If you are desperately looking for sound advice on remote work then you are not alone. The sudden adoption of remote work policies by many companies has created a lot of confusion and misinformation. We decided to cut through that noise by bringing you some great remote working advice direct from industry experts.
This remote working advice is from people who truly “walk the walk.” We reached out to a wide variety of experts, including CEOs, authors, and people from the big remote working sites like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations.
What unites all of these people is their experience with remote work and their desire to help others enjoy the benefits it can bring.
We didn’t want to influence or limit their advice in any way, so we simply asked each expert what advice they would give to someone interested in or just starting out with remote work.
Some had one key tip that they wanted to share, while others elaborated on several points. We are happy to share the advice exactly as each expert preferred.
It is not every day that you get top-notch remote working advice from experts who are as busy as these people are!
I would suggest you grab a coffee and set aside some time to really take in their advice. It is a long post but you will not find better remote work advice out there.
So, without further ado, here are the remote work experts that made this possible thanks to their generosity and genuine interest in helping others:
Our first piece of remote working advice is from Laura Spawn, the Founder and CEO of Virtual Vocations.
“Working remotely from home, when done right, is beneficial and a positive experience for the majority of people.
Successful remote work takes planning and communication, to make sure expectations are set beforehand, and that channels for receiving feedback and reporting are clearly defined.
If an employer or employee rushes into a work from home situation without appropriate planning, it can cause confusion, breakdown in communication, and eventually make remote work seem like it is not a sustainable option, or a positive experience.
When working from home, establishing the following can lead to success for everyone involved:
Establish Real-Time Availability
- Discuss with your employer what hours of the day you must be available, and what ‘available’ looks like.
Do you need to be at your home office desk, available for a video chat at a moment’s notice, or by the phone throughout the day?
- Is your primary mode of communicating through team platforms like Slack or project management systems like Asana or Trello?
- What time frame is acceptable for responding to messages? Five minutes? An hour?
When you work from home, it is a transition from your boss and coworkers being able to walk up to your desk at the office and find you any time during the workday, to a more flexible, and sometimes uncertain, form of availability. Establishing exactly when you will be available and how to reach you is a must for success when working from home.
Establish a Work Feedback System
If both you and your manager are new to remote work, you may not have a system in place to report on your daily work priorities and what was accomplished and to receive feedback you may need in order to complete your projects. If this is the case, a lack of communication can quickly cause a negative outlook to crop up towards working remotely.
Your employer should consider using an online project management system for reporting, but if they have not set it up yet, as an employee it is worth the effort and time to report daily to your manager on what you accomplished, what you are working on and if you are waiting on anything from them or others to complete tasks.
If needed, report to them by email, phone or by instant message. Reporting should be recorded and preferably done in a way that there is a permanent record in writing for both you, and your employer to refer to if needed.
Making sure communication and availability are addressed and clear to managers and employees when working from home can provide a strong basis for a successful remote work experience.
There will still be some adjustments that take place, especially if both the employer and employees are new to working from home, but, as long as each person is clear on how to communicate, when to be available and what their work priorities are, remote work can be a success.”
Lisette Sutherland is the director of Collaboration Superpowers, a company that helps people work together from anywhere through online and in-person workshops. She also produces a weekly podcast featuring interviews with remote working experts highlighting the challenges and successes of working with virtual teams.
“If you and your team are suddenly remote, start here:
- Try and separate your working space from your living space.
- Set goals and be enthusiastic. Working remote is all about trust and communication.
- Get familiar with the tools for remote teams.
- Start without big expectations, experiment and grow your skills.
- Make sure to take enough breaks and move your body regularly.”
Job van der Voort
Job van der Voort is CEO at Remote. Remote provides international payroll and benefits solutions.
“How to recognize a workplace that does remote work well:
- Central documentation to which everyone contributes.
- You’re not in Zoom calls all day long. In fact, they are the exception, rather than the rule.
- Work happens not on Slack or Zoom, but rather in the relevant places/apps.
