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7 Tips for working remotely

Remote work is rapidly becoming the standard work environment for what used to be considered “in-office only” roles. With the COVID-19 spread shifting many companies online, knowing how to work at home is essential.

31 Mar 2020 by Rocco Brudno

Working remotely can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. The internet has some great ideas on where to start, but who has time to verify if any of it works? Our team has been working remotely since Coassemble was founded—and they’ve got some tips for any remote team. The flexibility team members feel by going remote empowers everyone to make decisions for the good of the company.

We’ve compiled this list of 7 great tips for working remotely that will improve anyone’s remote work life. Whether you’re an individual working remotely or managing remote teams, these tips are for you.

📅 March 26th, 2020: We know that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 could be impacting your company. During this time, many businesses have had to make the shift to working remotely—many for the first time. If you were affected by this transition, we hope these tips for working remotely help you and your team.

7 Tips for working remotely

1. Get comfortable using video conferencing tools

Being able to talk in person with your colleagues and customers is essential to any business. When time and distance inhibit your ability to do so, video can make a huge impact on your ability to get face-to-face. It also allows you to build relationships in the same way you would in person.

The best way to use video is to treat it exactly like you were talking in person. Even if you’re home, you still want to adhere to the same dress code in person. If it’s more laid back, keep it casual—if it’s more professional, maybe throw on something nice.

Be signed into the meeting five minutes early. This gives you the time to make sure the connection works. It also helps if you need time to set up your mic and webcam. Worst-case scenario, you get online when it’s scheduled—best case you’re the person that’s always early for meetings.

2. The do’s and don’ts of instant chats with your team

One of our most important tips for working remotely is being courteous on instant chat. Every company has that general channel on Slack for a variety of uses—don’t make personal messages that should be a DM be one of them.

Speak with your HR team or manager about reviewing your communication guidelines. Chances are, your company already has a set of practices in place for how best to chat in channels with your team. If not, we think these general rules are good habits for anyone to follow:

    • If you have a general and direct channel for instant chat, direct relevant messages to each. I.E. personal messages in direct messages, company updates in general.
    • If it’s not work-related, try to keep it out of work-focused channels that could get clogged easily.
    • If you feel the message is too personal for instant chat, try to take it over to video or phone call. Bad news or let downs are definitely better to give and receive outside instant chat.
    • Always update your status—if you’re in a meeting, trying to get some work done, or available to chat, reflecting that on your status helps your team know when they can reach out.
    • Be considerate of status—if someone is AFK (away from keyboard) or has their notifications snoozed, try to wait until they return.
    • For a full list of how to utilize instant chat while working remotely, check out our course for Slack 101.

3. Timing is everything—be considerate of time zone differences

If you’re in the US and your teammates are in AU, you might only have a few hour gaps between 9-5’s. Our own team at Coassemble navigates two continents and five-time zones! The key ingredient to our communication success is leveraging our time overlap. With about 3 hours between the end of US days and the beginning of AU days, we’re able to connect as one team.

If you’re sending instant chats to co-workers in opposite time zones, a great hack to not disturb them is messaging delays. Slack integrations like Timy allow you to send messages that can appear at scheduled times. Have an eight-hour difference between you and a team member? Send the message closer to their time frame and you won’t have to worry about disturbing their off-hours.

When scheduling company-wide meetings, try to be considerate of the variances in your team’s time zones. Set an itinerary for the meeting and make sure everyone has the materials they need before it starts. Provide a clear action plan so everyone has takeaways they can process during their workdays.

4: Your working remote setup needs to work for you

If you’re working in your bed 9-5, you might start to develop some low back pain (if not, keep doing you!). If you are, we highly recommend creating a space you can work comfortably in while remote.

Whether it’s a section of your living area carved out with a desk and chair, or a full set-up in a spare room. You deserve the dedicated space to get work done as much as you do to sleep and eat. We think one of the best tips for working remotely is finding a space (in your home or out of it) where you can get work done. A second bedroom is ideal, but these alternatives are great options to get work done:

  • The kitchen table (as long as you still have space to eat).
  • Outside on your patio area (porch or balcony works as well!).
  • The coffee or side table in your living space.
  • Nooks that your home has where you can make a small desk area and chair fit.

💡 Pro Tip: Owl Labs has a great list of ideas for creative home office spaces

Lastly, we strongly recommend getting a comfortable seat. One of the best tips for working remotely is ensuring you don't have a sore back after a day of work. Even a chair from your dining table with a backrest that’s comfy is essential to the workday. A bench can also be helpful if you have an area to rest your laptop on.

📅 March 26th, 2020: With the coronavirus pandemic going on, it’s also important to have easy access to water to stay hydrated. We recommend either taking a daily tally of how much you’re drinking or use a larger cup to drink. Even using a big thermos like a 64oz Hydroflask can work to help you keep up on hydration.

5: Be available, but not too available

That little green dot on chat and video apps usually is on when you’re online. But did you know you don’t have to be available 24/7? One of the biggest complaints of remote workers is that moment of “burnout” from not knowing when to unplug. When you’re in a physical-office setting, you’re able to “shut-off” when you leave the building. Not so when you’re working remotely.

If your role is required to work within a given time slot, be available for that period. If you’re on support or live chat, be available during a reasonable time slot. But try to give yourself time to unplug. Having a structured schedule means your team knows when to reach out to you and when you’re available to customers.

Remote workers are the most susceptible to having trouble unplugging from their work. This can have the compound effect of losing focus and slowing your productivity. By setting clear availability, you know that once you’re done for the day, you’re done. This is important to building a working remote structure that’s a healthy work/life balance.

6: Being transparent about your remote work projects

Making sure everyone knows what your progress on projects is crucial to your remote work’s efficiency. If there’s a way to track work statuses, your team can see what’s next, even when you’re offline. This also helps managers set accurate project deadlines based on what each remote team member can produce.

If you want an easy way to track work, we recommend project management software such as Asana or Jira. Both offer visibility to managers and leaders while also letting individuals track work progress. If you have a stuck point or need a review of work before completing, you can @ team members. This is perfect for any projects that require collaboration—no matter where your remote team is located.

Not using project management software? A basic way to provide progress updates on your work is to message your manager. They keep everyone aligned, so if they know where you’re at on a project, they’ll direct the next steps.

7: Taking time for yourself

Are you into caring for plants? Have a faithful companion that’s excited to walk across your keyboard and interrupt your work? What about taking walks around the neighborhood while listening to the latest episode of that marketing podcast you follow?

These are all actually one of the most important tips for working remotely that you can have: taking care of yourself. Forbes even mentions the lack of self-care can be detrimental to work and personal life in this article by Garin Staglin.

Some easy self-care tips to practice when working remotely are:

  • Set time for personal needs in the workday. This includes meals, a quick walk in nature, and even hobbies. Taking scheduled breaks helps compartmentalize the workday into smaller sections.
  • Maintain personal hygiene as if you were going into the office. It’s easy to rock PJ’s and a messy bun, but keeping yourself fresh has an effect on your mental attitude. (check out this article on Healthline to see what you can do to improve your hygiene habits).
  • Play music or shows in the background for “white noise” to keep you focused. Whether it’s Al’s Spotify picks, LoFi Hip Hop Radio, or playing Parks and Rec in the background, research shows that certain sounds can help you work. So pop on whatever helps you get into a groove to get the most out of your work.

📅 March 26th, 2020: More important than ever, taking time for mental health is critical to your success and well being. Call a friend or loved one, have an impromptu dance session, do whatever makes you happy. But give yourself time to really enjoy whatever you love—because your personal and professional self will benefit from that time.

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