Whether you already work remotely or it’s something you are experiencing for the first time, there is no question that remote work is on the rise.
Over half of all companies globally use remote workers, and the ability to work from home at least part of the time is becoming a key factor in job searches
Working from home has its ups and downs (as does working in a shared office space), but many organizations have found that job satisfaction, productivity, and employee wellbeing has increased substantially when people are given the opportunity to do some of their work remotely.
Pros and Cons of Working From Home
There are some really great benefits and some less preferred drawbacks of working from home. Knowing the pros and cons of remote work can help you formulate a game plan for success.
- Flexibility for personal life, errands, household chores
- No commute
- No dress code
- No office distractions or overheard conversations, etc.
- Decreased stress and pressure when in the comfort of home
- Blurry boundaries between work and personal life can lead to stress and burnout
- Less in-person accountability
- Home distractions from family members, pets, or personal life
- Team communication can be harder
Core Building Blocks of a Successful Remote Team
There are two main pieces to the puzzle: how to be productive as an individual and how to make things flow as a team.
"For me, the most productive times of the day are usually early in the morning. So I focus my energy on the most important tasks during this time"
Jon Malmberg, Co-Founder Doit.io
There are a few key elements you need to have in place in order to stay connected as a group and get the best out of everyone in a healthy way.
Bosses and leaders that like to micromanage might have a hard time with trust. But it’s crucial to leave it to the employees as to how they get the work done.
Remember, one benefit of remote work is flexibility, which means people may want to split up their workday so they can exercise or take a nap in the middle of the day (which can actually boost their productivity).
Expecting people to respond immediately to every piece of communication and then questioning their work ethic when they don’t isn’t beneficial for anyone. Focus instead on the deliverables — not counting out the minutes of work or trying to measure the amount of time a person is sitting at their computer. Create clear goals and deadlines for tasks and projects, and measure success on goals being met over the long-term.
Structure is important. But it should be relatively loose. Keep a regular weekly team meeting that you can facilitate with video, and make sure you have a specific agenda and time limit.
Have a rough schedule for the week and create certain time slots where people are expected to be present and available for focused work. It’s not 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. though. Think in shorter time spans, like 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. Remember that in a normal office setting, people are really only spending 2-3 hours doing actual work.
Expecting people to always be available for work communication isn’t healthy. Remember, one of the downsides of remote work can be the inability to draw boundaries between work life and home life.
It all feels the same sometimes! And this can have negative effects on wellbeing and lead to burnout. So it’s important to encourage people to turn off their devices and go take care of themselves. Get outside, go for a walk, do some exercise, engage in a hobby, etc.
Working from home can be very isolating. The upside to an office setting is the ability to take breaks with a coworker friend or chat with someone in the hallway about their weekend plans.
Create opportunities for virtual non-work social hangouts and team-building exercises. Keep a sense of connection within your team on a personal level. Not only will your team be happier and see benefits to their mental health, but their work will probably be better, too.
It’s so important to create the utmost clarity in communication systems when people are working remotely. Use a platform or app to organize teams, goals, and interactions.
Create rules and expectations for how people should communicate in different situations. You don’t want some people sending emails, some sending texts, and a handful using the group platform. If possible, keep all communication in one place, and when issues need to be communicated, make sure people are giving as much information as possible to minimize back-and-forth.
10 Tips for Individual Productivity From Home
Now that we have the virtual team building blocks in place, it’s up to each individual to manage their own time and workflow so they can be as productive as possible from home. Because as we mentioned before, the freedom can be amazing, but it can also be hard if you don’t have your own personal rules to abide by. Whether you are new to the concept or not, here are 10 tips that can help you work from home more effectively.
1. Stick to set work hours.
Setting your own routine can help your brain know that it’s time to shift into work mode and also know when it’s time to rest. So get started on time. And when it’s the end of the workday, close out the applications and browser tabs, and put away the work. If your employer doesn’t set them for you, then set them for yourself. The lines get blurry between personal life and work life if you’re not careful.
