So, you’re working from home, leaving you with one question: how can I be a successful remote employee?
In light of recent events, I’d wager there are a good deal of people used to an office setting for their day job who are being asked to (or electing to) work from home.
This is a bit of an adjustment for anybody, but some, without the laser focus of the office, can run into issues with productivity, focus, and direction.
Yes, some people are just hard wired to work more efficiently from home than others, but that doesn’t mean the others can just let themselves slide.
There are most certainly steps that you can take to make sure that you can be a successful remote employee now, and in the future.
How to Be a Successful Remote Employee (Helpful Tips from Someone Who Has Worked in a Fully Remote Environment)
Remote Work Can Be a Major Adjustment
Here’s a bit of background about me. Prior to my first ‘office job’, I was a retail manager, requiring that I was in the store day in, day out. When leaving for greener pastures, my new employer informed me that most of my work would be done from home.
“Lucky me!” I thought, “This means that I’ll be able to work in my pajamas, toss on Terminator 2 and a few hours later I’ll call it a day.
It turns out it doesn’t quite work like that.
My first few days as a remote worker were…eye opening.
Yes, you experience more freedoms as a remote worker, but the onus is also on you to ensure that you stay motivated, on task, and productive. Otherwise, honestly, your company can find someone else who will.
I consider myself among the group of people who are more naturally inclined to thrive in a remote environment, but even I need the occasional push to keep myself on track.
Here are some steps that you can take to become a successful remote employee:
Remote Work Tips At-a-Glance:
- Create a Routine
- Set Up a Proper Workspace
- Communication is Absolutely Key
- Plan Ahead
- Take Care of Yourself
- Set Goals and Objectives (and Be Sure to Track)
1. Create a Routine
Start your day the way you would were you going into an office.
This means waking up on time, completing your morning rituals (shower, get dressed, etc.), exercise (if you’re the type of person that exercises in the morning), eat breakfast, have your morning beverage of choice, read the paper or watch the morning news, whatever you have to do to get yourself ready.
Just because you’re not going into an office doesn’t mean there isn’t a day of work ahead of you. You’d follow a routine like this one if you were heading off to an office building, you should be following one to get yourself into the right mindset to work from home.
I found that if I allowed myself to roll out of bed and jump right into work, I never truly got out of ‘home’ mode, and I’d spend more time perusing websites of personal interest than actually completing my work tasks.
Once I started following a routine, I was able to more successfully compartmentalize my day into work and home, allowing me to better focus on my tasks and stay productive throughout the day.
2. Set Up a Proper Workspace
This is a crucial step to working at home.
You need to designate a space that is exclusively for you to work in. Personally, I’ve dedicated a smaller bedroom in my house as an office and exercise space.
My workspace isn’t much to write home about, but it serves the purpose of removing distraction, so I can remain focused on my task at hand. Also, yes, that’s a picture of this blog post you see on my laptop screen.
Now, you don’t need a full room to be designated as a workspace. You can work from a couch and coffee table, desk in the corner of the living room, or kitchen if need be, but wherever you decide to set up shop, that is your place of work.
Make sure that it’s free of distractions, that you have everything you need to do your work, and that (arguably most importantly) anyone you may come into contact with knows that that is where you’re working, and to respect that. More on that in a bit.
I’ve been there – you’re working from home, so you don’t want to leave the comfort of your bed. “I have a laptop,” you think, “I’ll just nestle in and work from under the sheets.”
I’ll admit, I know some people who’ve been successful in remote work from their bed, but I find more often than not, you have a better chance of remaining productive if you designate a space in your home for work.
Not just for yourself – if you’re cohabitating with someone who also finds themselves at home during your work hours, it’s helpful for them to know that if you’re in your workspace, you’re not to be disturbed unless there’s a pressing matter.
3. Communication is Absolutely Key
I find that one of the biggest concerns people have when the topic of how to become a successful remote employee comes up is: people who work from home are antisocial or there’s no way to be sure that people working from home are actually getting work done.
In my experience, neither of these points are true. With the amount of methods to stay in contact with one another digitally, remote workers are more communicative than ever – probably even more so than some people in the office.
By using services like Skype, Slack, or Google Hangouts, remote workers can have quick touchpoints with their team, ask questions, and even hold face-to-face tele-meetings.
The same can be said of the notion that you’re not able to tell that people are actually doing work.
First of all, there are certainly people who thrive more in an office environment than they do at home, but think about it – if you can’t trust an employee to get their job done while they’re at home, but still on the clock, should they really be employed with you in the first place?
