Remote work has become the new normal for many businesses that want to offer flexibility to their employees. But for many employees, working from home is uncharted territory. While it has many perks, working away from the office can bring new challenges to team collaboration or balancing work and personal life. It can also cause general feelings of isolation.
When done well, remote work can actually work better for you. Many remote workers cite fewer distractions and longer stretches to deeply focus as the number one reason for why they prefer working out of the office.
We asked our most successful remote employees how they make it work for them. Here are their 10 best practices for working remotely.
1. Keep your routine.
Whatever you normally do, stick with it.
Don’t change your alarm. Normally listen to a podcast during your commute? Okay, great. Then listen to podcasts. Just at home. If you like to exercise in the mornings, continue to do so. The key here is simply to be consistent with your existing routine, whatever that might be.
2. Get Dressed.
Get dressed as you normally would for work. Don’t work in your PJs!
Why does what you wear matter?
First off, it sets the context of the day. But also remember your meetings and calls may include video, so you’re going to want to be presentable.
3. Have a dedicated place to work.
Have a place in your home that’s dedicated to work. It’s challenging psychologically to work from the same couch where, let’s say, you typically watch Netflix. Vice versa, when you are on the couch relaxing, it’s easy to slip back into responding to just a few more emails or slacks. Your time relaxing and not working is as important as your time spent working. Having a clear physical separation makes both easier.
4. Keep 1:1s consistent.
If anything, check-in a bit more frequently than you otherwise would.
Even beyond 1:1s, lean toward over-communicating when working from home. Not sure you should tell your manager something, like perhaps you just finished a project or maybe you are struggling with something? Go ahead and do it. There are a lot fewer clues to pick up on when you don’t work near someone and more frequent check-ins can help solve that.
5. Make every meeting a video meeting.
Assume every meeting will be video-enabled. Make it the default. For a whole host of reasons, communication is more effective when people can see one another.
That means you should make sure you have headphones or an audio situation you like, and that you’re comfortable with the settings in the virtual meeting service you may be using. Generally, a short video conference is better than back and forth conversations via text messaging tools.
6. Put your phone in another room.
In an office, there are all sorts of things, both subtle and unsubtle, that make things like scrolling Instagram taboo. At home, it feels so natural!
Simply put your phone away. Like in another room. I bet your mind is already whispering that this idea is stupid. “We’re all adults who can control ourselves, right!? We don’t need to actually put it in another room. That’s a bit excessive…”
It’s actually hard because many of the 200,000+ brilliant people working at Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Twitter, Apple and more are focused on making sure you pick up your phone and use their apps. As much as possible. And they are really good at what they do. The best way to avoid it is by never giving them a chance.
Want a little nudge to ensure social media and other distractions stay in control? Check out Google’s Chrome extension StayFocusd. When you decide to have a break, go ahead and grab the phone from the other room and play with it to your heart’s content.
7. Be social in different ways.
One of the main challenges people mention when working remotely is loneliness and lack of social interaction. There simply isn’t a perfect alternative to being around other people. But there are things that can make this easier. Here are some ideas:
- Have fun with the zany Zoom backgrounds on your calls. They are silly, but fun.
- Commit as a team to wearing fun accessories for meetings.
- Create Slack channels for fun check-ins and discussions. If you have a desk buddy you typically like to have banter with, keep that up!
- Feel free to have social video calls.
8. Take breaks.
When working in the office, many breaks happen naturally. You get lunch with friends. You get into a conversation with someone you run into. At home, that doesn’t happen. Make sure you schedule breaks for yourself. I recommend 5 minutes every 25 minutes, but many folks prefer longer breaks. Do what works for you. Just remember to take a break every once in a while.
You may want to consider some sort of formal way to “end your day,” whether that’s exiting your messaging apps, turning off your computer, going for a walk, etc.
Our suggestion for a short break? FaceTime with your friends and family. See how they are doing and support one another.
9. Leave your home.
Leave the house. Depending on where you are, it may not be advisable to go towards crowded places, but just walking and seeing people can be nice.
10. Enjoy it.
You can reframe working from home as the “ability to work from anywhere.” It’s a chance to do things you might otherwise not get to, like walk your dog after lunch or make a mid-day coffee just the way you like it. Don’t be hard on yourself. Some people immediately enjoy and prefer working remotely, while others find it to be an uncomfortable adjustment that takes some getting used to. Just know you always have your team you can turn to.