In 2017, the results of a study conducted by freelancer platform Upwork projected that a majority of the U.S. workforce would be freelancers working remotely by 2027. Since then, a global pandemic that has brought industries to their knees and reshaped the way employees approach work looks set on accelerating the rate at which employees work from home or remotely. As Covid-19 continues to ravage the globe with no foreseeable end in sight, many have come to embrace working from home, so much so that employees are quitting instead of giving up working from home when bosses make the call to return to the office. Many workers are beginning to realize that work can, in fact, be completed remotely. It’s looking very likely that working from home or remotely is here to stay.
But not everyone is eager to join the work from home camp. While the trend may be growing at a rapid pace given the circumstances, working from home or remotely does come with its own set of challenges. Some may be bad at handling the distractions presented at home, whether it’s family members, a pet, or the temptation to sneak in a few rounds of Fortnite. Others may find themselves at a disadvantage with the lack of equipment and space.
Whichever the case, these issues can be resolved if you adopt some good remote working practices. Given how different it can be from working in a traditional office, the best practices for remote workers are not very well-defined currently. Traditional work culture is slowly but surely being turned on its head. While the etiquette of remote working is steadily starting to solidify itself as the trend grows, perhaps this ultimate guide to working from home can serve as the basis for adopting best practices when working remotely online. Whether you belong to the group that embraces remote working or you have been asked to stay home and work because of the pandemic, albeit unwillingly, we’ve got you covered on everything that ranges from attending virtual meetings to companies that are receptive to remote working in this ultimate guide to working from home.
How to Work Effectively From Home
In this section, we’ve compiled a list of best practices workers should be adopting to work more effectively from home or remotely. However, these strategies and tips for effective remote working will not mean anything if you miss the single most important ingredient for it to be properly adopted: discipline.
Since the boundaries between work and play tend to be blurred when working from home or remotely, having the discipline and commitment to follow through with these strategies is essential. It may just be the single biggest challenge for any worker who finds themselves working from home, but with the right mindset and persistence, there’s no doubt you will be able to carry out these best practices and be a productive remote worker.
Maintain a designated workspace
There’s a popular saying that goes, “the bedroom should only be reserved for sleep and sex.” In order to achieve a healthy work-life balance, you should separate work from your personal life as much as possible. You can start by designating a specific workspace in your home, ideally out of the bedroom, if you have the luxury of space. While it may seem more convenient to do everything from your bedroom, it can have an adverse psychological effect that deepens the more you do it. The bedroom should always be maintained as a sanctuary for rest and respite. Doing work in your bedroom could rob that away from you, especially as time goes on.
Once you’ve designated an area of the house dedicated just for work, the next step is to get a work desk that fits your requirement. Set up your desk with all the necessary equipment, clear any clutter, and make it your space to work.
This starts with the desk itself, where you should ideally go for an ergonomic option that fits your space well. This will help communicate to your brain that this is the spot for you to focus on working without any distractions. Check out our guide on the best cheap desks to learn more about some of the best options.
Without the right technology and equipment set up at your work desk, you’re not going to be productive at all. Aside from having a stable internet connection and a computer, you’re going to need the right video conferencing tools and a good microphone for virtual meetings. Check out our guides on the best Wi-Fi mesh router and the best bluetooth headphones for conference calls to ensure that you have a smooth video conferencing experience.
Of course, your work setup must be ergonomic as well. If you’re finding yourself hunched over all day to work on a laptop, consider investing in a proper desktop setup with a proper monitor.
For this, check out our guides on the best 4K monitors and the best computer monitor stands. Not only do you get more screen real-estate to be more productive, you’d also be improving your posture which will improve your productivity and help avoid any long term health problems from having poor posture.
Stick to your work schedule
Not having to commute to the office doesn’t mean you can start working anytime you want. Depending on the type of employment you are in, your work hours should be fixed and consistent. Whether it’s in the terms set out by your employer or yourself, if you’re self-employed, you should stick to the work hours set forth even when you’re at home. There’s a significant advantage in that you will be saving money and time from not having to commute daily and perhaps getting an extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning. But if you’re required to get online by a specific time, make sure you’re available and ready to start working.
Sticking to your work schedule isn’t just mentally committing to your working hours; it’s also important that you let those whom you live with know that you are not to be disturbed during these hours. Be sure to let your family members or housemates know that these are the hours that you’ll be dedicated to working, and pray that they can be understanding about it!
