New to working from home? There are some unique challenges associated with working remotely, but it can also be quite enjoyable, rewarding, and productive. Follow these 15 remote work best practices and you'll be on your way to becoming a successful member of the home-based workforce.
1. Choose a Workspace in Your Home
The best setup for remote work is one that works well for you! Some people can work productively in a fairly open area of their home, while others need a private area that can be closed off from everyone else. Consider how you prefer to work, keeping in mind the needs and preferences of your family or roommates. At a minimum, you'll need to find a space where you can set up any equipment you need (computer, monitor, headphones, speakers, printer, supplies, file cabinet, etc.) that is safe from spills and avoidable distractions. If don't have a spare room, consider using part (or all) of the dining room table, a corner of your bedroom, a portion of the family room or living room, or even an area in the laundry room or mudroom. Review home office design ideas and organization tips for inspiration.
2. Repurpose Household Items for Your Home Office
If your employer isn't planning to outfit a home office for you, consider what items you may already own that can be repurposed in your work area. For example, you don't have a desk you can use for work, consider a card table, TV trays, or even a slab of wood across storage boxes or cinder blocks. A folding chair may do in a pinch, though you'll probably want to invest in a comfortable desk chair if you'll be sitting a lot. Plastic storage crates can be useful for storing work-related supplies, as can old nightstands or dressers.
3. Establish Ground Rules With Family and Friends
When you're new to working at home, you aren't the only one who will be getting accustomed to a new way of working. Family and friends often perceive newly remote workers as having loads of free time since they're at home all the time now. Have a frank discussion with your family or roommates, as well as close friends, about your new role as a virtual employee so they don't get the wrong impression about your availability for socializing when your attention should be focused on work. You may want to approach this conversation as a seeking assistance from the most important people in your life to help you make remote working work as an ongoing part of your daily life - and theirs.
4. Clarify Work Expectations
Speak with your boss and teammates to clarify expectations during the time you'll be working at home. Consider things like whether standard office hours apply, if full team check-ins will be held at certain times or day, the expected timeframe for replies to emails from team members, what kinds of inquiries should be handled by email or text versus a phone call, how productivity will be measured, and other relevant considerations. Your boss may have specific requirements in mind, or he or she may prefer for the team to work together to come up with ground rules collaboratively.
5. When in Doubt, Over-communicate
Wondering if you should update a coworker on your progress? Not sure if you should check up with your manager? Yes, you should. When working remotely, it's important to keep people informed about what is going on with various projects and tasks. When you're new to working remotely, it's better to over-communicate than to risk sharing too little. As time goes by, communication norms will become established and it will become easier to recognize when communication is warranted. Until then, err on the side of over-sharing.
6. Maintain Team Connections via Technology
If you've been assigned to work from home, chances are that your company will be providing technology-based communication tools for you and your team members to use to keep in touch throughout the workday. If not, you may want to suggest a few options to help enhance team communication. Several of the best virtual meeting software options offer free versions with sufficient features to help keep small remote teams connected and enhance communication.
7. Master Tech Tools
Whatever technology tools are available to you and your team, it's important to learn how to use them properly. Whether your team is using a messenger application, videoconferencing software, or any other collaboration tool, carefully review the instructions and frequently asked questions (FAQs) to get comfortable with the platform. You may even want to offer to put together a how-to summary or lead a training session for your team, as a way of helping to empower your coworkers to use available technology to its fullest advantage.
8. Establish a Routine
When you're working from home, it's important to establish a routine. For example, some teams check in with one another at regular intervals, such as a brief conference call at the beginning or end of each workday, or a full team virtual meeting at a pre-set interval every week. Depending on how structured or flexible your work schedule is, you may also want to follow set times for coffee breaks, meal breaks, or exercise outings throughout your day. Some home-based workers like to get dressed as if they were going to the office, while others enjoy working in pajamas. It's really just a matter of figuring out what routines make sense for you.
9. Manage Your Time Wisely
While it's always important to make the best use of your time, becoming a home-based worker is a great reason to focus on improving your time management skills. There is a direct relationship between time management and stress, so this truly is an important consideration when your work habits change significantly. Applying key time management tips and strategies like printable time management charts and timesheets as you start working remotely can really help to set you up for success with your new way of working.
10. Prepare Properly for Virtual Meetings
As a new home-based worker, you'll likely find yourself participating in quite a few virtual meetings. While your primary role may be as an attendee, you may also find yourself planning or leading these types of sessions. Virtual meetings are similar to in-person meetings in many ways, except for the obvious fact that attendees are not all gathered together in the same room. Proper preparation is key. Follow key tips for planning and participating in virtual meetings to enhance your experience.
11. Express Appreciation to Coworkers
It's just as important to let your coworkers know you appreciate them when you work virtually as it is when you're with them in an office all day. Get in the habit of saying thank you to coworkers for the things they do that contribute positively to your team. You can do so via email, a messenger app, or even by sending a thank you note to their home address. So called "little things" like saying thanks can go a long way toward motivating your coworkers, building a sense of teamwork, and positively impacting productivity.
12. Maintain Boundaries Between Work and Life
When your workplace is the same place you live, it's important to be mindful of maintaining separation between work and family or friends It can be difficult to maintain work-life balance even when working in an office, but at least there is a physical separation between where you live and where you work. That is gone when you start working remotely. Whether you manage boundaries by having set start and end times for your work day or limiting work activities to a specific area within your home, it's important to maintain separation from the very beginning. Otherwise, you could experience burnout.
13. Maintain Activity Levels
Come up with a plan to maintain (or even extend) your level of physical activity when you're working from home. After all, you won't even have to walk to and from your car and office on a daily basis, and there's no walking through the hallways at work to attend meetings. When every aspect of your job can be performed from a single spot in your home, it's all too easy to become sedentary. Lack of activity can lead to numerous health risks, including weight gain, diminished physical fitness, and a compromised immune system. So, it's very important for new home-based workers to make a plan to exercise regularly and stick to it.
14. Use Stress Management Strategies
Maintaining activity can help keep you healthy, but it's also important to manage stress effectively. Transitioning from a workplace-based job to working from home can lead to new stressors, as well as a need for new approaches to stress management. Consider what stress relievers and stress-busting hacks might work best for you. From using adult coloring pages for stress relief to stretching, deep breathing, or aromatherapy, there are many helpful stress management tips to consider.
15. Delegate or Outsource Certain Errands
When you start working remotely, chances are that there will be fewer days that you actually leave home. This means you'll have less opportunity to take care of certain kinds of errands that you're in the habit of handling on the way to and from work. For example, people often pick up groceries on prescriptions on the way to and from their place of business. Once you start working from home, you'll need to make special trips to do these types of things unless you delegate or outsource them. Now that you're working from home, you may want to consider switching to a mail order prescription service or having groceries delivered. Or, if other household members commute to work, discuss transferring these types of errands to them.
Succeeding as Home-Based Worker
There's not just one best way to work remotely. Follow these best practices for telecommuting and other tips for working from home effectively and you'll be on your member to succeeding as a member of the virtual workforce.