- Company-wide moments to connect with colleagues are a weekly occurrence, and more inventive than “Zoom happy hour.”
Making sure you’re well set up for remote work:
- Get wired internet for a more stable connection.
- Use headphones or earphones to remove echo on calls.
- Make sure you’re sitting ergonomically. Working for the couch is nice for a bit, but you can’t do that for 8 hours every day without getting back issues.
- If you can, make your workspace separate from your living spaces. This will help with disconnecting.
Lastly, to make the best of remote work:
- Consider changing your schedule to suit what feels best: start early, start late, take long midday breaks.
- Stop working when you’re not in the mood, and vice versa. You’ll find that the time that you are working, you’ll be much more productive.
- Never “dip your toe in the water” of work, outside of when you’ve decided that you should work. Meaning: don’t allow work to leak into your free time through notifications. Make sure the lines between work and everything else stay clear, to avoid feeling like you’re always on the clock.
- Get out of the house (wear a mask) now and then! Even if you’re like me and love to be at home, it’s good to change the scenery for a bit. If you can do a meeting while walking outside, I’d highly recommend trying that.”
Emily Courtney is a writer, editor, and Content Specialist at FlexJobs, the award-winning site for remote, flexible schedule, and freelance job listings. Having worked remotely in flexible jobs for more than 15 years, Emily is passionate about creating content that helps people find remote work success.
“One of the biggest concerns when searching for remote or work-from-home jobs is the possibility of being scammed.
Warning Signs of a Job Scam:
- The pay is out of line with the work.
- The posting includes multiple spelling and grammatical errors (that aren’t part of an editing test).
- You’re offered the job right away without any discussion about your experience or skills.”
Calvin Rosser is the writer of the popular “Life Reimagined” newsletter. Find him at calvinrosser.com.
“Create boundaries with work. When you go in and out of a physical office, there’s a natural separation between home life and work life.
With the flexibility of remote work, you can open up your laptop and work at any point in the day. So while you can enjoy an afternoon nap or workout without anyone shaming you, you can also find yourself working at ten or eleven at night from your couch.
In this new environment, you have to consciously create healthy boundaries between work and life so that you don’t burn out.”
Hailley Griffis is Head of Public Relations at Buffer.
“The number one piece of advice I give people when working remotely, especially from home, is to set boundaries.
Set boundaries for when you start work and when you end work and when you take breaks. This can be difficult but as much as is possible, these boundaries will help a lot.
For starting and ending work, that boundary is more than just a time of day it also applies to notifications to your phone and when those notifications come through and when you check your work applications. I try my best not to check Slack first thing in the morning, for example, and in my Slack settings I have push notifications to my phone turned off from 7 pm to 9 am.”
“Remote work comes with a lot of advantages. A flexible work schedule, work that you’re passionate about, and a no-commute lifestyle are just a few perks. At the same time, it’s easy to get distracted by the things happening around you. Because there’s no one watching over your shoulders, it’s easy to put off work.
The end result is that no work gets done. Your team no longer trusts you. And you end up unsatisfied with work.
Here’s how to become more productive when working remotely:
- Set up a dedicated work area that gives you office vibes.
- Dress up for work, like you would for the office.
- Keep fixed working hours.
- Use time tracking software to track how you spend your time.
- Frequently update your team about your work status.”
Jon is a writer, teacher, early stage investor and advisor in the HR tech space, and well known for his writing about the freelance revolution and the future of work. He has been a partner in two well respected global consultancies and was SVP HR for a top US bank. He’s now founder of the Agile Talent Collaborative and a contributor to Forbes. His last book was “Agile Talent.” He’s an occasional lecturer at the University of Michigan, Wharton TMI-Global Fellows program, the Indian School of Business, the Copenhagen Business School, and many corporate universities.
“I remember hearing the great author John Updike give his career advice to ambitious young writers: write and write often but be disciplined and not obsessive about it. He himself wrote at the same desk each day starting promptly at 6 am and stopping promptly at noon.
