by Jessica Vodden
From a Company With a Workforce That’s 100% Remote
The way we work is changing — fast. More people are working remotely at least part of the time. And, for many, the idea of a virtual workplace lies in uncharted territory.
At CentralApp, every member of our team is remote and always has been. So we’ve learned a thing or two about how to stay productive, connected, and healthy while working from home or on-the-go.
Here are our top 6 tips for working remotely:
#1: Carve Out Space
Carving out space to focus is crucial for staying productive while working from afar. Our brains take subtle cues from our environment when determining whether to flip into “work” or “relax” modes. At your desk? Work mode. On the couch? Relax. So while working from bed might sound great, it’s typically a bad idea.
At home, dedicate a room or corner to set up shop. Even a tiny area can work well if you structure your surroundings to focus on business. Clear out any items that might remind you of things you should, or might want to do, around the house.
When you’re on the go, you’ll have to get a bit more creative. Coffee shops and airport lounges can be distracting, so we recommend creating some sensory space for yourself by finding a spot in a corner with your back to a wall and using headphones to mask noises.
#2 Get Dressed
It’s tempting to stay in your pajamas or completely ignore your appearance when you work from home. But, just like with your environment, doing so can hurt your ability to focus. Take time in the morning to shower, get dressed, and put yourself together just like you would if you were going to an office or job site. It will help you wake up and mentally prepare for the workday.
#3 Set Your Profile Picture
Make sure your profile picture is a real picture of you as opposed to the default icon or a photo of your cat. It may seem like a small thing, but when you spend a lot of time collaborating through online tools, your profile picture starts to matter. First, it helps your colleagues quickly identify who the post, file, or email came from. More importantly, it warms up what can be a cold and transactional environment. Reminders that real people are on the other end of the line are always a good thing.
#4 Use Video Conferencing Tools
Take the idea behind the profile picture to the next level by incorporating video conferencing into your workflow. Tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts are quick and easy to use, allowing you to connect with colleagues on the fly. Researchers have estimated that upwards of 80% of communication is based on body language and tone of voice. So adding video and audio to your mix can significantly improve efficiency, understanding, and camaraderie.
#5 Structure Your Schedule
In offices, it’s relatively easy for the day to fall into a rhythm. Touch base with your coworkers around the coffee pot in the morning. Head out to lunch with your work bestie around noon. Head home when you see everyone else packing up — or at least when the janitor starts flipping off the lights. But when you work from afar, these cues are missing, and that can lead to two problems.
The first is that you might let the day get away from you. Without the accountability of physically showing up, it can be easy to put off logging on.
The second falls on the opposite end of the spectrum and is actually more common. Many remote workers find themselves working too much. One study actually showed that, on average, remote workers log nearly 43% more hours than their in-office counterparts. Overwork not only fuels burnout but can also lead to sloppy mistakes and poor health.
To combat these problems, create some structure in your schedule by setting up standing check-ins or meetings. For example, if you’re worried about succumbing to the desire to sleep in, set an 8 a.m. online meeting with a coworker.
To remember when to call it quits, set timers reminding you to stand up and stretch, take a walk, or wrap up the day. Scheduling a lunch or dinner date or booking a fitness class are also great ways to not only prompt you to leave your desk but even leave the house!
#6 Be Proactively Personable
In a traditional work environment, it’s easy to take for granted how much we interact with other people through routine trips to the coffee pot, bathroom, or copier. In a virtual environment, you have to be more intentional about building and maintaining relationships with your colleagues. Tools like Slack make it easy to stay in touch throughout the day, and video-conferencing (noted above) can help people put a face to a name. At CentralApp, we’ve integrated Giphy within our Slack channel to add a bit of personality and humor to our messaging. Creating channels specifically to share work wins, ideas, or social updates can also go a long way.
As a remote worker, take time each day to try to reach out to a colleague, share a resource, or give a shoutout. And don’t be afraid to show your personality online (while keeping it safe for work, of course).
Finally, use the “status” tools offered in most project- and team-management apps to keep your team up-to-date on your availability. This can help set expectations for when you’ll respond and provide valuable context. For example, we have a standard set of status options we use in Slack that include “on vacation,” “out sick,” “super busy,” and “in a meeting.”