Working Remotely: The Most Complete Guide (Plus Tools)
Are you interested in working remotely? You’re in luck! Today you are going to see some remote work tips along with tools you can use to be as productive as possible.
The number of people working remotely full-time or at least a few times a week has grown tremendously in the last 5 years. More and more companies are letting their employees work from home at least part of the time and are reaping the benefits of it. To take advantage of this new trend, which appears to be here to stay, here are 30+ remote work tips to get you started!
Have A Proper Environment
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but it is super important for you to have your own space to do your work. Sitting on the couch all day with your laptop open, although it seems enticing, is not the most productive of places. It feels more like your place of relaxation and where you like to chill out after a long day at work.
Kitchen counters: the kitchen may seem like an appealing place to work, but the proximity to the refrigerator or seeing dirty dishes that need washing may be a distraction and will keep you from focusing effectively on what needs to be done, your work.
Some remote companies will pay for or give an allotted amount that you can spend to get your office set up. This has become a typical practice. Companies know that your environment may not be ideal, so if they can help improve it, your productivity will be higher.
Desk: You need a good desk. Make sure the height, width and size of the desk are big enough for you to comfortably do your job. Also consider getting a desk that can convert into a standing table. You never know when you may want to switch things up.
Chair: With a desk comes a chair. Buy a comfortable office chair. Remember, you are going to be sitting in it a lot, so it better be comfortable. Your best bet is to go with an ergonomic chair.
Lighting: Make sure your room lighting is good. Natural lighting is best. When things get dark, make sure room lights are bright enough for you to comfortably do your work and have a video conference or two. Natural lighting will cause less eye strain after a long day of work and so will certain types of light bulbs. Try to go with daylight color bulbs.
Background: Your background and wall color are especially important. If you work in an orange room, your eyes and your overall feeling will tire more quickly. Go for soft blues and greens as they are gentler on the eyes and on the other people who will see you over the video camera.
Change The Scenery
In our previous remote work tip, you read that you should have your own office and space to work, but sometimes a change of scenery can be a great. Occasionally, working outside in a quiet area can be a nice way to change things up and to feel like you haven’t been in one spot all day long.
Tools: Not so much a tool, but a different place in or around your house to work.
Pick a Co-working Space
Working remotely can be lonely. The constant lack of interaction with colleagues and not seeing other people face-to-face in real life can be hard. Many remote workers complain of increased feelings of loneliness. One way to combat this is to work out of a co-working space. Co-working spaces can be a great way to have contact with other business people and to network. Some remote companies will even offer a stipend for you to use towards a co-working space. This can be a great place to work from, to combat loneliness, and to get out of the house.
Tools: If you live in a remote/rural area, this may be a hard option to come by. People who live in cities can find many co-working spaces some of which are even free. Google has several free co-working spaces which you can simply sign up for and start using. WeWork is one of the bigger players in the co-working space. They have offices and spaces all over the world. There are also many small players. Do a quick Google search of your region and see what is around you.
Invest in Proper Tech
I can’t stress this enough. This is one of the top remote work tips I can give you. Invest in the right tools to do your job comfortably, productively and effectively. Here’s the first must-have:
Tools: Headsets – Buy yourself a good, comfortable headset. Remote work involves a lot of phone calls and video conferences, so you will use this a lot. When you pick a headset, go for a noise-canceling model. I’ve added a few models I recommend. No one wants to hear the neighbor’s dog barking or the motorcycle going by on the street. This is distracting in meetings, can be quite annoying to other meeting attendees, and is unprofessional.
Webcam – Consider investing in a good webcam to put on your desktop or on top of your laptop. Most computers nowadays come with a webcam, but the overall quality still leaves a lot to be desired. You want to create a good meeting experience with your colleagues and others wit whom you meet with, so go with a quality webcam. Logitech’s C920 webcam is a great choice.
