Simple wins for the remote working life
Around the world, an increasing number of workers now spend their working days away from a central office. Global research by serviced office provider IWG reveals that 70% of people work remotely at least once every week and 53% work remotely for half the week.
Working remotely and flexibly provides many people with a better quality of life, and in return, they work more efficiently than their office-based counterparts. A two-year Stanford University study found that the increased productivity amongst home-based workers was equal to an additional full day’s work each week.
Whilst nobody can deny the impressive gains in productivity that research into remote working reveals, it does not come without its challenges. Most people will need to trial different work routines and processes to find what works for them.
Here are our tips for getting the best out of remote working:
Set up your workspace and choose your tech
When you are setting up your remote workspace and choosing your technology, think about what you really need. What are the problems need to be solved when you work remotely?
It’s likely that you can rely on some basic equipment. Most remote working jobs require a computer, the Internet, and perhaps a phone for external calls. For most remote workers, ensuring you have a strong Internet connection is probably the most important consideration.
If your jobs involves collaborating with colleagues or clients, it’s advantageous to agree on the software products you will use. Perhaps that includes video call software like Zoom and a team chat workspace like Slack. For collaborative ideation and task management, you’ll benefit from using Mind Doodle as your mind mapping and creative project management tool.
What about your desk and chair? Are they a suitable combination for long hours spent at your workspace? In whichever way you choose to set up your office, whether that’s at home or a co-working space, we recommend that you prioritise your health.
One study revealed that 45% of UK office workers spend 6-9 hours sat at their desks daily, and 64% claimed their office environment also had a negative impact on their health. An alarming 45% felt their employers didn’t provide the necessary tools and equipment to make them feel comfortable at their desks.
As a remote worker, it’s even more important that you check you are not sitting for long periods of time and do as little harm to your body as possible. Try to make yourself comfortable whilst you work, choosing ergonomic options when purchasing a chair or other office equipment and factoring in regular periods to rest or stretch.
Most organisations avoid printing, but if you regularly present creative designs to clients, you may need a printer. If you handle client accounts and use a printer, do you also need a filing cabinet that locks? Consider that there may be regulations that still apply to you as a remote worker, such as GDPR. If your work requires you to print documents that contain sensitive information, you need to follow all the correct processes.
It’s a good idea to think about how your remote workspace can reflect some of the benefits of a central office. Granted, not all office spaces are designed well, but most office spaces will have well thought-out spacing, colours and artwork, plus natural light, fresh air and a nice temperature. These factors will impact your productivity, creativity and general wellbeing, so taking all of this into account for your working environment is worth it.
Possibly the most important question to ask yourself is: If your workspace is at home, what can you do to encourage yourself to move around? Could you add a walk into your morning schedule? An analysis of data from more than 1 million people found that 60-75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day countered the effects of too much sitting.
Without a commute, you save time and energy, but it’s worth checking that you are getting in enough exercise and fresh air.
- Choose technology that is functional and useful
- Design your workspace to benefit your work and health
- Make time to move around and get outdoors
Plan your routine and stick to it
When you aren’t sitting in an office with colleagues, it can be difficult to know who is working. You don’t want to bother people when they are technically not at work, especially if working remotely means working from home, when the boundaries can become blurred.
Switching that context around, you also want to ensure your colleagues know when you’re available if they need to reach you.
Imagine that your colleague lives in a different location with a different time zone. They could be two hours ahead. Perhaps they are waiting for you to start work to reach out about a particular task.
Let’s say you have decided you are starting work two hours earlier than usual all week. It’s useful to tell your colleagues that in advance because it means they won’t be waiting to contact you within your usual working hours. Therefore, knowing and communicating your route will improve efficiency and team coherence.
A routine does not just benefit a team, though. Knowing when you’re going to start your working day and when you’re going to end it will help you create a healthy working environment. If an unexpected interference happens, adapt to it, but always start with a structured routine to begin with. If you can’t stick to your routine, try writing your start and end times on a board that’s visible in your place of work, even if that’s at home. Having your routine written up and visible will help you be accountable for what you’ve committed to.
