Being a remote employee isn’t a new concept, but it has become much more common in recent years. If you’ve newly become a WFH (work from home) employee and aren’t sure how to navigate this newfound digital nomad lifestyle, we’ve got you covered.
Working Remotely Out of Necessity in 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic thrust many businesses into the digital age without any time to strategize or coach employees on how to work remotely. Many companies are trying to learn the ropes of managing employees remotely while working remotely, themselves—and navigating all of the unknowns that come along with a global pandemic.
Although it would be more ideal to have been able to establish clear remote work policies and conduct training in advance, this level of preparation was not possible in these turbulent times with rapidly changing situations. Fortunately, there are specific steps that managers and employees can take to enhance engagement and productivity, even when there is very little time to prepare.
How to Work Remotely: Transitioning to a Remote Lifestyle
Many people have a mental image of working from home as being easy, staying in your pajamas all day, and maybe doing a couple of hours of work; however, that’s rarely the case. One study found that over a 9-month period, employees who worked from home four days a week actually increased their performance by 13%.
There’s no doubt that the transition from a traditional in-office position to a work from home role can be challenging at first for managers and employees alike. To be productive as a remote employee, all you need is a bit of direction, a good work ethic, proper support from leadership, and dedication.
The Most Common Challenges of Working Remotely
As mentioned, remote working isn’t easy and it comes with its own set of unique challenges that need to be overcome, especially when there has been minimal time to prepare. In any situation, it’s best to act preventatively by anticipating possible issues before they arise. To aid in your ability to be proactive, we’ve outlined the most common obstacles that people tend to face when working from home.
No In-person Supervision
In your new work from home situation, there will be no in-person supervision. This may cause your supervisors to worry that you’re not working as hard or as efficiently as you once were. Your newfound freedom can also make it more difficult for you to focus on work. This is where strong self-discipline and a great work ethic come into play.
Some workers may also struggle with a lack of managerial support—this is where communication becomes important.
Lack of Communication
When you aren’t in the office anymore, you may notice that communication isn’t as simple as it once was. This is something many non-remote employees take for granted. When you aren’t in the same building as your coworkers, you have to put more effort into communicating. It will no longer be as simple as walking over to the next cubicle to ask a question.
There is an element of isolation that comes along with working remotely. This feeling can be magnified greatly by the pandemic. If you live alone, you may not see anyone in person for days. Loneliness is one of the most common complaints among remote employees. Informal conversation is either cut out completely or significantly minimized—taking away much-desired human connection for many people.
Another issue that can arise when working from home is distractions. It can be easy to get distracted by a text message from a friend, the load of laundry that needs to be folded, or your adorable pet that wants to play when no one is around to hold you accountable. The abundance of distractions that exist in your home—paired with the lack of accountability that in-person supervision brings—can be detrimental if you have a lack of the necessary self-discipline.
How to Succeed When Working Remotely
If you’re looking to be successful in your current or future remote position, you came to the right place—just keep reading. To succeed in a location-independent position, there are many habits you can adopt that will help you perform to the best of your ability. As a fully distributed team, we are chock-full of tips that will help you crush your remote work goals and fulfill your responsibilities.
When you’re a digital nomad, putting together a designated workspace will help you separate work from your personal life. This may be an entire room in your home, an area in your living room or bedroom, or whatever suits your lifestyle best. Having a separate space that is only for work will help you create—and maintain—a healthy work-life balance.
It’s a good idea to try out working in different spaces until you find what works best for you. Sometimes people find that they are more productive if they don’t have to sit at the same desk for hours. Figuring out your ideal workspace may take some trial and error—remember that just because something works well for someone else doesn’t mean it will work well for you.
In order to be the most productive, you should have one, single calendar that holds all of your appointments, both work and personal.
PRO TIP: if you have an appointment you would like to keep private from your coworkers, you can always change the default visibility to private.
It’s also a good idea to schedule out your entire workday—not only does it hold you accountable, but it also keeps you on track. At Uhuru, we use Google Calendar, and each team member has access to one another’s self-made schedule. Using the One Calendar method makes it easier to schedule calls (no matter where in the world your coworkers are based—we have team members all across the globe, in many different time zones) and lets you see when someone is available to answer a quick question.