On the other hand, it’s just as important to stop when it’s time to wrap up from work. If you’re supposed to clock off at 5 pm, commit to it for the sake of your wellbeing and work-life balance. A recent study of more than 10,000 employees showed that most people working from home are working longer hours, but those extra hours did not necessarily translate to any rise in output. So don’t feel guilty for not putting in overtime, but instead, work on being more focused in addition to maintaining your work-life balance for a healthier you, which leads to higher productivity.
Take regular breaks
Taking scheduled breaks and regular intervals can do wonders for your workflow. Grab a timer and take a 5-minute break every now and then, maybe 10-minute breaks every hour. The key to taking regular breaks is to not do it long enough to break your work momentum while freshening up your perspective.
Also, use your breaks wisely. Take 5 minutes to stand, stretch or drink a glass of water, and you’ll notice how it can positively impact your productivity. So go ahead and schedule breaks in your calendar, but be sure to grab a timer and time yourself. Anything longer than usual could lead to losing your momentum for the task at hand.
Create Accountability for Yourself
Let’s face it, the great work from home experiment that was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic has faced plenty of opposition, coming mainly from employers and supervisors. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently said that remote working doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.” Understandably so, given that ‘seeing is believing’ to some bosses and with no one to supervise your actions at home, the temptation to slack off is undoubtedly there.
Hence why you must create accountability for yourself when working away from the office. As mentioned earlier, discipline is the single most crucial ingredient in adopting these work from home practices effectively, and this is where it is best illustrated. In an office, you’re surrounded by your co-workers and others who, just by their mere presence, could keep you from slacking off tasks (at least not openly). The fear of being unproductive and incompetent can be an incentive for you to stop wasting away your time at work. With no one to keep you in check while working at home, it’s important that you adopt some strategies to have some accountability for yourself.
Some tips include creating and adhering to a calendar schedule, using a to-do list, and publicly committing to a task so that your team knows. A schedule can be carved out down to the minute for you to assign specific tasks. Of course, you will have to honor the schedule, which is where your discipline comes in, but have some flexibility in allocating time for each task. A to-do list can also be very helpful in reminding you of the tasks at hand. Use the to-do list in tandem with setting a schedule for completing tasks. But be warned, failure to cross off your tasks within an allocated time can make you feel a little dreadful for being unproductive. Therefore, you should always be realistic and practical when scheduling tasks, less you end up being disappointed in yourself. Finally, publicly announcing to your co-workers or team members that you will be taking up a particular task creates a similar sense of accountability one would have in the office because your colleagues and boss will be expecting the job to be done by you within a deadline. Ultimately, it’s your final work output that measures your performance at home. However, delivering good output within a deadline requires a strong sense of accountability that you will need to create for yourself when working at home.
Clearly communicate your expectations
Communication is key, and with the advent of the internet, there are now so many advanced communication tools and platforms for you to get your message across. It’s vital as a remote worker that you stay in touch with your team and communicate effectively. It ensures that you remain visible at work as well as relay information that your team members may need.
Know the ground rules and familiarize yourself with the software interfaces that your team will be using. Whether it’s Slack, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Drive, synchronous communication tools were built for remote collaboration and are considered fundamental tools for remote working to work effectively. Emails and texts are channels that should also be given more priority (during work hours, of course), given that you are isolated from your co-workers. If you’re working on a collaborative task, enlist the use of a collaborative platform such as Google Drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Slack. Check out our lists of work from home software to help you get familiarized and to choose the right one that suits your needs:
Also Read : Best Apps for Working Remotely From Home
It’s easy to drop out of sight or have a communication breakdown when you are working remotely. It could be an email that was misread in the wrong tone or not getting clarification over an issue because you didn’t ask. Therefore it’s important that a remote worker documents every single thing, or at least more than you usually would in an office. Take every effort to ensure that everyone is on the same page to avoid communication breakdowns. The key is to share as much information as possible and never be afraid to ask for help or clarification from your team. It will help you stay visible, avoid any miscommunication, be more connected to your team and not make you feel like you’re in a silo.
Prepare for meetings
Speaking of communication, one area stands out when you’re working remotely. Yes, the dreaded Zoom / Microsoft Teams video calls. Many of us have been reduced to little boxes on computer screens since the pandemic forced everyone indoors. Nevertheless, this mode of communication is crucial for many reasons.
