Written By: Michael Gardon
According to the most recent Consumer Trends Survey, 88% of US consumers believe they have the right to work from home. For many, working from home can be an ideal situation, but it does come with some significant challenges. Approximately half of people I talk to on the podcast, Careercloud Radio, love working from home and the other half miss the office. If you’re in the first half and want to crush remote work, or if you’re a holdout struggling to find the balance, my remote work tips can help you be successful in a virtual office environment. Either way, if you implement a few best practices, we’re confident you can excel in your career — no matter where you work.
My Remote Work Process
I’ve worked remotely full-time since 2010, so I’ve learned a thing or two about what works — and what doesn’t. Of course, I realize that working from home isn’t for everyone, but here’s what I do to make it fit with my lifestyle:
- I maintain a dedicated and comfortable workspace in my house. I realize not everyone can do this, but I think having a separate, dedicated space is key to focus. This is where I do most of my planning, writing and host the podcast. I can’t have my bedroom double as my office!
- I mix up my work location to vary my routine and gain a fresh perspective (and actually see other humans!). I usually hit a local coffee shop for a few hours right after taking my kids to school.
- I schedule meetings and calls for when I’ll be in my home office (usually afternoon). The coffee shop ambiance is excellent for a change of pace, but the noise can make it hard to focus on the conversation.
- I work out midday. Exercising helps me get refocused and re-energized for the afternoon ahead. It is very hard for me to work out in the morning or in the evenings because of my family commitments with my young kids.
- I work with my brain’s natural tendencies — not against them. For example, I’m most creative in the afternoons, so that’s when I break out my whiteboard to brainstorm content topics, solutions to problems, and more. I used to fight this by thinking I need to be productive in the morning (because that’s what we read successful people write). However, when I decided to just “go with it” is when I started seeing great productivity results.
Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse into my remote work process, let’s dive into some tips you can use.
Remote Work Tips
Have A Dedicated Workspace
While answering emails and taking calls from bed may sound tempting, having a dedicated, comfortable workspace is key to your success. It can help you stay organized. Plus, you’ll automatically get in the zone when you sit down to work since the area is designated specifically for that purpose.
If you don’t have a home office, don’t worry. You can easily set up a work area anywhere in your house for little or no cost. Basically, you just need to claim a spot (think kitchen table, back porch, or walk-in closet) and use it consistently.
Set A Schedule
While working from home gives you more flexibility, you still need to set and follow a schedule. So, let your calendar tell you when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play. Otherwise, you may get too lax and fail to achieve your professional goals.
Depending on your situation, you may want to model your schedule after the traditional 9-5 workday. But, if that’s not possible (or desirable), setting your itinerary may require some trial and error. Feel free to experiment until you find the right work cadence for your circumstances, preferences, and responsibilities.
Pro Tip: Your schedule should include real breaks where you leave your dedicated workspace. Periodically getting away from your computer will give you the chance to rest your eyes, move your body, and rejuvenate your mind.
When you work outside of the office, you don’t have to worry as much about getting micromanaged. But, being successful as a new remote worker really comes down to managing yourself. You need to honestly assess your tendencies so that you can be accountable for getting things done and separating your work life from your life-life.
One way you can do this is to keep a log of your activities during your first week of remote work, noting the times you feel the most focused and any barriers that come up during the day. Then, armed with this information, you can be more intentional about establishing your routine, centering it around when and how you’re most productive.
Pro Tip: You need to minimize distractions to produce your best work. So, shut off notifications on your phone, pledge to ignore social media until your break, or use a website blocker to prevent random internet surfing.
Connect With Others
Since your co-workers or employees are physically located elsewhere, you may feel isolated when working remotely. So, for the good of your mental health, you should connect with others often during the day. You can do this by:
Join The Break Community
- Sending emails, text messages, or direct messages to your team members.
- Scheduling and attending video meetings.
- Organizing occasional in-person meetups (when possible).
- Working in a public place like the library or local cafe.
- Renting out a co-working space.
- Calling a family member or friend on your break.
- Spending time with the other people in your home (if applicable).
Pro Tip: Befriend other remote workers or online entrepreneurs who understand what you’re going through. They can share best practices they’ve learned and commiserate with you during rough patches.
Communicate Effectively and Efficiently
It’s easy to misinterpret information asynchronously shared through an email, Slack message, or Loom video. So, you need to make sure every message you send has enough detail to be clear. However, since every remote worker gets bombarded by countless pieces of data each day, you also need to make sure every message is concise.
Working remotely can be a challenge to ensure everyone has the information they need to be successful. Here are a few tips that may help:
- Build an easy-to-reference library of rules, processes, and procedures. Then, team members can consult those documents for answers.
- Create a designated Slack channel for each business function or topic (including one for fun!). That way, communication stays organized.
- Use collaboration tools, like Google Docs, so you can work together and give others feedback in real-time.
- Have video meetings for essential or sensitive conversations. That way, you can see the other people, interpret their facial expressions and body language, and clarify your message on the spot as needed.
- Check in with your co-workers or employees regularly. Gauge their well-being and offer your assistance.
- Advertise an open door policy so people can reach out to you with questions or concerns at any time.
Pro Tip: If you live with other people, you need to communicate effectively and efficiently with them, too. Tell them when you’re working (and when you expect to get done), so they know not to bother you unless it’s urgent.
Related: 9 Tips For Work-Life Balance
The Best Remote Work Tools
Technology is your friend when you work remotely. Based on my experience, here are a few of the best remote work tools:
- Loom to record and share short, informative videos.
- Zoom to have video conference calls.
- Slack to message team members, share important files, and organize conversations within channels and threads.
- Evernote to collect your thoughts and save content to consume later.
- Google Docs to create, store, and collaborate on projects.
- Asana to manage your projects and team.
Over time, you’ll discover which tools work best for you. I also wrote a guide that features all my favorite remote work tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a 100% remote job?
You can get a 100% remote job by networking with others who work for remote companies or searching through listings on remote work websites, like FlexJobs. Plus, since remote work is now the norm, you can find many work-from-home positions on more traditional employment websites, like Indeed. You can also check out the best job sites for remote work. For more information, check out our guide on how to get a remote job.
What is the highest-paying remote job?
The highest-paying remote jobs are typically in the finance, medical, and technology sectors.
Are remote jobs good?
Remote jobs can be good since they don't require a daily commute and offer some schedule flexibility. But, working from home isn’t the right fit for everyone.
What are the disadvantages of remote working?
Remote working has its disadvantages. For example, you may feel isolated working alone, get easily distracted by what’s happening at home, or have difficulty distinguishing between your professional and personal lives.
The Bottom Line
Like anything else, working from home has its perks and its pitfalls. Fortunately, it’s not a new concept, so there’s plenty of insight available from people like me who’ve been doing it for over a decade. Hopefully, these tips to make you a better remote worker will help you thrive in your virtual office. Here’s to your success!