Working remotely has a number of advantages and challenges. In order to make the most out of it and ensure you and your team are working effectively, you need to put thought and effort into preparing and undertaking your work, and how you interact with your team.
We’ve put together some tips to help you plan for, set up, communicate, and collaborate in a remote environment.
1. Create a workspace
Think about where you can set yourself up to work that will offer you what you need to get the job done. Consider how much space you need, access to natural light, and your ability to focus. Remember to employ the ergonomic principles you would in the office when setting up your own space.
2. Get the right hardware
Take the time to collect all the equipment you need to do your job, and set it up in your workplace. Make a list and speak with your team to make sure you haven’t forgotten any items that you need.
3. Use the right systems
Identify the software and systems you will need to not only perform your work, but also store work, and communicate with your team. For storing and sharing documents and other files consider using a cloud system such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. For video conferencing consider software like Zoom, BlueJeans, RingCentral, Microsoft Teams, or GoToMeeting.
4. Consider how you will work (understanding your software)
Think about how you will go about your work. Understand how your hardware, software, and systems work together. Consider the differences between cloud and desk-based software, and how accessing them while working remotely will differ from using them in the office. Make sure you know where your data is stored, working from home means that you are now responsible for where you store your data. If you’re not saving directly to the cloud or company servers, you will need to make sure you have your own backup.
5. Set clear expectations with your team
Working remotely is challenging and each individual has their own idea of what is and isn't acceptable. Set clear expectations of workloads, working hours, communication mediums, contact frequency, physical appearance in video calls, and where to go for help and support with issues.
6. Develop a routine
It can be easy to fall into a habit of being a little too relaxed when working remotely. Develop and keep a regular personal routine like you would if you were going to the office. This will help you when structuring your day, and set you up to work more effectively.
7. Plan your work day
It’s important to set your daily goals and create a schedule of what you want to achieve throughout your work day. Allocate times to individual tasks and breaks. This will help you stay on track so that time doesn’t escape you, and you can more easily prioritise work and meet your deadlines.
8. Be mindful of distractions
Distractions abound when you’re working remotely. Take the time to consider what these may be when you are setting up your workspace and planning your work. Where possible work to eliminate or minimize distractions, or allow time in your schedule to deal with any unavoidable interruptions you can foresee.
9. Set boundaries for family and visitors
Not working from the office can make you more accessible and more easily contactable. Take the time to discuss what working remotely means with your family and friends, and set boundaries and expectations with them to ensure you don’t suffer from constant interruptions. Consider creating a ‘stoplight’ or visual indicator to let people know when you are busy and can’t be disturbed.
10. Communicate with your team often and pick your medium
Checking in with your team takes much more effort when you don’t have the luxury to walk up to them or a chat. It’s important to plan regular catch ups to ensure you and the team are getting the support and information needed. From emails and instant messenger, to phone and video calls, there are a variety of mediums for you to use. Carefully consider which will be the most effective for each situation, to ensure information is delivered and received well.
11. Let you team know what you’re up to
If you're part of a team that relies on schedules, or communicates heavily with each other then you need to let your team know when you are or are not available There is nothing more frustrating than messaging a team member, not getting a response, and not knowing why. Remember no one can see you at your desk.
12. Plan meetings effectively
Remote meetings are more challenging than talking face-to-face, and take consideration and planning to be successful and effective. Ensure you have good video conferencing software that allows you to communicate well with your team, as well as a strong internet connection for good video quality. Consider defining expectations surrounding meetings including etiquette for participants. It’s also a good idea to try multiple smaller meetings in place of longer meetings, to avoid the risk of you and your team losing focus.
13. Cancel the noise
Cut down on background noise as much as possible around your workspace. While in meetings, consider using noise-cancelling headphones and eliminate as much background noise as possible.
14. Schedule social time with your team
The regular chats around the water cooler in the office don’t happen when you’re working remotely, so you miss the opportunity to catch up with your team. Schedule some dedicated catch up time to ensure you and your colleagues get the social interaction you need to feel like part of the team.
15. Take regular breaks to refocus your attention
It’s important to take regular breaks away from your work so that you don’t burn yourself out. Step away from the computer at regular intervals, and ensure you move around to get your blood flowing again, so feel re-energized and can continue work with a greater focus.
16. Give your colleagues the benefit of the doubt
Working remotely can be challenging, especially if you’re new to it. As you and your team transition into working in this way, it’s important to be mindful and understanding of the challenges your colleagues are facing.
17. Take advantage of the advantages
Working remotely has an array of benefits that, when utilised, can improve your productivity and work-life balance. Think about the hours that you can work and will be most productive, and try to incorporate them into your work day if there is the possibility for you to work flexible hours. Another advantage is that you won’t have to factor the travel time into your day that you normally would, and can instead use that to spend quality time with your family.