There are a good number of employees who shy away from turning on their cameras when attending virtual meetings. This isn’t something to be encouraged unless you or your company can’t afford the budget for a webcam. Aside from the aforementioned point on staying visible to your team, turning on your webcam has a lot more perks than you might realize. Firstly, the visual element is a means for nonverbal communication, i.e. facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture coupled with your tone of voice. Nonverbal communication comprises the majority of our communication with each other as a species, more so than just words. Turning on your camera for a meeting will help you articulate your message more effectively, and your team will better understand you. You’ll also be scoring points for more active participation, and your team members will be aware of your presence rather than just staying in the background with a mute microphone. In-person, it’s easy to tell when someone isn’t focusing during a meeting, but without the camera on, you leave room for a guessing game by your co-workers and boss. Dispel any doubts that may arise from your team members by turning on the webcam.
Also Read : Best Webcam for Zoom Calls in 2021
Be sure to look ready and dress appropriately before an upcoming meeting. You don’t want to make the amateur mistake of only dressing up from the waist up while wearing only your pyjamas from the waist down because you think it won’t be visible on the webcam. Unexpected situations can happen that may force you to rise from your chair, exposing yourself in the process.
Beyond thinking about the camera, you should always prepare for a virtual meeting as you would for a regular office or in-person meeting. Take note of the meeting agenda, prepare your notebook, and focus on the call. Never take a virtual meeting for granted.
Create Work Boundaries
At the start of this article, we mentioned how the line between work and play tend to be blurred when you work from home. You wake up and start working, and you don’t stop because you’re still in your office/home, and soon enough, your mind starts to associate being at home with working. Therefore, it’s crucial that you develop boundaries between your work and home. There are several consequences if you don’t, such as ending up feeling bored with your work, burning out from overworking way past your working hours, and having that dreadful feeling that your whole life revolves around work.
We’ve talked about maintaining a designated workspace at home, which would be an excellent first step to creating a boundary. Establishing clear office hours from home and sticking to your work schedule comes next. You can also employ strategies to condition your brain into knowing where the work-play boundary is by associating certain items to differentiate the two. For example, dress as you would for work during working hours and change out of it when it’s time to clock out. Over time, this habit will solidify and will help you distinguish the boundary better.
Another important strategy you could use would be to turn off work-related notifications past your work hours. Set your Slack or Microsoft Teams status (you can set it up to change automatically once the clock hits a certain time) so that your co-workers know not to bother you. Notifications via email or text can often make you feel obliged to respond immediately, which is why setting your status to ‘do not disturb’ during your off-work hours is really important. It will provide you with more quality rest and relaxation. You could also try leaving a way to contact you for emergency situations, but be sure to emphasize that it is for urgent matters only.
Don’t neglect your health
Wealth is nothing without health, so the saying goes. This is true even if you’re not working remotely, and your health is something you should never compromise on, especially when working remotely. Our bodies were not built for long hours of sitting through tasks and meetings, so you should always take some time off in your day to work out. Whether it’s going out for a run, yoga, or lifting weights, find a way to incorporate them into your work schedule. Use your regular break intervals to stretch or walk around, don’t sit still for too long. Dedicate 30 minutes to 1 hour for the more strenuous exercises. You could easily break a sweat even if you’re completely confined indoors. Cleaning the house and doing chores can help you get that much-needed exercise too.
Never has such a vast number of the global population felt more lonely since the outbreak of Covid-19. Human beings are social creatures, and we were not meant to go at it alone. Loneliness kills, period. If you’re using all the above strategies to stay connected to your team, you’re already doing yourself a favor by combating loneliness.
Take some time off to stay connected with your friends and family members. This is especially crucial if you’re living alone. Being barred indoors can have severe repercussions on your mental health when you have absolutely no one to talk to. It requires some minimal effort on your part to reach out to your loved ones. Even a daily 5-minute chat with a friend could do wonders to keep loneliness at bay. While nothing will ever compare to having a face to face interaction with your friend or family members, you should never give up hope of ever meeting them in person again once all this is over. Don’t lose hope!
How to Succeed as a Remote Worker
Perhaps you’ve come to embrace working from home and would like to have a successful career as a remote worker. Challenges aside, working from home also has incredible benefits. You save a lot of time and money by not having to commute, and you get better flexibility in your schedule. If you’ve adopted all of the best remote working practices listed above, you’re well on your way to succeeding as a remote worker. Beyond that, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the types of remote work companies and remote working opportunities.