Secondly, there are a myriad of project management and collaboration services that will allow you to monitor tasks that your team is currently working on to ensure that they’re being productive outside of the office. Consider using a platform like Monday.com, Leankit, Wrike, or Freedcamp to track progress on certain projects or tasks your team is working on.
4. Be Sure That You’re Planning Ahead
One thing that can certainly get in the way of your productivity working remotely is uncertainty.
If you don’t know what your next task or objective can be, you can waste time reeling while you attempt to assign priority to different items.
It can become overwhelming, and you can end up working against yourself by putting off a high-ticket item while you try and get your schedule back in order.
Creating a calendar for the day, week, month, or however far ahead as you deem necessary to help with your organization and prioritization can save you time and take the guess work out of what you should be focusing on while you’re out of the office.
I like to use a modified version of HubSpot’s social media content calendar – It provides a visual breakdown of your tasks with colour coded blocks that give you an at-a-glance idea of what your day is looking like.
Additionally, be sure to inform your manager what your key priorities are for the day. This lets them know what your workload is looking like and helps them determine what additional work you can take on, if any.
5. Take Care of Yourself
This is a big one. It’s important to look after your well being while working remotely.
This is something that is put on the back burner by a lot of people – myself included. It’s important to remember that even though you’re working from home, you’re still working. Try and behave the way you would in an office environment.
This means getting up to stretch your legs, taking a break for water (or a caffeinated beverage of your choice), taking time to look away from your screen to reduce eye strain, taking time for lunch, and trying and eat something healthy (take advantage of the fact that you’re at home with all of your own groceries).
I know all too well how the lines between work and home can be blurred. When I’m working remotely, it’s very likely that I’ll get an earlier start, and get into such a groove that I’ll look at the clock and it’s already 6:00pm. Do your best to set strict guidelines for yourself to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
That said, remote work also means more flexibility with your hours – if you’re more productive during the later hours, consider an accommodating work schedule – just be sure to communicate that with your team and manager.
Self care is extremely important in being a successful employee, remote or otherwise. Remember to not burn yourself out, make time for exercise, and enjoy time to yourself.
6. Set Goals and Objectives
Remember, working from home shouldn’t hamper your work progress in any way. In fact, ideally it would benefit it.
This piece of curated remote work stats published by HubSpot found that “83% of workers, remote or on-site, say that a remote work opportunity would make them feel happier at their job” and “77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home”.
Working from home doesn’t mean your lead generation has to suffer. Most lead generation tools (including Email Lead Generation) can be accessed and used from anywhere, making them just as effective from your home as they would be in an office setting.
Just be sure to set clear and realistic objectives for yourself and communicate them with your manager to ensure that you’re properly able to track your successes and make adjustments and changes where needed.
If You’re a Manager, You’re Not Off the Hook
Understandably, one of the biggest areas of concern when it comes to remote work is from management.
I’ve never worked as a remote manager, but in my research I’ve found that managers are concerned that they won’t be able to stay on top of their team, or that if their team is working remotely, there won’t be a need for them as a manager.
There is just as much necessity for management in remote work as there is in any other work, and by following many of the same processes outlined above, you can make sure that you’re staying on top of your team, so you know their priorities, objectives, and bandwidth.
Frequent check-ins with your team via a chat app can help in knowing what your team is working on at any given moment, and can remind them that you’re just a few keystrokes away if they need guidance or assistance. Just be careful that your communications don’t come across as micro-management.
Ask your team for daily reports, so you can keep track of where their metrics are standing, so you can help them make adjustments or plan for the future.
Be sure to stay on top of your project management apps, so you can see how your team is prioritizing their time.
It can be a useful practice to hold a daily video meeting in the morning to talk over what your team is working on throughout the day. This lets you know that your team is focused on their goals and objectives.
It’s also important that you set clear deadlines and milestones that your team can meet – even in a remote setting, guidance and structure is imperative to a successful team.
Remote Work Isn’t the Future, It’s Right Now
In 2020, there are so many tools and practices that can be used right now to allow employees to work from remotely. This means that companies can recruit better talent from anywhere in the world, and employees can strike a better work-life balance.
However, while remote work has its definite benefits, the responsibility is largely on the remote employee to remain productive and focused, even while they’re at home.
Hopefully this guide has provided some useful tips into how you can be a successful remote employee, now and in any future situations where you find yourself working from home.