2. Align the right tasks with the right time of day.
Do you hit a slump after lunch? I know I do, and I absolutely cannot do focused work. What I can do effectively is have a phone call, answer email, or do mundane tasks like cleaning up or filling out a form. Most people experience the afternoon slump.
And most people also find that first thing in the morning is when they do their freshest, most creative, most focused work. Make sure you listen to your own personal rhythms and do the best you can to align the type of work you are doing with the time of day you feel best doing it.
3. Create a dedicated workspace.
Don’t work from your bed. And if possible try to avoid working in the bedroom. Set up a space that is meant for working.
If you don’t have a desk, then you may have to set up a table or get creative to find a space for work. Sitting down at a dedicated space signals to your brain that it’s time to shift into the work gear, and it helps you create some separation from home life. This doesn’t mean you can’t change it up sometimes and sit on the front porch to work. But be aware of when the change of location does you good or does you harm.
4. Get out of your PJs.
You don’t have to abide by a dress code, and that’s pretty cool. But it comes back to the idea of signaling to your brain that it’s time to work. So many of these tips revolve around creating the separation between personal and work life in a healthy way — as well as jump-starting your brain into a “work mode.” Pajamas don’t say “work.” And staying in your PJs doesn’t look very good on that video conferencing call, does it?
5. Set clear boundaries with others at home.
If there are others in your home, this can be hard. When you are at the office, it’s accepted that you’re working. Your family typically doesn’t contact you unless it’s an emergency, and they probably don’t show up at your office 10 times a day to get your help with fixing the doorknob or to ask for a sandwich.
When you work from home, you have to clearly communicate that you are not available during certain times. Keep your workspace separate from hangout areas, and make sure they know your work hours. Make sure you set specific times where you are available for connection (i.e. breakfast, lunch, and after 5 p.m.).
6. Block distractions.
When you’re home, there are plenty of distractions. And there is no one looking over your shoulder, or peeking in your office to say hello, or sharing a cubicle or workspace with you. You have to exercise self-control. Eek! Close out your social media and pinging phone notifications. Put a sign on the door to once again remind family members not to disturb you (if possible).
If noise is an issue, put on headphones or use a sound machine to drown out sounds. Don’t be tempted by housework unless you know it won’t turn into a half-day affair. (I, personally, get started by simply throwing a load of laundry in, but then I notice 10 other messy things that need attention and get completely sidetracked.)
7. Start your day with a personal ritual.
If you wait until the end of the day to do something for yourself, you could end up resentful of work and everyone around you. Pick a couple of simple things to do for yourself at the start of the day, before you shift into work mode. Maybe it’s a walk around the block or coffee on the back porch. Maybe you have a meditation practice or just play with your kids. Fill your own personal tank before you get to work.
8. Clearly communicate with your team.
Communication is one of the key building blocks for the team. And it’s important to remember on the individual level as well. Use the communication tool that has been agreed upon by the team, and be super-clear in your messages and responses. Stay connected with people and make sure the people on your team know what they need to know about what you’re working on.
9. Stay organized.
Set up your to-do list for the next day at end of every workday. Understand your priorities and those of your team. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day. Make use of time blocks and scheduling out your day in chunks. Keep to a daily routine to the best of your ability.
10. Take breaks.
Make time throughout your workday to get away from your desk and your devices. Move your body, go outside, and take social breaks. It’s easier at home to just sit at your desk and scroll social media or check personal email, but every part of your mind and body needs a break from the screen, from sitting, and from the workspace. So make yourself take them.
Don't be too hard on yourself
If you’re new to working from home, it can take a while to adjust and figure out what works best for you. So don’t be too hard on yourself. If it’s new for your whole team, have a discussion with everyone to create solutions and learn what is working for them. Even if it’s not new, there are always ways to improve and refine the process.