Extra Monitor – If your main tool of choice is a laptop, that is fine, but I would highly suggest getting a monitor to plug into. When you constantly look down at a screen and do that for nine hours a day, you will be prone to neck and back aches. Having an extra monitor will cause you to look straight ahead and help you maintain better, healthier posture. You can then put your webcam on top of this monitor. When you install it at eye level, it makes you look as if you are looking into the other person’s eyes, just as you would in a normal meeting.
Good Laptop or Desktop – If you are going to be working remotely, you need to have a powerful and reliable tool. Many remote companies will provide you with a computer, others will want you to have your own tools. Whatever the case, make sure you have something reliable and a backup computer if possible.
Good Internet Connection
This is another must-have and is at the top of the remote work tips. A good internet connection helps you work faster, have better, more realistic video conferences, and helps you upload and download files from the cloud. If you are going to work remotely, you must have a reliable and good connection. It is also wise to have a backup in case your connection goes down. Internet goes down more often than you think. You can always use your 3g, 4g, 5g connection from your cellphone and create a hot spot if needed.
Tools: A great way to test your connection is with sites like Speedtest.
Find a Routine That Works For You, And Follow It!
As a remote worker, you need to establish a routine that will help you get your work done. This could be handling certain strategic deliverables in the morning and moving onto other operational things in the afternoon etc. It doesn’t matter which way you choose to do it, the important this is that you are creating a work schedule where you can consistently get your work done with quality and efficiency.
Tools: This could be writing down your process or using a flowchart software. Having a visual representation of what your routine is can help you stay focused. You can make a quick, free flow chart using Lucidchart.
Learn When To Take Breaks
There is nothing wrong with taking a break during your remote work day. Quick recharge sessions are much-needed times and deserve a good cup of coffee, tea, quick stretch, maybe some social media scrolling, and other things you like to do on short breaks. Don’t neglect these times. Get out of your chair and take a break. Set different times throughout the day that you can take a quick break.
Give Yourself Rules To Follow
No bending the rules here. Set some guidelines to follow and follow them! The rules themselves can be simple, it could be anything such as, not doing laundry during the work day, no washing dishes, cleaning house etc. Here is a short list of things you may want to avoid during work hours:
- Washing dishes
- Doing laundry
- Working on the couch
- Working in bed
- Working in pijamas
- What else?
There are many other things you can add to the list. I suggest that as you go throughout your day, take note of things you believe you should avoid and add to your Don’t Do List. It could be answering certain types of emails, jumping on social media too often etc. Discover them and add them to the list.
Tool: Good old notepad or stickies! If there is something that you would like to do, but you shouldn’t do during the workday, write it down. Make a note that you need to respond to an email from so and so, read an article on Hubspot that you saw this morning, etc.
Designate Work Clothes
Have you ever noticed how long you take to pick out an outfit to go to work in the morning or at least to sit at your desk? When working remotely, assign specific outfits or clothes that are comfortable to work in and are professional.
One of the best aspects of working remotely is being able to pick and know exactly what you eat. This is priceless, and you should take advantage of it. Make sure you plan ahead to buy food and have meals ready, so you can stay powered up all day long.
Just like our previous point of eating well, you should have snacks on hand to help give you that much-needed boost throughout the day. Make sure to have fruit, nuts, and other power goodies on hand and at your disposal. These will help you get through your remote day, and will probably be healthier than the options you used to have at the workplace.
Establish a Schedule: Times to Start and Finish
This is paramount. Remote work is not just working at odd ball times of the day. You need to be able to follow a schedule, be productive and efficient.
Start by determining a good time to start your day. Consider trying to find some time that overlaps with the rest of the remote team but also fits your schedule.
Determine when you should call it quits for the day. When is a good ending time? Once you have picked one, stick to it. Do not go extending your day into the night and then some more. You would be doing yourself a disservice. With remote work, it is so easy to think, well I just need to do a few more things or finish this activity, before you know it, your ending time is long gone.
When you pick a time to end, follow it. This is the time to close the laptop and focus on other activities. It is also time to get out of the house, get some fresh air, and live your life. Make sure you are allotting time to do these things. This is one of the most important remote work tips to follow!
