This is a guest post by Mile Živković.
You may have heard about all the benefits of remote work. Perhaps you have a friend who works remotely and who keeps bragging about all the freedom they have. Maybe you have a child or a parent which you need to look after at home.
Whichever the case, you’ve decided to try out working remotely. Despite what many people think, this is easier said than done and requires some adapting, especially if you’ve worked from an office during your entire career.
I’m a copywriter for Chanty and I work remotely, and I have worked from home for the good part of the last five years. Here are some of my tips on how you can become a better remote employee, as well as the tech tools you can use for this effort.
Give it a try before committing fully
I know I’m being Captain Obvious, but the first step is to try out working remotely. The reason is simple – you need to see if it suits your personality and style of work. There are plenty of people who go into working remotely with high hopes, only to find out it doesn’t work for them.
For example, you may have issues working on your own and without human contact for hours. You could be easily distracted by your home environment or too tempted to watch TV when you have work on your plate. The bottom line is that no matter how great working remotely is, it’s definitely not for everyone. Give it a try first before committing to a remote lifestyle, to know how it works for you.
Teach yourself to become a better communicator
In every piece of content about remote work out there, you will see communication mentioned as one of the biggest challenges of remote work. It’s not that there isn’t any of it, it’s just that it’s vastly different from working within an office. You will have to resort to team chat apps such as Chanty, apps for video and conference calls, email and other cloud collaboration tools. Get familiar with these tools and start working with them before even beginning with a remote role.
Some other tools for communication include Slack, Skype, Zoom, Appear.in, Google Hangouts and various other messengers and video tools.
The struggle is in the part where these methods make it difficult to communicate subtler emotions. When communicating in writing, we often neglect the little things, the nuances. Written words can’t convey body language, tone of voice and facial expressions and other elements we pick up in communication.
As a result, you can often misinterpret what the other person was trying to say and get into unnecessary conflicts. When in doubt – overcommunicate. Explain what you mean to say in more ways than one and you’ll avoid being misinterpreted. In the same way, have more understanding of what others are writing and try to understand them from more than one point of view. Remember that you can (and should) ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.
Learn how to manage your time better
When I was in the office, I knew I had a certain amount of things to do every day. The reason I would do it is there was a manager looking at my every move. If I didn’t do something or took ages to do it, the manager would catch me slacking and I’d be one step closer to getting fired.
When I started working remotely, for the most part, there was no one over my shoulder. I also had a number of tasks every day, but it was up to me to make sure they get done. In other words, I was the one overseeing myself. Not everyone can handle this type of responsibility and if you can’t manage your tasks with just your own supervision, you need to practice before starting a remote role.
The best way to go about it is to manage your time better. If you don’t have fixed hours, allocate a certain number of hours within a day for work and make sure all your daily tasks are done in this period. If you have fixed hours, the transition from office to remote will be a little bit easier.
You can do all of this by using a dedicated time tracker, and luckily, there’s no shortage of choice. Some popular apps include Toggl, Harvest, Hubstaff, TimeDoctor, PomoDone and many others. All of these come with useful extensions to make you more productive, such as blocking certain websites as you’re tracking your time.
In the end, remember that each task you don’t do will show its ugly face sooner or later. Do your best to perform your duties as you would in the office and you’ll find remote work to be not all that different or difficult.
Learn the tools of the trade
There are a few tools which are specific to remote workers. For the most part, you’ll have to get familiar with online collaboration and project management tools which are becoming popular in offices as well. When you become acquainted with these tools on your own, you’ll have a competitive edge when applying for remote jobs and you’ll have an easier time with onboarding.
The good news is, you can try out most of these tools for free. You can get access to Google Suite with any Gmail account for free, and other apps such as Trello, Basecamp, Asana, Jira or Chanty have free accounts you can toy around with.
Equip yourself for working at home
Depending on the kind of work you do, you’ll need a variety of different tools and equipment to work at home. For example, someone working as a sales rep or customer service will need a quiet space with a high-quality headset and excellent internet. Regardless of the position, you’ll need a quality desk, a comfortable chair and whatever else makes you the most productive. Remember that your bedroom may seem comfy, but you’ll be missing out on items you’d have in an office.
Depending on the company you work for, you will either have to buy these items yourself or get an allowance from your employer to buy equipment. Some remote companies nowadays give generous budgets for a laptop, desk, high-speed internet and more. In case you have to buy these yourself, factor it in the salary you’ll be getting.
Learn from other remote companies and employees
Working remotely has grown to be fairly popular. There are companies and workers from all over the world sharing their experiences on remote work and the challenges (and advantages) it brings. There are plenty of blogs, podcasts and other types of content where you can learn about some of the nuances of remote work which you wouldn’t have dreamed of.
For example, Buffer’s blog offers excellent insight into running a remote company, complete with details on revenue, costs and more. The Zapier blog is another excellent retarget on working in a large remote company. The blog on Toggl has an entire section dedicated to establishing and running a remote team.
Pretend you’re in an office
I know this sounds like silly advice, but hear me out. Most of the people that have problems working remotely have them because they work in familiar environments. Their couch, living room, bed, porch – places they normally spend time in when they are home. They also dress just if they were at home.
The one thing to make you a better remote employee is to treat remote work just like work from the office. This means a dedicated spot for work, be it a desk or a room in your home. You will psychologically feel separated from the rest of your home and in your mind, you will get into work mode. Also, it will be easier to shut down once work is done, as a large part of remote workers struggle with this.
Alternatively (or additionally), you can also dress up just as you would for an office job. This doesn’t have to be a full suit or business attire, but anything nicer than your pajamas or old tracksuit will work. It’s another trick to mentally separate yourself from the home environment,
Finally, you can get away from your home and work elsewhere. To get that extra motivation, you can go to a co-working space or hub for a day. If you don’t mind the noise (and questionable wi-fi), you can also work from a public area or a coffee shop.
While remote work definitely is not for everyone, it’s one of the biggest blessings of the modern age. When you take into account more freedom, less commute, the ability to work with people from all over the world and many other benefits, it’s clear that remote work is the future of the workplace. With these bits of advice in mind, you’re bound to become a better remote employee. Best of luck!
About the Guest Post Author:
Mile Živković is a content writer and work-life balance expert at Chanty – a simple and AI-powered Slack alternative. When Mile isn’t busy writing epic posts on productivity, work-life balance and time management for Chanty blog, he’s probably driving somewhere. His hobbies include cars (huge fan of Alfa Romeo), photography and collecting pocket knives. You can catch him on LinkedIn.