When your working day finishes, make sure you switch off. Just because you don’t work in an office, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have structure. This is especially important if you work from home, because there is a risk that you will start working all hours of the day.
Whatever routine you choose, make sure you remember one word: balance. Working remotely usually improves productivity, but with such as high modern-day risk of burnout, our advice is to always prioritise your wellbeing over your output.
- Commit to your start and end time and stick to it
- Tell colleagues about any changes to your usual routine
- Once your work is done, put your work away
Communication and collaboration
We’ve already touched on communication, but it’s such an important topic that it deserves its own section.
When you work remotely, team communication needs to be perfected. Even if you generally work solo on your projects, it is highly likely that you’ll need to communicate with clients or collaborators at least some of the time. Without a solid understanding of team or external communications, you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Ask yourself why you need to communicate. If there is a group discussion, do the outcomes need to be shared with a wider team? If you are in the process of solving a problem, do you need to share the challenges and hypothetical solutions before making a decision? Following a meeting with a client, do you need to transfer a creative brief to your colleagues?
Now ask yourself how you will communicate. How you will have day-to-day discussions with your collaborators? How will you record and share your progress? How will you pass on important information such as a problem that needs a decision, or a client brief?
Looks back at the section exploring tools. Are you set up for all inevitabilities? Perhaps you need to introduce a file sharing system or intranet, with processes and onboarding documentation so that even new remote workers can quickly learn how to communicate effectively within your team.
It’s also important to consider how the mode of communication might make people feel. If you largely communicate using text, there is a risk that some messages might be miscommunicated, especially if there is a discussion between remote workers who are not speaking their first language or might come from different cultures.
If your organisation communicates in a casual manner to one another on a real-time chat tool like Slack, it’s probably appropriate to use emojis to lighten discussions. If your organisation uses email and keeps things formal, taking time to check you are being polite in every email will work great.
Team members can also find out what their preferred communication style is and share these with remote colleagues. This helps remote workers know whether to be succinct and direct, casual and friendly, or anything in between.
- Processes for communication in different scenarios
- Choose communication tools based on project needs
- Reflect organisation and adapt to collaborators
Time to focus and take breaks
Working remotely can lead to fewer distractions, but it can also lead to interruptions at exactly the wrong time. Both can negatively impact your work. It’s important to factor in time for breaks and to communicate to colleagues when you need a period of focus.
If you are lucky enough to have an uninterrupted working day whilst working remotely, this can allow you to get stuck into your tasks, but you might end up working without breaks. Whilst you benefit from being more efficient in the short term, taking breaks will benefit you more in the long term.
Taking regular breaks of 2-minutes increased productivity by 11.5%. Without sufficient breaks, it is possible that your work performance may begin to suffer and it’s not good for your mental wellbeing either. It’s safer to take some short breaks away from your desk, with a longer break for lunch.
Breaks offer you the opportunity to shake off stress and recharge. What’s more, when you take your mind off a task, you might find that an innovative idea or solution seems to pop up out of nowhere.
Make the most out of your break by moving around and socialising without a screen, making sure you are doing something completely unrelated to your day job.
On the other hand, if your colleagues can’t physically see you getting your head down and into a flow state, you risk being interrupted with low priority tasks when you are trying to focus on something important.
To prevent this, you can tell your colleagues that you’ll be zoning into a particular task during a timeframe. This helps them to recognise to understand your boundaries for a specific period of time and they won’t bother you whilst you need some quiet time to focus.
- Take plenty of breaks
- Move around and socialise away from screens
- Plan and communicate periods of focus
More and more organisations are embracing remote working options, bringing greater quality of live to employees who no longer have to suffer a long commute.
Our final tip is to ensure you have enough social interaction in your day-to-day work life whilst working commute. We humans are social creatures, after all!
Implementing these tips for remote working will set you up for success. What other remote working hacks do you have to share?