Tools: Google Calendar or another calendar tool. There is no shortage of tools to pick from. Pick one, add to it, and know in a glance what your day looks like.
Learn When You Are Most Productive
There are certain times of the day that you are more productive than others. Leverage these times and get the hard work done. Some people are morning people, others are not. Know yourself and assign different activities to do during these times. If you are a morning person, you may want to work on your strategic / thought work or other difficult things and leave the operational stuff for later in the day.
The important thing is, find out when you are most productive and assign your activities accordingly.
Find Overlap With Other Remote Workers
Even though you are a remote worker and have some liberty to set your schedule, it is best to pick a worktime where you will have some overlap with your other team members. For instance, you may be working with team members in Estonia, some in California, and you are in Tampa, Florida. Find out when it will be convenient for teams to have a little time to work together. It doesn’t mean that you have to be connected all the time and have overlap for all of their schedules. But there should be some overlap.
Create Processes To Make You More Productive
As you work remotely, you will notice some areas that you should fine tune to make you more productive. It could be as simple as cleaning up your work-space at the end of the day, so you can start fresh the next day with a clean space. You might create email templates for emails that you constantly send that are always the same. You might spend an hour on Sunday night to plan your work week and what you need to accomplish so you can hit the ground running on Monday morning.
Other processes may be harder to muster up now but pay attention to your day-to-day work. Are there areas that go slow, have friction, or have a bottleneck? Identify these, take note, and try to come up with some viable solutions. The process does not have to be anything super out of this world hard. Sometimes simple solutions can make a huge difference. Keep your eyes open and see what you can improve to make yourself more efficient.
Tools: Flow charts can be helpful if you need a visual approach. Lucidchart is a great one for this. You can even design a flow in Powerpoint.
In our last topic, we talked about creating processes so we can be more productive throughout the workday. Now adding to the productive spirit, put together your favorite playlist for those times when you can listen to music during your work day, have a list ready-to-go.
Tools: Itunes, Spotify and other music services can be great choices to put together your productivity playlist.
Be Visible – Even Though You Aren’t Directly Seen By Others
Working remotely has its challenges. Communication can be one of the most challenging aspects of it and it will take extra effort on your part, so communicate, communicate, communicate! As you go into each online meeting, make sure you participate. This is your time to voice your opinion, share your experience, your findings, or whatever else that is going on related to your job and tasks. Make an extra effort to ACTIVELY participate in meetings.
Strive to have good discussions using chat. Nowadays, there are many chat services which can help you to maintain better communication with other team members. Leverage this technology.
You can never communicate too much. Make sure there is clear communication among your team members. It is so easy to become overly focused on our own work and forget to communicate with others.
Maintain great internet connection. This was mentioned earlier in the article, but it deserves to be reiterated. Make sure you have a good, fast, reliable internet connection along with a backup plan in case it goes down.
Learn to avoid distractions. Distractions can come in all shapes and sizes. Learn how to avoid them. If you are using Slack, use the DND (do not disturb) function and add a time limit (or when you’ll return). Do you need to turn off the phone or log out of social media, so you don’t gravitate to check a new message or push notification? Learn what distracts you and take note of it. Find out ways to eliminate or reduce it during your weekday.
Tools: Slack, notepad
Understand Your Company’s Expectations of You
This is not only one of the most important remote work tips, it is paramount to understand in any work environment. You need to understand what the company expects of you. What should you be accomplishing during a certain period? What are your key metrics for success? What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)? When you are hired for the job make sure you ask this question. If you have already been with the company a while, make sure you are in constant contact with your boss and know what is expected of you!
Chit chats at the water cooler are unfeasible in a remote work position, so take advantage of other moments to connect with your colleagues. Are there times before your remote meetings when you can talk with colleagues? What about using the chat system? What about over the phone? It is important to establish rapport with your other team members and create a good connection with them. Random discussions are a great thing and should not be considered a waste of time. If you don’t do this, you may not have many opportunities to connect with them and this can actually hinder certain work getting done and the exchange of new ideas.
