Remote work is booming. In the past decade, work-from-home arrangements have doubled. Businesses and workers alike have seen the benefits of integrating remote work into their routine. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have also learned how remote work arrangements can help keep their businesses resilient in the face of challenges.
Working from home comes with unique challenges and benefits. Here are some helpful tips for managing remote work and distributed teams.
What is remote work?
Remote work, also called telework, involves working outside of an office and communicating with colleagues by phone, email, video chat, messaging apps, and work management platforms. In the last decade, remote work has increased by 91%, with more than 4.7 million U.S. workers working remotely as of 2019. In the last couple of months, however, remote work has boomed. By April 2020, roughly a third of Americans worked from home.
There’s no denying it—we’re in the midst of a new wave of remote work.
Remote work advantages.
Working remotely offers a variety of social and economic benefits. From a company’s perspective, integrating work-from-home options helps keep their business up and running no matter the current state of affairs. Employees also benefit from working remotely by staying safe during a time of social distancing.
However, the benefits of remote work aren’t confined to global pandemics. Here are some other reasons why working from home is here to stay:
Saves money—Telework lowers costs for employees who have to commute to the office, buy a professional wardrobe, or relocate for a job. Employees working from home typically save around $4,000 per year compared to their in-office counterparts. Companies can save money by purchasing fewer desks, chairs, and other equipment. Plus, businesses can downsize their offices. Some companies do away with physical buildings altogether, cutting out rent, cleaning crews, and even snacks for employees.
Saves time—Working from home conserves a few hours each day. After ditching the commute, water-cooler talk, and other office distractions, you’ll have more time to focus on what really matters.
Boosts morale—By working from home, employees can work when they’re most productive. That means waking up and working with the sun for people who like to get things done before others are online, or wrapping up in the last hours of the night for those who prefer working after-hours. Increased flexibility also means parents can pick up their children from school and spend more meaningful time with their kids. Employees are happier and more productive when they have greater autonomy over their work schedules.
Builds resilience—By training a remote workforce, you can keep your business running when the unexpected hits. Whether a strong storm keeps people from commuting or a global pandemic requires social distancing, your business can stay up and running. Plus, the lower costs of maintaining a remote workforce can help prevent financial hardships if the economy slows down. When the weather is terrible, or some other reason keeps people from being able to get to the office, employees can seamlessly transition to remote work. Work management solutions like Workfront can also reduce training costs because new hires can view the complete context of their work in a centralized space and instantly access historical data.
- Boosts productivity—Telework can help make your team more productive. According to one study, remote employees work an average of 1.4 days more per month than their office-dwelling counterparts. These results aren’t surprising. Working from home eliminates the need to commute to and from the office. Plus, teleworking employees have fewer distractions, allowing them to stay focused on their work.
Remote work challenges.
When transitioning to remote work, some individuals may face the following challenges:
Social isolation—When you work in the office, you can walk up to your coworkers and strike up a conversation easily. If you’re working from home, however, you might miss the in-person camaraderie and teamwork. To help overcome the isolation, video calls or conferences with coworkers can create a sense of togetherness.
Distractions—On the one hand, remote work cuts out distractions like coworkers talking on the phone or dropping by your office unannounced. However, working from home comes with its own set of challenges. With the refrigerator, TV, and dog all within a few steps, you may find it more challenging to stay on task. Try to create a designated workspace to stay focused.
Less separation between home and work—When you work from home, you may find it difficult to sign off and unplug. With emails constantly entering your inbox, you might feel compelled to continue responding late into the night. Once you finish your work for the day, sign off and relax—emails can often wait until the next day.
Strategies for successful remote work.
When you first start working remotely, it might take some getting used to. Here are a few helpful strategies to help flatten the learning curve and get you working at your best in no time:
Designate a workspace—Set up a desk in one area of your house and use that room as your office space. When you’re at your desk, you’re on task. Then, once you’re finished for the day, you can bid your desk goodbye.
Switch it up—If you’re a creative worker who doesn’t like routine, skip the dedicated workspace and consider bringing your laptop throughout the house for a change of pace. Heading to a library, park, or coffee shop can also get your creative juices flowing.
Carve out personal time—Creating separation between your work life and home life is key. Don’t be afraid to take a one-hour lunch break to recharge. Make time to exercise, play with your kids, or take the dog out for a walk.
Keep in touch—When you’re at the office, you speak with colleagues and supervisors throughout the day. However, once you start working remotely, you’ll need to put in the effort to stay connected to your peers. Consider scheduling a weekly check-in call to ensure you and your co-workers are on the same page or to simply shoot the breeze.
Once you get the hang of telework, you can create healthy habits and routines to overcome any challenges. You may also want to join online groups where fellow remote workers share their obstacles, solutions, and advice. With millions of remote workers across the globe, you’re sure to find a community related to your industry. A little professional and emotional support can go a long way.
Remote work requires specialized tools.
While working from home offers several advantages, businesses and employees need to make sure they have the right remote tools to be as effective as possible. Here,’s a look at some suggested tools to make working from home a success.
Home office hardware essentials.
Employers in an office typically provide their employees with company computers and desks, among other tools and supplies. While cutting down on hardware costs is one of the benefits of telework arrangements, companies and workers should prioritize a few essential pieces of equipment to make remote working comfortable and productive.
Consider adding the following to your home office:
Desk chair—If you’re going to be sitting at home all day, you might want an ergonomic chair to support your posture and keep you comfortable.