In addition to using a calendar to plan out your day, you should be tracking how much time it takes you to complete each task when you’re working remotely. This can help you in planning out your calendar in the future based on how long a task typically takes you. In addition to helping you with future planning, time tracking can help individuals in leadership positions understand why you may have taken longer to complete a specific task. We like to use Toggl for this.
Working Remotely and Establishing Office Hours
It can be easy to turn into a workaholic and get burnt out when you’re working from home—your home is your office, so you essentially never “leave” work. Even though you aren’t in an office, per se, you should set office hours and put them in your calendar to help avoid burnout.
You may not be able to stay within your set hours every day, but it’s crucial to establish office hours in order to ensure you have a work-life balance. Creating office hours will make it easier for you to transition from working to relaxing once your workday is finished in your location-independent position.
Turn Off Notifications
When you’re within your office hours, you should turn off all personal notifications. It’s very easy to get distracted by replying to a quick text message, and next thing you know, you’ve been scrolling through Instagram for 20 minutes!
Turning off notifications doesn’t only apply to your personal life. Once your office hours are over for the day, turn off any work notifications. You can set an away schedule in Slack, which will further support you in following the office hours you set.
Technology for Working Remotely
As mentioned above, there are certain platforms you can use to streamline your work from home experience when you’re location-independent. We already went over Google Calendar and Toggl, but there are a few more that we feel really can’t be left out.
You absolutely need a solid project management platform. This will help keep each individual on your team on track. Uhuru uses Jira and follows an agile scrum methodology to keep our entire team functioning at an incredibly high level.
We do not use email for client communications, as we find it to be messy and not to offer full transparency to our entire team. As an alternative, we use Redbooth. We enjoy using Slack for internal chats because we have separate channels for different types of questions, discussions, and private and group messaging capabilities. We make sure to include personal channels, too, where coworkers can share pictures of pets, stories about their kids, and news about any exciting upcoming events in their lives. This helps make for a stronger, closer-knit team.
Again, communication is vital when you’re working remotely. It’s a lot easier to forget to mention something to your coworkers when you aren’t in the same building, standing around a water cooler, eating lunch at the same table, and seeing their faces every day. When working remotely, you need to spend time thinking about how you can best communicate with your team to ensure you share all of the information they need, when they need it.
As soon as you realize a piece of information needs to be shared with a colleague, do it immediately—otherwise, you could potentially forget.
Check-in With Your Team
Scheduling daily check-ins with your team can be beneficial while working remotely. At Uhuru, we call these team huddles. Not only do daily huddles help further foster a feeling of community, but it also ensures that everyone is on track to get their tasks finished by their deadlines, as any impediments can be solved during the daily check-ins.
In addition to these check-ins, you should try to be as responsive as possible when your colleagues send messages in Slack (or whichever platform you end up choosing). When you know you’re going to be busy focusing, set a status that implies you will get back to messages in a couple of hours.
Working from home can feel extremely isolating, especially during the pandemic where we may not be able to see friends and family as often as we were once accustomed to. In addition to daily check-ins being productive, they may help you and your team feel the human connection that they’ve been missing out on during the pandemic and as remote employees in general.
Company Town Halls
Company-wide town halls give your entire company a chance to catch up (depending on the size of your company) and collaborate. These types of all-hands meetings are an integral part of helping remote employees get on the same page and connect. This is also an opportunity for leadership to share the larger purpose behind certain initiatives. New team members can get a chance to introduce themselves, too!
Propose to your boss that your company schedules a town hall at a regular cadence, either weekly, monthly, or quarterly—depending on the size of your company.
Make Working Remotely Work for Your Team
Working remotely can be intimidating at first due to all of the unknown factors. As you establish healthy and productive habits, though, this new style of working will become second nature for you. Now that you know how to work remotely, go ahead and give these tips a try!
You know it’s vital to implement the proper internal communication protocols for your remote team. Learn which tools we use at Uhuru to remain efficient. If you need assistance transitioning your team to a fully remote model, schedule a free assessment—we can help you personalize your remote structure.