Team Productivity

10 Best Tips to Work Remotely

Sarah Hansen
November 11, 2014
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In today’s tech-savvy world, it’s easier than ever to work from home. Working with your bunny slippers on brings many benefits. You save on gas money, you own your own schedule, and you aren’t tied to a cubicle. However, working remotely also creates its own set of challenges. Here are 10 ways to boost your productivity, even while you’re still in your PJs.

1) Know thyself

Working from home allows you to leverage your personal rhythm and create a working environment custom-made for your needs. Are you more of a morning person? Then tackle your most creative or intense jobs with the rising sun. Do you seem to wake up after everyone else is ready for bed? Then enjoy the quiet of the night and knock out your to-do list to the rhythm of crickets and moonlight. Find your best schedule, and embrace the flexibility that working remotely can bring!

2) Create your own space

Working remotely means that you are not tied to a location or space. It’s one of the many benefits to unchaining yourself from the cubicle. Fully utilize this perk, and find the perfect place where you will be most productive. For example, I often use different rooms of my house for different tasks. If have more mindless busywork to do, I will put on a relaxing movie for background noise, make myself some hot tea, and kick back in the living room while I do low-key research or mindless busywork. If I need to do more focused critical thinking, I will go into my study, turn on my classical music, and crank out my project.

Working remotely enables you to find the sweet spot between comfort and creativity. If you work best at a Starbucks, then cater to your inner mocha mojo. If you need a more quiet space to speak to clients, go to your personal home office, or visit a local library study room. If you work best with your toes buried in the sand on a nice tropical beach, then pack your bags and grab the sunscreen. Whatever space helps you feel most productive, you have the power to find it.

Having your own office space in your home can also save you money on your taxes. Not only are personal business expenses tax deductible; if you have a dedicated office that takes up at least 10% of your home’s total square footage, you can also claim indirect deductions like portions of your electric bill, insurance, and mortgage.

3) Don’t forget to pick up the phone

Just because you are remote, does not mean that you have to be distant. One pitfall many remote workers fall into is relying too much on the written communication to correspond with their team. E-mail and instant messages are very useful, but they are not usually the best way to convey more intense feelings or complicated concepts.  If there is any confusion, or you have a project that needs to be explained in more detail, don’t forget to schedule conference calls or face-t0-face meetings with your team. You can often resolve a lot of confusion, and save on time and frustration, by allowing all forms of communication to work in your favor, including the non-verbal cues.

4) Keep your own hours and create a work schedule

You no longer have to work the typical 9-5 timeframe, but make sure that you set aside realistic slots in which to do your work. While flexibly is great, it can also lead to procrastination.  After all, no one is keeping track of your hours but you. This means that the only accountability you have is the kind that you put into place.

To fight the tendency to procrastinate, keep a list of items that you need to get done each day, set aside time to do them, and protect that time. Think of it as having a meeting with yourself.  Then, set up your schedule to maximize your brain power to the fullest. Do you work best in short spurts? Then schedule your day around certain time blocks. You can work for a few hours, and then reward yourself with a workout or relaxing massage.  Are you someone who wants to get everything done at once so that you have your evenings free? Then plan your day so that you knock out your big projects early.

If you need additional accountability, you can also find other people who work remotely and ask them to check in with you to make sure that you stay on task. Finding mentors who are successful from their home office will help ensure that you can learn from those who understand the unique challenges of working remotely.

5) Be an extravert

One of the pitfalls of working remotely is that coworker connections won't come as easily as they would in a corporate setting. After all, there is no water cooler to congregate around in your kitchen. This means that you will have to reach out to people and make an effort to collaborate with others. Don't get so absorbed in your work that you neglect relationships with your team. If possible, meet for lunch or coffee. Just because you can do all business from your personal abode doesn't mean that you should.

6) Remember to get out of the house

This goes without saying, but you can get a bit loopy if you never leave your work space. When you work at a regular business, home and work life are easily separated by a convenient drive while singing with your car radio into your steering wheel. While working from home has many benefits, one drawback is that it’s harder to gain that natural separation from your personal life and work. Remember to make time to leave your house to check in with the rest of humanity, and do everything that you can to still create some distance. For example, I try to have places in my house where I do not allow myself to work. I know when I go into these areas, that I can truly relax because my work won't follow me there.

7) Networking isn't just for the office

Make networking a priority.  You will have even less natural opportunities to connect with people when you work remotely. This means that you need to work harder than an office employee at creating your own personal grid. Join LinkedIn sites, and other online outlets. Use social media to your advantage to forge new mentor interactions, but also don't allow it to take up all of your time by watching kitten videos. There is a balance.

You can also pursue face-to-face meetings and join local groups such as your Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Rotary, or merchant associations. If that feels too stuffy, simply get a hobby outside of the home where you can interact with people in your line of work. Just don't forget to form new connections, as this vital tool that you can use to propel your career forward.

8) Become your own problem solver

You don’t have the IT department right down the hall anymore. If you are starting your own business, there is also no one to pay for your training. This means that you will have to embrace your independence and learn how to do things for yourself. Thankfully, many have already walked down the road, and are just a Google search away. While the learning curve of self reliance can be steep, once you have taken the time to overcome the initial obstacles, you will be able to tackle almost anything.

9) Clear away the clutter

A cluttered work environment is indicative of a cluttered mind. When you get busy, it may be tempting to leave miscellaneous papers or that half-eaten box of animal crackers on your desk. Don't get lazy in this area. Respect your space and take the time to keep your area clean so you aren't distracted by the chaos.

In addition to keeping your surroundings clear, close unnecessary tabs on your computer and remove items and sites that trigger procrastination from your view. If you can't break your addiction to social media, make sure you only surf your Facebook or Twitter feeds during a timed break. While you're working, close those sites down so that you won't be alerted to the latest comment on that picture that you just uploaded of your weekend family outing. You will find you are much more productive when you have plenty of space to work free of encroaching clutter and interruptions.

10) Keep up your productivity

One of the main reasons employers are reluctant to allow people to work remotely is that they are afraid that it will impact their employee's efficiency. Many managers want to keep an eye on their people, and to make sure that they devote their premium efforts to their work. There is a stigma that if you work remotely, you will not give your employer or customer your best innovation. It is your job to disprove this inaccurate assumption.

If you consistently produce exceptional work on time, if you always are prompt in your correspondence, and if you show others that the quality of your productivity does not suffer just because you aren't wrapped in the corporate bubble, people will trust your work based on its merit and not worry about where you were located when it materialized.

While working remotely does require a bit more ingenuity in several key areas, there is no denying the freedom that this type of setting brings to its recipients. After all, telecommuting allows people to form business relationships with the best and brightest minds from all over the world. You no longer have to go through the hassle and expense of moving for that next job. The possibilities of not being limited by geography or drive time are why more and more companies are embracing this growing trend.

Telecommuting is the future of business. Working from anywhere allows people to reach everywhere, and that's certainly a worthwhile reason to stay out of rush-hour traffic.

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