- Don’t wait to reply to questions
- Be visible on Slack
- Announce your wins
- Schedule meetings with your team
- Set your slack status so people know what you’re up to
Discover what makes you productive
I’ve been there myself countless times, believing I should be able to sit down at my home office desk in the morning and work seamlessly until nightfall.
The truth is that without discipline and several breaks during the day, you won’t last long. You need to find a way to find the best way for yourself to work remotely.
When you work in an office you’d take a walk to get snacks round the corner, chat with your coworkers, take coffee breaks, and even make time to have lunch away from the desks. And this feels absolutely normal.
However, when you do these things at home, it somehow feels like cheating.
As a result, you start working longer hours with fewer breaks, all while remaining in the same place every day. So what is it that you can do to spice things up?
- Change your office – The comfort of your home probably provides the most convenience. But unless you try something else, early symptoms of cabin fever might kick in. Take a walk in the neighborhood and you’ll most certainly find several cafes that fit the role. My advice: Give priority to those that serve a great coffee blend and stay away from those where college students have their breaks. Way too noisy.
- Change your clothes – There’s nothing wrong with spending your entire workday at home in pyjamas and a robe – if that’s your thing. I’ve discovered I’m able to burn through the bulk of my work much faster if I’m casually dressed. I guess the idea is to subconsciously tell yourself that as soon as you finish your work, you’re free to go whenever you wish.
- Things you do while working – This includes everything from the food you eat – here are a few ideas from our remote team – to the number of breaks you make to the way you prioritize easy vs. heavy lifting. Even little things like the temperature of your room, your audio setup, and the comfort of your chair and desk combo can make a difference between productivity and distraction.
When you notice that the thin blue line between work and home starts to disappear, the reason might be that you’re stuck to your computer screen more than you should.
Of course, staying online longer is necessary when closing a major deal or chasing a deadline for an important project. But in those cases, remember to reward yourself.
Commit to a fitness routine and make sure there’s room in your schedule to eat healthy nutritious meals so you can kick into the 6th gear when the situation calls. Luckily, the link between work and home can burst the other way, too.
The increased flexibility gives you time not to miss important moments. As a remote employee, you can take care of your kids without having to leave the office during standard business hours.
If you’re more of a nomad type, you can work from any location around the world, and even squeeze in a doctor’s appointment in your schedule pretty easily.
Make time for social contacts
You can work alone at home all day wearing your fuzzy alligator slippers and petting your furbaby. But even if those prospects look attractive right now, they’re not a substitute for going out once your work is done.
One of the biggest downsides of working remotely is the lack of a built-in social interaction of an office. Just as you need to purposefully schedule meetings and chat your coworkers up on Slack, you also need to set aside time to connect with other human beings in person. Here are a few things you can do:
- Work on meeting friends on your calendar
- Go to gym classes or group meditation
- Build a community with other remote workers
- Make friends in coworking spaces
Whatever activities you choose, make sure to actually do them. Put them into your schedule, ask people to hang out, ditch the slippers and get out of the house. Apart from social contacts, your body needs blood circulation, plus there’s no replacement for fresh air and natural light.
Try to work regular hours
If possible, set a schedule and stick to it as much as you can. There are a lot of daily schedule templates ideas in the market that might help you with that. When you have clear guidelines on when to work and when to rest, achieving work/life balance becomes much easier.
This is directly related to one of the biggest perks of remote work – flexibility. Sometimes you’ll need to work longer in the day or start early to fit in someone else’s time zone. When that happens, make sure to call it a day earlier than usual or reward yourself with extra sleep the next morning.
I use an automatic time tracking app called RescueTime. It lets me check in on whether I’m sticking to my schedule. This app can also help me realize what times of day I’m most productive and when I’m most slacking off.
This information was valuable to me because it helped me pick the hours when I’m most likely to get the deep work done. For example, my productivity is at its peak between 8.30 and 11.30 am. So I try not to schedule meetings and social calls until I’m done with heavy lifting.
Don’t forget to log off
This is one of the most challenging aspects of remote work, especially for beginners. The world is becoming increasingly connected, so you may receive emails and app notifications at any hour.
This is especially true if you’re working in a different time zone than your coworkers. You need to develop a habit of setting a time when you officially call in a day.
Remember that the best part of working remotely is having the flexibility to work when you’re most productive. Take full advantage of that and avoid the mindset that you’re available 24/7 just because you work from your living room.
Remote work is nothing new and it’s definitely here to stay. However, figuring out how to maximize the perks and minimize the downsides of remote work is still a challenge. If you want advice, I’d tell you to first get the technology in line.
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