Standing desk—To help break up the day and keep you energized, consider getting a standing desk. Alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
External monitor, mouse, and keyboard—Sitting hunched over a laptop all day can cause neck and shoulder strain. External devices like these can vastly increase the comfort of your home-office set up.
Desk lamp—In addition to preventing eye strain, a desk lamp can light up your face when you get on a video chat with colleagues or clients.
Headset— Inexpensive USB headsets can make a big difference in sound quality, reducing background noise and enhancing audio clarity.
While some of these items might require a bit of an investment, they’ll pay for themselves by making you more comfortable and efficient while working from home.
Document retrieval software.
Remote work arrangements require tools to allow employees to access essential documents from home. Two simple solutions include:
Document storage software—One way to solve the document retrieval problem is to move the company’s servers online and use cloud storage. Reputable providers include Amazon Web Services, Google Drive, Dropbox, and GitHub. Instead of waiting for coworkers to email you essential documents, find what you need on the cloud server. Make sure to use a standardized filing and naming system.
VPNs—Virtual private networks (VPNs) empower personnel to access the company’s private server from anywhere in the world, just as if they were in the office. Popular VPNs include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark.
Real-time communication software.
When you work from home, you won’t be able to pop into your supervisor’s office to ask a question. Luckily, you can take advantage of a wide range of software options to get valuable face time with your team members.
Online chat provides a quick and easy way to connect with your colleagues. Free options like Google Chat might be all you need for your team. Other companies may opt for more comprehensive options like Microsoft Teams. Some providers, like Slack, offer robust channel features and preserve a historical record of your chat, which keeps everyone in the loop and can streamline onboarding new team members.
At some point, working from home might get a little lonely. Some remote employees miss the community of colleagues in an office. Plus, face-to-face interactions can help resolve problems and generate new ideas.
Video chat is an effective way to meet with your team and solve complex problems. Many video chat programs let participants share their screens and walk the other attendees through documents, websites, or other software programs. Some software also records meetings for people who aren’t able to attend.
Popular video chat programs include Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams.
Asynchronous workflow tools.
When your team works asynchronously, members are empowered to work whenever it works best for them. Asynchronous workflow tools help employees around the globe stay connected, even when they’re logging into work at different times. While asynchronous work poses some challenges, it offers several benefits as well:
Employees can work when they’re most productive.
Businesses can hire top talent from around the world.
Personnel can hand projects off to employees in other time zones, increasing the number of hours your team can be productive.
To unlock the benefits of asynchronous work, you’ll need a work management solution to help keep your team on the same page. Asynchronous tools empower your team to create, assign, track, and deliver projects with ease.
Working from home requires new habits.
While many employees are happy to leave the office behind, they may find it challenging to create a healthy, efficient routine. Individuals who work from home should consider integrating the following habits into their day-to-day schedules:
Stick to a schedule—While working from home allows for a flexible lifestyle, following an optimized routine can help you be more productive. Consider alternating between blocks of exercise, restorative breaks, and focused work time.
Keep it professional—Dressing as you would if you were going into an office can give you a sense of professionalism and purpose and subtly motivate you to stay more productive throughout the day.
Eliminate distractions—When you start a block of work, turn off cellphone notifications and close browser tabs that might be distracting.
Learn to sign off—When you work in a traditional office, you can mentally sign off once you walk through your front door. However, when you work from home, it can be hard to separate your work life from your home life. Once you’ve finished a hard day of work, try to commit to logging out of work so you can relax and recharge.
Take advantage of the remote work revolution.
Are you ready to start integrating working from home into your professional life? Working remotely can help save money, boost productivity, and improve worker happiness. Here are a few additional tips to make sure that happens for you.
Improve your workflow.
Conception—Start by outlining the project’s purpose and potential benefits and identifying the resources you need to complete it.
Planning—Define the project constraints—scope, timeline, and budget—to determine how the project fits into your current list of priorities.
Execution—Distribute tasks to your team members and set up project deadlines and expectations.
Measurement—Regularly compare project status against the planned completion date. If needed, adjust resources to keep work moving forward.
Completion—Evaluate the project retrospectively to determine success or identify where and how things went wrong.
When you break your projects into predictable phases, you can assign discrete tasks more efficiently. Plus, you’ll get a sense of satisfaction every time you finish one of the five phases.
The Pomodoro Technique.
Remote workers are often more productive, working an additional day’s worth of time each month compared to those in an office setting, and many have developed a few tips and tricks to decrease stress and keep on task.
One method for staying productive while working remotely is the Pomodoro Technique. The framework is simple yet effective. Here’s the system:
Work on a task for 25 minutes.
Take a short break.
Repeat the cycle.
After four cycles, take a longer break before starting over.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you stay focused for short, manageable chunks of time. You’re less likely to slack off when you know you have a break in your future. The longer break helps you reset after almost two hours of focused work. By tracking your time and accomplishments, you’ll feel as though you’ve made progress in your work. Plus, you’ll get a better idea of how long you take to complete certain activities.
Another method is the Flowtime Technique, where you work between 10 and 90 minutes, then decide if you want to continue. When you begin to lose focus, take a break. Your break shouldn’t be longer than the amount of time you worked, which allows you to reset mentally.
Remote work is here to stay.
Remote work is a part of the new world of work for an increasing number of workers around the globe. Working remotely can save time and money, empowering individuals to take control of their schedules and live a more balanced life. By following the strategies in this article, you’ll be teleworking like a pro in no time.
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