Who better to ask for remote working tips than people who are already “walking the walk?”
We recently ran a survey of hundreds of home workers. It came at an interesting time in the remote working world. Alongside individuals who’d been working remotely for a while, we also heard from plenty who’d suddenly found themselves with a very different working life due to recent events.
To help you benefit from the wisdom of others, we asked some of our survey respondents which remote working tips they’d offer to someone new to the game.
The answers were varied, but often agreed on key themes. Here are the highlights:
The Basics: Where and How?
Say the words “remote working,”and many people conjure up images of laptops on sunny beaches.
In reality though, it’s rather less glamorous. A large proportion of remote workers work from home. We’re not called HomeWorkingClub for nothing!
Many people providing tips for remote working are keen to share how they set up their working environment. Lots believe that ensuring a separate, often creative, workspace within their home is essential to establishing a good basis for remote working. (Editor’s Note: I’ve not always been convinced of this personally, although I’ve recently began to understand the point, as I discuss in this article).
“Have a dedicated workspace where you can focus solely on your job. Set a regular schedule and set deadlines to avoid procrastination.”
And along the same lines, but with a more creative focus:
“Take the time to set up an office space separate from your living areas. Make the office something that inspires creativity and calm, a place you enjoy being and that helps you focus. I made my home office somewhere I actually want to be.” Tara Hathcock, Quiet+Kin Publishing.
Other contributors focus on the need to establish a clear “working day routine,” often matching what you’d expect to see from an office-based worker with a standard commute.
Perhaps more controversially, some advocate for a proper “dress code” when working from home, something that not all of the HomeWorkingClub team agree with!
“Set goals. You need have something that you are working towards as an incentive to keep trying to be successful. I have found that getting up and getting dressed each day helps my motivation. I know we hear about those who work in their PJ’s, but I find this does nothing to help my motivation – if anything it makes me lazy!”
“I treat working from home like I am going to the office. I still get up early, eat breakfast, do my morning chores, and then log in remotely to do the work I am paid to do, just as if I were sitting in my office.” Scherri O’Connor.
Whether they get dressed for the day or not, most respondents agree that a set working day, with a routine and a plan, helps them get the best from a home working environment.
“When working remotely, create a routine and prepare as if you’re going into the office. I eat my breakfast in the kitchen, fill my mug with coffee and head to my office. It makes my day “normal” during the Covid quarantine.” Colette Beckett.
Other remote tips also champion the idea of daily routine:
“Make a routine and create an environment that works for you. I get up and shower and get dressed every day to feel good and encourage productivity. Take walks, get out, be proactive about arranging socialization (even if you think you don’t need it).”
“The first advice I would give would be to have a structured work schedule, have a comfortable space away from distractions, focus on productive work and above all have patience – in the work and around possible problems that can happen (such as Internet and family interruptions.”
Don’t Forget Your Employer (and your Team)
Unlike freelancers, remote workers usually have at least one official “boss” they are working for, even if they don’t see them day to day.
Here are some good tips for making sure you still wow your employer from the comfort of your own home!
“Stay engaged, dedicated, and on task. Your employer will see that your value is not diminished when working remotely.”
Another reader emphasised the importance of establishing clear goals and guidelines.
“Be certain what is expected from you, and how you are expected to report back.” Lori Quinlan, Balanced Bookkeeping Services.
For those who want home working to be a permanent fixture, finding the right employer is key:
“Find an encouraging employer – one who appreciates your efforts – and a caring and respectful team.”
When working remotely, it can sometimes be easy to forget that you are still part of a team and have colleagues to consider. Many of those who completed our survey emphasised the importance of keeping in touch with colleagues and ensuring they understand your contribution to the team.
“Always be visible. This enables people to know what you are working on.”
” It’s Important to still connect with others socially, even via video conference. It’s also important to build family time and time for yourself into your schedule – to ensure work doesn’t take over.”
Wellbeing and Self Care
“Do what works for you and your family.”
Maintaining a healthy work life balance is important no matter what line of work you are in. It becomes an essential focus when remote working, where home and work life sit so closely.
Several of our remote working tips relate to methods people use to maintain this healthy balance. Some of our home workers take a reasonably relaxed approach:
“Ensure you take breaks and create a comfortable work environment.”
“Make sure to disconnect in order to keep work/life balance.”
While others maintain a considerably more “regimented” system:
“Have a system and let the family know when you’re working vs free. I put a humorous sign on my door asking them to check if anyone is bleeding or burning before interrupting me!”
“Work in 20-minute segments. Set a timer then get up and move around or stretch for two minutes. Don’t get into another task. Just move, then get back to work. Take bigger breaks every hour.”
Such short bursts of work certainly aren’t for everyone, but the consistent message that came through from the responses was the importance of finding out what works for you, and then following through with personal discipline on whatever plan you settle on.
A great many of our readers mention exercise as a way of keeping a healthy body and mind whilst working from home. Regimes range from early morning walks to lunchtime runs and much more. Maintaining physical activity during the day helps, so our contributors say, to make you more productive during work time.
“Take regular exercise. Physical health is important to be effective in your work, as well as everything else. You will be more productive if you stop at various points during the day, get up and stretch. Also, go for walks (or whatever exercise suits you). You will be more productive.” Susan Shirley, Writer and HR Professional.
More Remote Working Tips
“Be organized…find your rhythm.”
Our contributors also provide a wealth of information around mindset. Common themes in these home working tips are the importance of timekeeping, and being fair to both yourself and your employer.
“Stay focused and don’t end up working for free. It’s really easy to get caught up in a project and just keep going till you’re done. Just make sure you’re getting paid for it.”
“Self-discipline and time management are key components for succeeding in the remote environment. In some ways, working remotely is more difficult than having a location-specific job.”
Discipline comes up a lot – as does the need for focus and concentration:
“Manage your time well and stay focused on work when you are working.”
“The hardest thing about remote work is concentrating, so try not to open social networks at work.”
“You need to have discipline and apply a good work ethic to everything you do. Be on time, dependable and trustworthy.”
Remote working provides just as many challenges as it does opportunities.
Many of our respondents have clear and structured approaches to help them get the most out of remote working, regardless of whether it’s a temporary situation or a permanent thing.
For many, successful remote working means applying office work discipline to the home environment. It’s very encouraging to see such emphasis on a healthy approach to work life balance and personal wellbeing, something that we believe in very strongly at HomeWorkingClub.
Amy Edye is a freelance Social Media Manager for small businesses and charities. She also provides policy and operational support for local charities, alongside her part-time role at a national charity.