Remote work is often called the future, but in many ways, it’s already here. Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what we talk about when we’re talking about remote work.
What does working remotely mean?
From flexible work to working from home (WFH), distributed teams, and virtual offices, remote work can take many different forms. Simply put, working remotely means doing work outside a traditional, colocated setting like an office.
What is a remote job?
A remote job is any position that is done away from the office, whether that’s from a home office or while on the road traveling to see clients. It means you don’t commute into a location with your other coworkers every day and instead manage your responsibilities from afar and communicate with teammates virtually.
Why work from home?
People work from home for different reasons, but some of the most common reasons people enjoy working from home are increased independence, improved productivity, more flexibility, and better work-life balance.
What do you need to work from home?
Your ideal home office setup will be dependent on your job and your personality, but a good place to get started in designing your home office is identifying a dedicated space, making sure you have the tech you need, setting it up be to comfortable and ergonomic, and making sure you have adequate light sources. Artistic touches and potted plants help, too.
Remote Work 101 for Managers
Make sure your employees have what they need to work from home
Remote work involves more than a good internet connection and good hardware, but those are certainly non-negotiables for a successful remote work environment. But if flickering fluorescent lights and a folding chair wouldn't be in line with how you want to enable employees to do work, don’t settle for each employee dealing with whatever they happen to have at home. Ensure that your employees have not just the necessary tools (fast and reliable internet, a computer, the right software, an ergonomic desk and a chair) but also the amenities (noise-canceling headphones, laptop stand, productivity software). And if you’re not sure what would enable your employees to do their best work, ask.
State the obvious
Context around work or deadlines may seem obvious to you, but might not be clear to your employees, especially since they can't pick up on your body language as easily over a video call (or at all, over a phone call or instant messages). Stating what feels obvious–even something like a time zone–might help prevent misunderstandings in the future. It also sets a precedent for good communication. By making your meaning clear, you can ensure that you and your employees are on the same page while also showing them how to communicate.
Don’t sweat the sweatpants
Arguments have been made for and against the donning of sweatpants (or any pants) for employees working from home since working from home was even a thing. Encourage employees to dress in clothes that make them feel comfortable and help them do good work. For some, this might be what they would normally wear to an office. For others, it may be loungewear. Don’t enforce office-specific rules for the sake of enforcing them. Remember that it’s all about the amazing things your team is doing, not what they’re wearing.
Rigidity is for furniture and algorithms. As a manager who is also a human, exercise that humanity by showing flexibility. This can mean many things, like accommodating an employee’s childcare needs or most productive work hours. It can mean being understanding of circumstances outside the employee’s control, like a sudden personal emergency. While this is a good idea in general, it’s even more important to remember when you’re physically distant from your employees. You never know what you might be missing.
Virtual reality is still reality
It’s good to be mindful of the differences between remote work and colocated work, but at the end of the day, work is work. Make the most of your work time. Virtual meetings can work as well and even better than face-to-face meetings, but like the broader category of meetings in general, they only work as well as the people in them. Keep meeting times short and have them only when needed. As you’re working in a more self-directed way, stay focused by keeping browser and notification distractions to a minimum. Set boundaries around your chosen work hours for yourself, and encourage your employees to do so, too.
Remote Work 101 for Employees
Determine what you need to work from home
There are no hard and fast rules for the ideal home office. At the end of the day, what works for you is what works. But even a staunch minimalist may find that they require certain things for a pleasant and effective home work environment. Beyond basic needs like a desk, a chair, and a laptop, you might find yourself yearning for a strong but not unpleasant light source. You might discover that some greenery could help prevent fatigued eyeballs. Write down what you’re missing and talk to your manager about what you need to succeed.
Communicate any issues
Issues happen. The first step in resolving them is to communicate them. Whether you’re dealing with a sudden connectivity problem, a bout of food poisoning, or even a frustrating and unproductive email chain, telling your manager or team what’s going on is key. Clear and concise communication is important in a traditional office setting, but in a remote office situation where things like sickness or hardware problems aren’t immediately visible and obvious, it’s absolutely crucial.
Start fostering connection
In an office setting, forming connections is often only a matter of time. You can only run into your desk neighbor a few times in the kitchen before it feels strange to not say hello. But when everyone is physically alone in their respective homes, scattered across time zones, connection has to be deliberate. This might mean asking a colleague for a virtual coffee or a phone call. It could mean 15 minutes of your day set aside to connect with a mentee over Slack. It may feel strange at first, but like all unfamiliar behaviors, the more you do it, the more normal it becomes. Remote work can still come with camaraderie–you just have to be more deliberate when it comes to fostering it.
Build your own work from home best practices
Work in an office setting usually comes with a built-in routine that starts with showing up at a certain time and sitting at a designated desk. Working from home requires that you create your own routine from scratch, but that can be a good thing: you can design a process that works best for you. Maybe that means making a big breakfast before sitting down to do your hardest work in the morning, when you have the most energy. Perhaps it means starting work later and finishing later, too. A good routine can save energy and increase productivity by giving you a personalized, tried-and-true roadmap to success.
When we ask “What is a remote worker?” or “What is a remote job?”, we know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. As the future of work continues to evolve–and companies and individuals continue to test-drive answers to the question “What does working remotely mean?”–we’re hoping that by sharing our knowledge, we can support your own remote work transition or transformation.
While the above is just a starting place, and nowhere near a comprehensive guide to all of the tips and tricks (and the unique frustrations and rewards) of remote work, we hope it provides the question “Why work from home?” with a clear answer: because if done well, remote work can be hugely effective and beneficial for the employees as well as organizations.