It’s good advice for any remote worker. Be disciplined but not obsessive.’
Steph is the Founder of Integral Labs. She also works remotely for the Hustle and has spent three years working for Toptal.
“Remote work dissolves boundaries. People tend to think that maximum freedom is good, but without the right boundaries, it’s hard to make progress in any direction.
Be sure to block significant chunks of your calendar for deep work or important tasks, whether it be personal or professional, or just to set a boundary at the end of the day. Don’t forget to take back control of your calendar, so that it doesn’t take control of you.
Each individual working remotely needs to develop habits and routines that work for them. The same way that a 9-5 doesn’t work optimally for all, a highly fluid day can work for some, and not others.
Similar to how you would set a company strategy, set goals for yourself and experiment with different approaches to get there. A good remote company will be clear about their expectations of you, but not how they expect you to achieve your goals.
Remote work requires the same things as “in office” work, but also requires a lot more intentionality. You must intentionally set aside time to develop company culture. You must intentionally develop onboarding processes. You must overcommunicate.
Requiring good culture, good operations, and good communication are not unique to remote organizations, but they do require you to invest more in making them happen.”
Tammy Bjelland is the CEO of Workplaceless, a company teaching businesses the right way to go remote.
“In times of economic uncertainty, remote workers need to be extra diligent and intentional about their career development.
Self-advocacy is critical, especially when working for an organization that has not yet developed a long-term, sustainable remote work strategy.
I recommend that remote workers learn about the unique challenges in remote career development and make a concrete plan to develop their careers so they continue to learn, grow, and achieve — even outside the office.”
Jitesh Patil is an SEO & Content Specialist at Toggl Plan, a remote project management system used by the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
“Office employees have access to learning and skill development opportunities. Such opportunities are often part of employee career development initiatives. Also, the office coworkers network is a big resource for career opportunities.
However, such opportunities are rare for remote workers.
Yes, there are some companies, like ours, that have a dedicated budget for employee development. However, it’s rare.
Freelancers have it even worse. There’s no one to remind them to acquire new skills. Plus, often client work takes precedence over personal and career development.
That’s why it’s important for remote employees and freelancers to plan their workweek. But, not just for work. Instead, they should also focus on making time to learn new skills and network with other remote workers.”
“At a high level, I’ve seen success and failure in remote work generally stem from expectations of what success looks like as a contributor.
At the end of the day success is always a factor of effort and outcomes.
And let’s face it – it’s easier to BS this in the office. People can physically see you looking busy for long enough, and you can bitch about how hard something is by the water cooler.
Meanwhile, in remote environments, work happens digitally, communication tends to be asynchronous, and outcomes are easy to quantify. This isn’t always the case – some organizations do try to replicate the office through Slack and Zoom – but organizations that excel in remote environments have strong digital tools that are optimized for asynchronous communication and prioritize the work products delivered over the process to get there.
Which means as an employee or leader just getting started in remote work, avoid two traps:
- Don’t go all in.
- Don’t replicate the office.
Instead find your own unique balance that prioritizes outcomes, enables asynchronous communication, and makes digital tools like Slack, Trello etc work for your unique culture and business.”
Nathan Hirsch is Co-Founder and CEO of Outsource School, a company helping small businesses scale with the use of virtual assistants.
“When hiring virtual assistants focus on hiring A players.
Hiring A players is the key to getting your time back and out of the day to day operations.
Hiring F players can hurt you and you should get rid of the virtual assistant quickly.
It’s the B and C virtual assistants that kill you. Just good enough to stick around and not bad enough to get rid of. They take up your time each week fixing small things and pulling you back into the day to day operations of your business.
Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with A players. Even if it makes some tough decisions.”
Jeremy is an Appreciative Futurist & Collaboration & Innovation Catalyst. He is a Director of The Emotional Economy at Work and a global thought leader and consultant on building collaboration in a digital world for innovation, social good and the future of talent.