Tools: Take advantage of your video conference meetings with Zoom, Google Hangout etc. Also use the chat system. Just remember though, consider giving priority to live video conferences than chat system. It is better to connect over video, it is faster than reviewing a long thread of emails and messages, and it has the personal side to it.
Create Clear Communication Channels
As a remote worker, you need to know which communication channels to use and for what reasons. Often, these channels are obvious, but some may not be. You need to clearly know what is expected of you, and you need to be accountable. Here are a few fictitious examples.
Zoom – All video conferences, calls, team meetings, and standups are conducted via Zoom.
Asana – All of the project communication, assignments, tasks, milestones and other to-do’s will be registered in Asana.
Slack – All team chat will be done via Slack.
Find out what your team uses and for which purposes.
Feel Connected, Even Remotely
Working remotely can be a lonely task, so you need to try to communicate with other team members. Companies should assign specific times to meet with managers e.g. meeting with the boss or supervisor once a week to discuss work/progress etc. The company should also determine other support systems in case you need any help. Working remotely can feel like a one-man/woman army job, so it is important to have a support system in place and ways to get a hold of your boss.
Create a Healthy Work Space
One of the benefits of working at home is that you can have easy access to a yoga mat and other health options from the comfort of your own home. Obviously, it is a matter of preference of what to have for health, but here are some viable options.
- Yoga mat
- Spinning bike
- Standing table with treadmill
- Pull up bar
- Perfect push up set
- Elastic bands
Some of these items are quite small and can easily be stored at your home. These can be a great addition to have near your office to get a quick training session in and to stay healthy.
Shutting Down For The Day
We talked about setting a time to start and end your day. Now let’s look at a few tips to shut down for the day. This does not have to be very time-consuming. It can be quick and extremely helpful for you to jump-start your next workday.
As you are shutting down for the day, take a quick note of what you accomplished during the day. Try writing a high-level summary. Having this information in hand can help you pick up where you left off the day before.
Consider cleaning up / organizing your desk at the end of the day. The worst thing you can do is start your next workday at a messy workstation. Set yourself up for success!
Identify Weak Areas
As you work remotely, you will notice that there are certain areas that you excel in, and others that you may not be as strong in. Although this is typical for any worker, it is important to point these out and discover ways to improve. Are there areas that you need to be more efficient in? Could you review your build process to improve your output? Be self-critical and look for areas of improvement.
In addition to identifying weak areas, are you wasting time in others? Are your procrastinating or jumping back and forth via social media trying not to miss out on new things going on? Obviously, as a remote worker, this can be hard to avoid as there aren’t bosses walking around the room looking over your shoulder. So, you are going to have to be self-critical and set some boundaries for yourself.
Tools: Consider using a tool called Rescue Time. This time management tool displays the amount of time spent on each application, software, site etc. Find out where you are burning time and start getting more done.
Continue To Educate Yourself
As with any other job, you need to continue educating yourself to hone your skills and become a better professional. Remote workers have plenty of opportunities to do this. Since you don’t have a morning commute, why not take some courses on Udemy, Hubspot, Coursera? How about listening to a podcast during the day when you are doing something operational that doesn’t involve in-depth thought? Podcasts can be a great way to stay in touch with what is going on within a specific segment and augment your knowledge in that area. What about blog posts and articles? Even specific channels on Youtube can be a great way to hone your skills.
Take advantage of your time before work or even during work to stay informed and educated. Working remotely gives you more flexibility to stay educated, so take advantage of it!
Remote work is about productivity, flexibility, and delivering great work. It also, in many cases, gives you the freedom to travel the world and work from all sorts of remote locations. Planning on working from Mexico for two-weeks? No problem. Bring your laptop, headset, phone, and any other work gear you need and get to work. Just make sure that you have a reliable internet connection at the destination along with a backup place to work from, just in case. Working remotely can be a great way to see the world and still earn a salary.
These are some of the major remote work tips that I have put into practice and have heard from other fellow remote workers. What has your remote work experience been like? Please share your experience in the comments section below so the rest of the community can learn from it.