Remote working has been gaining popularity, and while the thought of avoiding that long commute each morning and the freedom to stay in your PJs sounds enticing, it also comes with its own set of challenges. Think of it this way: You’re essentially acting as your own boss. Working remotely requires self-discipline, organization, and maturity.
Here 6 tips on preparing yourself to work remotely and setting yourself up for success:
It’s important to communicate with your team members and your direct supervisor, especially when working remotely. We’d even go far as to say “over-communicate,” which might sound counter-productive. If you’re in a new role and working from home, regular contact helps you to get to know your team better. It also helps to build trust between you and your supervisor and other co-workers. Keep your team and supervisor in the loop on your progress – or any problems – and demonstrate you can successfully manage your workload.
Inquire about the types of technology your company or team uses to stay in touch. Tools like Slack can be an informal and fast way of asking a quick question or simply saying, “Good morning,” as well as sharing links and documents. Other tools include Zoom, Skype for Business and Trello. If you’re expected to use these tools, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the technology ahead of time.
2. Set a schedule
Successfully working from home won’t just happen. Unlike the expectation that you’re at your desk by 9 a.m. each morning, you’ll need to draw on your discipline and organization skills for remote work to be effective. One of the best ways to do this is to create a schedule for yourself. While A-types may thrive off starting work as soon as they wake and continuing into the night, we’re not all built that way. Nor should you expect that of yourself. Setting a schedule means picking a start time and end time of your day that works for you – and committing to it. Be consistent. And be sure to include a break (or two) during your day. Whether that’s a proper lunch break or splitting the time between two shorter breaks, it’s important your routine includes time away from your desk.
Coupled with setting a schedule is staying organized. Whether you prefer to check off items in a notebook, set deadlines in your Google calendar, or use an app like Todoist, planning your day and prioritizing daily and weekly tasks will help set you up for success.
3. Set up a dedicated workspace
You don’t need a home office that looks like it could be featured on Apartment Therapy. And let’s face it, many of us don’t have the luxury of our own office. If you’re sharing an apartment or still living at home, it’s important to carve out a separate workspace that puts you in work mode (lounging in bed!). Ideally, choose a room with a door you can close off to outside distractions, and if that has to be your bedroom or the living room, consider putting a small desk in the corner for you to work at, with enough space for your laptop, a notebook and work files. The other benefit of a dedicated workspace does is indicate to anyone else you live with is that when you’re sitting there, you are in work mode. Alternatively, a laptop at your kitchen table can work. However, prepare the space for your workday. Clear off any clutter or breakfast dishes.
Ultimately, you’ll want to find an area that works best for you – and perhaps that’s more than one space. Sitting on the couch earlier in the day to catch the morning sun, then moving to your desk or dining table. The other benefit of a dedicated workspace does is indicate to anyone else you live with that you are in work mode.
4. Have the right tools
Beyond a space in which you can work, you’ll need the proper tools to work from home effectively. Before you begin, identify what your employer will provide to facilitate you working remotely – such as a company laptop or a company phone. One thing you can’t escape as a remote worker is a reliable Wi-Fi service. An internet connection will be your lifeline to the outside world. Make sure the signal is strong enough to handle video conferencing, without dropping the connection.
If you live with others who are also at home, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to minimize distractions and also making video calls with colleagues more private. Another item to consider is a remote, wireless mouse, which is relatively cheap to purchase.
5. Understand how your work style meshes with the company culture
For some of us, your company or superior may layout set hours they expect employers to work remotely. Or you could have the flexibility to make your own hours, as long as the job gets done. If you’re a night owl, the opportunity to work when it suits you will be a perk. However, it’s also important to consider your company’s culture and the culture of the team you are now part of. If your team regularly checks in in the morning – even to say hello – takes virtual coffee breaks (or even a virtual post-work drink), it’s a good idea to participate in virtual team activities where you can and adjust your own schedule accordingly. Connecting with your colleagues feel especially challenging when you’re remote, which is why it’s even more important to take part in impromptu or scheduled team activities. It’ll help build bonds and make working a smoother and more enjoyable process.
6. Learn how to log-off
Finally, learning to log off at the end of your workday is an important part of working remotely and preventing burn out (A-types, take note!) It’s easy for home and work-life to blur, especially as we feel internal pressure to answer emails around-the-clock. Commit to a time when you’ll be offline (this comes back to setting a schedule that works for you). Before logging off, communicate this to your coworkers and your manager, so they understand business is done for the day. Then close your laptop, or at least turn off work emails, as well as other channels of communications, such as Slack. Find an activity that transitions you from work to leisure. If you’re a runner, now is the perfect time to put on a pair of trainers, do some yoga, or take the dog for a walk.
While part of working remotely is the setup, the other crucial piece is understanding yourself and your teammates, and being able to effectively communicate. Take our workplace assessment to learn more about your strengths and confidently articulate them to your employer.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.