“This advice is to someone who is a leader or a member of a team who is required to work remotely but it is also useful for individuals.
Experience is now showing that a great way to set up an individual or a team to succeed in remote working is to invest in an authentic conversation around identifying the natural talents or strengths of every persona as a unique individual, and then fitting or designing the experience of remote working to the uniqueness of each individual.
I am calling this the work to undertake a Talent Equity Stocktake in order to discover our uniqueness as individuals and to look at the combined talents of the team in ways that generate three questions.
- How are we going to BE WELL together in our experience of remote working which includes the diversity and richness of our individual and collective talents or strengths?
- How will we organise our remote work in ways that enable us to collaborate and DO WELL individually and together, even though we are separated physically?
- How might we use this time to innovate new ways of working for the future which turns a crisis into an opportunity to re-imagine the future?
What I am really saying here is if you are going to work for a company that wants you to work remotely, make sure they are willing to invest in conversations, tools and processes that enable you as a unique individual to best set up to work remotely in ways that work for you and enable you to thrive from who you are as an individual and also align with others.”
James Hirst is Co-Founder and COO of Tyk. Tyk is a default remote company, with 76 full-time employees working across 26 countries and 6 continents.
“Working from home doesn’t mean working alone.
Set the agenda with your colleagues/clients: Setup shared Gdocs and shared drives for close collaboration in real time, ask to participate in the informal and wider team meetings, not just the project/task-based ones, to build relationships and advocate for yourself and stay connected with the people you are working with.
Setup short 10 min “coffee” chats with an open agenda with different members of the team, so that you don’t miss out on the water-cooler/lunch break gossip. Chit-chat makes the wheels turn.
Office-based colleagues won’t do any of this for you, so you need to take the lead and demonstrate that home working improves their team, and doesn’t diminish it.”
Kirsten Clacey is an Agile Coach at eyeo.
“When we work remotely for the first time, we often begin to start noticing all the little invisible ways in which co-location was serving us.
Maybe it’s the casual conversations that you begin to miss around a coffee machine. Or maybe you find that remote meetings are just that much more draining and so you begin to miss meeting rooms and simple whiteboards.
It might be that you’ve come to realise that something as simple as commuting to and from work was actually helping you to create a very important separation between work and personal life.
Working remotely means we need to bring a lot more intentionality to our work and lives. All the things that we “accidentally” got from being co-located, we now need to be more intentional about, setting up new rhythms that match our new context.
It may be worth spending time asking yourself:
- What routine can I create to separate work from my personal life?
- How can I make time to meet up casually with my colleagues?
- What needs to change in the way we collaborate so that we can maintain effective, engaging remote meetings?
These are some questions to start with, there are many more. What matters is that you find time to craft your life and be intentional about it, frequently coming back to these questions as things change. Herein lies the real beauty of remote working though: you can craft and shape your world the way you want it to be.
I make up my own daily routines and have the flexibility to change these. I work with incredible people all over the world – and while I can’t grab a coffee with them, I can go for a walk around my city while we have a casual audio call. We can play online games together.
This freedom and flexibility is beautiful – but to really see the full potential of it, we need to pause, be intentional and create a work life that works for us.”
Each expert had their own unique take on what is important in making remote work successful. Still, some key concepts are prevalent in all of the remote working advice given:
- Be intentional in all you do.
- Take care to find a company that knows what it is doing and will value you as an individual.
- Communicate and spend time with your coworkers so that you become a team.
- Invest in yourself and take care not to burn out.
- Bring your A-game.
- Create boundaries between your work and your personal life.
Where to Go Next for More Remote Working Advice
I really hope that you have found this remote working advice from industry experts useful. If you would like to learn more about remote work we have articles and podcasts on everything from what fully remote work means to the pros and cons of remote work. Be sure to also check out our list of fully remote companies.
Karen Fleming is a bookworm who loves using her experience to help others. When she isn’t reading, writing, or taking yet another online class, she is probably doing some one-on-one tutoring or enjoying a good movie with her husband and two daughters.