4 Best Practices When Working Remote

Written by Lauren Austin

Remote work occurs when employees carry out their duties away from the office. Also known as telecommuting, workers use mobile technology (laptops, cell phones, etc.) to work from home, coffee shops, or other locations.

According to Fortune, remote work continues to trend upward, with 2014 posting a 26% increase in open remote job postings over 2013. In this post, we've outlined information and tips to help you master the remote work environment.

The key to working remote is to make the most of the pros, and to do your best to overcome the cons.

Pros of remote work:

  • Time savings
    • Kiss your morning and evening commutes goodbye!
    • Avoid costly interruptions and office small talk
  • Cost savings
    • Less money spent on gas
    • Less money spent on dry cleaning
    • Less money spent on rent and utilities (for employers)
  • Freedom
    • You can travel and work from virtually anywhere — all you really need is your computer and a solid Wi-Fi connection to tackle your work
    • You'll likely find that you have more peace and quiet when you’re at your home office rather than an actual office
  • Flexibility
    • Need to run a few errands or pick up your kid from school? Not a problem.
    • Want to take an extended lunch break to work out? Go for it!

Cons of remote work:

  • Isolation
    • Working remote can be intimidating or scary if you’re used to going into an office every day — it can get lonely
    • Fewer face-to-face interactions may make you feel isolated from your coworkers
  • Overworking
    • Contrary to what many people probably think, the tendency of remote workers is actually to work too much — not to slack off
    • Some remote workers say they have difficulty shutting down because they're always at the office and there's always "one more thing" to get done
    • If you’re not disciplined enough, you can waste time on meaningless distractions (social media, personal phone calls, text messages, etc.)
  • Miscommunication
    • If you're not careful, it's very easy to miscommunicate - or to omit entirely - key details when discussing projects with your coworkers
    • Conversations that could take 5 minutes in person drag out over email

Since more and more companies are adopting remote work in one form or another, we’re offering 4 tips that can help employees - and employers - get comfortable working away from the office.

4 best practices for working remote

Establish your work space

If possible, dedicate a special room in your home for your office. If you’re working from a coffee shop or any other public space, try to find an area that’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of traffic.

Establishing a work space will:

  • Keep you organized
  • Help keep you productive
  • Help you psychologically by making you feel like you’re “going” to work every day
  • Help you eliminate distractions - when you step into your workspace, your cell phone and computer should only be used for business

Create a daily work schedule

It’s easy to make yourself available to work any time, any day. That’s why it’s important to set and stick to a strict work schedule. This will help to prevent burnout, and it will keep you on task with all of your responsibilities. Try setting well-defined hours to avoid phone calls and emails so work doesn't infringe upon your personal time. Also, try creating daily work rituals that you stick to.

Examples of some daily work rituals could be:

  • Taking a 1-hour lunch break every day
  • Going outside for 5-minutes to get some fresh air
  • Getting out of your chair and stretching

In addition, keeping a daily work routine will help separate your working hours from your personal hours, and it will give you an official start time to your work day.

Some examples of daily work routines are:

  • Waking up early and taking a shower
  • Eating breakfast every morning
  • Trying to squeeze in a workout or some type of physical activity

Connect and communicate with your team

At times, working remote can make your communication with your boss or team feel unnatural. Because you’re not able to see your team face-to-face, you might find yourself trying to avoid over communicating with them because you don’t want to “bother” them.

To help with this, hold daily team calls (Google Hangouts, Skype, Conference lines) to present what you’re working on for the day, and to learn what your co-workers are taking on that day. Ask as many questions as you can during that call so you can make sure you have everything you need to conquer the workday. Then, send follow up emails to your team so everyone is on the same page.

When working in an office, you have the luxury of running into co-workers and chatting about your weekends or daily projects. This person-to-person interaction helps to create a sense of loyalty and trust among team members, which ultimately leads to colleagues making sacrifices for one another. It also creates a community in which members “have each other’s backs.”

Great ways to keep communication lines open within your team when working remotely are:

  • Reaching out as much as you can to the extent that it adds value to your working relationships (G-Chat, Email, Text Messages, Phone Calls)
  • Letting your manager or boss know when you’re working on assignments, and providing them with updates at key milestones

Even if your manager doesn’t ask for updates, they'll likely still enjoy and appreciate knowing what you’re tackling for the workday. If you leave your workspace for lunch or to take a break, let your team know that you will be away from your computer and you will notify them when you return. These kind of interactions help to create a more accessible and open community culture.

Get human interaction

For extroverts, working remote can have its challenges. Because extroverts get their energy from being around people, working in an isolated environment can be difficult.

If working by yourself is a fear of yours, these tips may help you:

  • Don’t work from home - If you can, work from a coffee shop, or speak with your manager about working from a coworking space. This will allow for you to have daily interactions with humans, and it will get you out of your house
  • Schedule your social life - Plan lunches with your friends and family, and try setting up dinner and drinks for after-work fun
  • Take advantage of working remote - Plan a trip that allows for you to work from your hotel or a coffee shop in a new city
  • In your off-hours, go offline - Give your brain a break by shutting down your computer and putting your cell phone away

While working remote can be scary, it can also be a blessing. Once you have a solid understanding of what it takes to be successful when managing yourself, and maintaining meaningful work relationships with your colleagues, you just might thrive in this type of work environment.

To stay successful when working remote, make sure you stay organized, manage your time wisely, and always maintain open lines of communication with your team.