Work / Life

Working Remotely and Working Efficiently: 5 Ways to Make the Most Out of Telecommuting

Remote work is great. It was great even in more “precedented” times. Digital nomads have been doing it for years, although they might have picked white beaches over their kitchen tables. Now a lot more people have jumped on the bandwagon—or been forced on. Many of us are now working remotely. The hard part is working remotely and efficiently. If you’re new to it, getting into the right flow can be challenging.

And when the excitement over working in your pajamas and blasting your own music fades, it can be hard to find focus. There’s been a lot written and said about ideal work environments. While it comes down to personal preferences, there are tips that can help you create a healthy workflow.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

1. Shamelessly take advantage of the benefits of working from home

If you’re used to a long commute, you’ll find yourself left with a few extra hours in your day. Your initial thought might be to use it to get more things done, or even start working right away. But doing something that’s actually less “productive”, can boost your productivity in the long run.

Working from home gives you the freedom to create a work environment that fits your needs. And sometimes it also allows you to create your own schedule—more or less. Don’t feel like you have to create an exact replica of your office experience. Start your day by reading a book, cook elaborate meals while on calls, or take a walk during phone meetings.

Take the parts of your workday and setup in your office that work for you. Mix those with the advantages and possibilities working from home offers. And don’t feel bad about it if you are blasting hard metal while going through Excel sheets.

2. Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself means taking care of your most important work tool. Take a look at your morning ritual. You could replace the run to the bus stop with an actual run, or a relaxing yoga session.

Regular walks and healthy meals are always important. But when working remotely, it can be tempting to become too comfortable in your routine. So spend a little extra time on exercise and healthy habits.

Your body might not be used to spending so much time at home, nor will your home be adjusted to you working from there. If you don’t have a decent chair, it pays to invest in one–or even better, ask your employer to do so. Slouching on the couch or working from bed might feel nice for a while, but your back and productivity won’t improve from it.

3. Approach remote work as real work

The flexibility of remote work is a blessing for some and a curse to others. You have full responsibility for your own planning and productivity. There are no co-workers within the same walls holding you accountable when you get up for yet another cup of tea.

You control space and time

It’s important to set strict boundaries when working remotely, time-wise and regarding physical spaces. Distractions are at the other side of the table, so take those away from yourself. Set strict office hours for yourself and communicate these to the people you are living and working with.

If you can, also set up a real working space in your home. Sitting down at a dedicated place will help you get in the zone to get things done. But it also allows you to physically step away from work when you could use a break.

Find the overlap for morning and night owls

When a team is working remotely, and there is some flexibility in the working hours, it can become challenging to work on one task together. When nobody can tell whether you’re actually at your desk, a status bar, a Slack status, or even communicating your availability daily will help manage expectations. 

If you operate across multiple channels and struggle with keeping all your status bars up to date, have human resources create a form to find out when all team members are working, and create a joint calendar. This can even be a weekly thing, for maximum flexibility.

If you are on the phone a lot, look into tools like Google Voice. You can take calls with it and connect it to your calendar. Anyone calling you outside your work hours will go straight to voicemail. You won’t even see the phone ring and potentially get the urge to take one more quick call.

Plan time for Twitter and tea

Proper time management doesn’t just include work, it also means planning breaks. Set limits for when you are not at work and try not to check your email then. Blocking these moments in your calendar will prevent you from creating unhealthy habits, like eating at your desk—a big no-go.

4. Make communication part of your workflow

Sure, it’s great to be less distracted by water cooler chatter, and saving time on quick in-person meetings is a big plus of remote working. But communicating with the people you work with doesn’t become less important when you don’t work in the same physical space. It becomes way more important.

Try to actively communicate with your coworkers. That goes for work chat, but also for quick social catch ups. From morning stand-ups to chats over lunch—it’s all still a vital part of your work.

You don’t have to be talking on every possible channel all the time. Again, it all comes down to planning and making time for it. When you’re available for calls, update your status. In a meeting or deeply focused on a project? Tell the others and turn off your notifications. Be truly present in whatever you’re doing and don’t interrupt your flow.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

5. Use video and voice calls as much as you can

Apart from the tapping on a keyboard, typed texts don’t really have a tone. The way you say something over email or text can be completely misinterpreted by the receiver. That goes for tiffs between friends, but also important work emails.

Working remotely can make you feel less connected to your coworkers, even when channels such as Slack or WhatsApp technically keep you in the loop. Body language and facial expressions get lost in digital translation. An emoji here and there might make up for it, but you’ll also want to keep your communication readable.

Use video or call whenever it’s possible. If you feel like an email might turn into a long thread, plan a call. This is good practice not only for avoiding misinterpretations, but also for the social dimension.. When you’re done talking business, you can end with a quick check-in on weekend plans and how the kids/cat/plants are doing. Your coworkers—and you—are human beings, after all.

September 21, 2020