Where Work-From-Home Jobs Are
Gone are the days where work from home jobs are limited to multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. Job-hunting site FlexJobs has identified sectors and companies that have embraced remote working in recent years. The uptrend for remote working has prompted employers to be more flexible with their job offerings. Companies that are looking to lower costs and maintain lower overhead costs are among those that have been receptive to the idea.
Information Technology (IT)
The IT industry is the obvious first choice for any kind of remote working job opportunities. Many companies within the tech industry are receptive to working from home arrangements and the idea of a virtual office. The virtual office trend has been picking up steam well before the pandemic struck, and it’s looking likely that it’s here to stay. Many businesses with no real need for a physical office since the advent of the internet are still opting to have a physical location for credibility and trust purposes. This idea is gaining traction and, over time, could potentially be seen as a new normal, just like how remote working is changing the way we approach work. Companies such as Amazon, Dell, Red Hat, and Salesforce have embraced remote working with positions in sales, project management, web designer, software developer, power-systems engineer, and technical writer.
Health and medical services
This category might be somewhat surprising as you may be wondering how an industry that is at the frontline of fighting a pandemic could be receptive to work from home positions. Companies such as Aetna, BroadPath Healthcare, Humana and CVS Health have sought to fill positions such as account managers, actuarial consultants, case managers, sales, and medical writers via remote working.
The education sector should come as no surprise as the edutech trend continues to grow in popularity. We’ve also seen how seamlessly education institutions transitioned to a remote-based platform during the start of the pandemic. Fast-growing online learning companies such as Pearson, K12, Grand Canyon University, and Kaplan are on the lookout for freelance and part-time positions such as parent mentor, teacher, curriculum writer, language expert and tutor.
Amazon employs nearly 800,000 workers around the world, and many of them report to work from the comfort of their homes. The company’s headquarters in Seattle employs just a small percentage of this figure. They typically employ remote workers to fill in positions ranging from customer service to global account managers.
“Yes, it is absolutely here to stay”, says Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell regarding remote working. The company has been quick to embrace the work from home trend with a suite of products that offer digital workplace solutions. On the hiring side, Dell offers work from home positions as well as flexible jobs with roles in sales to tech support and marketing management.
This credit card company advocates strong work-life balance and personal growth for its employees. World Service, the company’s arm for customer service, has a home-based customer care team. The company actively expands its remote workers, believing that it enables them to cast a wider net in search of good talent to employ. It also enables them to handle much larger global volumes, as their virtual customer care teams are spread out across different time zones.
Approximately 47% of health insurance company Humana’s over 48,000 workforce works remotely, and this was during normal times. The company has embraced remote working over the years and plans on making the transition to a nearly fully remote workforce. Their remote workers’ roles range from social work to accounting.
One of the top companies that employees desire to work for also offers options for working remotely. Salesforce employs more than 56,000 employees worldwide, and many of them are working from home or remotely. Entry-level positions within the company that offer remote working opportunities are sales positions, while other job openings for remote work may require some years of prior experience.
Global education company Kaplan offers flexible work arrangements “both in and outside the classroom” that include part-time, flexible schedule, freelance, and remote jobs. They operate in over 30 countries. Kaplan specializes in online K-12 programs, so it’s no surprise that this company embraces remote working with open arms. The company has competitive pay structures and great benefits that support the financial future, health, and well-being of both full-time and part-time employees. If you’re looking to do some tutoring part-time remotely, Kaplan is your best bet.
With almost 25,000 employees employed, one quarter or about 8,000 of Xerox’s employees are working from home. These home-based employees perform a wide range of tasks that include customer care, tech support, data entry, image tagging, quality control, systems development, software programming, and administrative work. Xerox has proudly supported and recognizes the benefits of working from home. The company also has a military hiring program that hires qualified veterans and military spouses for home-based employment opportunities.
Long before Covid-19 appeared, the trend for online remote working had already existed, and its trajectory continues to grow. As we accelerate into the future of work, working from home is already proving to be a popular choice of many employees. Employers too, are showing more flexibility toward such arrangements. Whether you are embracing remote working or forced into the situation, we hope that this guide has served you well in being prepared for it. The sooner workers become acquainted with the new normal and adopt best practices for remote working, the more productive working from home can become.
Timothy is a news broadcast producer with a keen eye for television and a pair of tuned ears for the dulcet sounds of radio. Besides exploring new ways and mediums to tell a good story, he is also a passionate writer and musician who could play a sleazy guitar riff on the fretboard at any given moment.