The ultimate guide to working remotely


Working remotely(opens in a new tab or window)is nothing new for the modern workplace, with prominent companies like Basecamp(opens in a new tab or window), Upworthy(opens in a new tab or window), Buffer(opens in a new tab or window), Mozilla(opens in a new tab or window), and Zapier(opens in a new tab or window) building full-scale, long-term operations on remote-only teams, proving it to be a successful structure for innovative companies. So how can you make working remotely, work for you? That’s what we will cover in the article below.

If you can successfully implement some purposeful strategies into your new situation, you’re on your way to creating a remote working lifestyle that’s effective, productive and, most importantly, sensitive to your wellbeing.

What is working remotely?

Working remotely involves the coordination of a workforce that isn’t necessarily in one office space. Instead, staff can work from any location, across any time zone and generally connect via a number of online collaboration tools.

With globalization and online work(opens in a new tab or window) being contributing factors to how people would like to work and what fits in with their lifestyle, new pressures have emerged for workplaces in regards to processes, productivity, teamwork, and employee morale. The demand for quick, effective adaptation is necessary for the success of both employees and employers alike.

Top tips for working remotely

1. Create a home office

Image by Norbert Levajsics via Unsplash.

While the location of your work may have changed with the switch to working remotely(opens in a new tab or window), the fundamentals of your working day can still be retained. In order to maintain the structure that your in-office working life afforded you, it’s important to treat a part of your home in the same way you would treat your previous office. That means dedicating a clean, functional space to your work, with essential elements being a supportive chair, proper desk, a fast internet connection, functional laptop with in-built camera, and your own personal additions, such as headphones or stationery. You’ll be far more likely to stay focused on work when you’re cocooned in your self-created ‘office’ rather than a haphazard corner in the kitchen and you’ll be much more productive and efficient as a result.

2. Increase the transparency with your team

Even outside of a crisis such as a global pandemic, company-wide transparency can have an enormous impact on employee wellbeing. One study(opens in a new tab or window) even suggests that transparency is the most important factor in deterring employee happiness. Ease the worries of your teams by adopting a transparent and constantly communicative approach, when it comes to big (and small) developments with your company. Don’t be casual but do be straightforward – team members will subsequently feel as though they’re in safe and honest hands – a helpful strategy for maintaining morale.

3. Build a schedule for your workday

Image by Samantha Gade via Unsplash.

Not one for schedules? You might have to adapt. If you let some semblance of your schedule slip while remote working, you’ll likely be on the couch scrolling Instagram(opens in a new tab or window) before 11 am and this has ramifications for you when it comes to actually relax at the end of the day.

The thing with remote working is that it’s incredibly difficult — and incredibly important — to separate work life from home life. The secret to drawing a line between these elements (apart from not showing up for your day in your pajamas) is to stick to a clear schedule that separates the two worlds. When your work starts, it starts, and that means no couch time, no constant feet-dragging to the fridge and instead, making a commitment to a structured working day — lunch and tea breaks included. Then, when it’s finished, the laptop shuts and you’re in ‘home’ mode, securely. If things start to bleed into one another, you’ll feel demotivated in both scenarios. To enjoy knock-off time, you have to show up for work time - it’s a two-way street.

If you need help staying on track, try a Canva scheduling template such as Purple and White Boxes Work Schedule Planner(opens in a new tab or window) or Green Pink Simple Work Schedule Planner - they’ll help you create the ultimate to-do lists and stick to a schedule.

4. Incorporate self-care into your routine

Work and home life separation can become increasingly difficult when the two activities share the same physical space. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make certain to draw a line between the two for your mental health and wellbeing.

Incorporating some simple self-care techniques into your day is paramount in maintaining a healthy remote working environment. Start with the simple things, such as scheduling regular breaks for tea brewing or leg stretches, as well as 15-minute slots for stepping outside to top up your vitamin D and getting fresh air. Then, ensure that a full lunch break and think about how you can use the time to get reacquainted with yourself. Introducing some physical health boosters into the day doesn’t have to take a huge chunk of time or cost you any money, for example; online sources for short, accessible, and free exercise routines spanning circuits(opens in a new tab or window), Pilates(opens in a new tab or window) and yoga(opens in a new tab or window) are plentiful. There’s no excuse not to schedule (and stick to) this vital part of your daily, pre-isolation life.

5. Stay motivated with goals

If working from home ignites a feeling of professional disconnection, it’s time to get reacquainted. Experts at Berkeley University suggest(opens in a new tab or window) sitting down and asking yourself several questions such as: “what would your career be like if you had the power to make it any way you wanted?” and “imagine yourself in the future at a point in which you have achieved great career success: what is it that you have accomplished? What does your life look like?” Once you get closer to understanding what it is you want from your job and professional path, you can start taking steps towards that into your day-to-day and, ultimately, make your daily efforts towards professional success that much more motivating.

Looking to set new goals? Incorporate a Canva goal planner template to help you on your way. Blue and Pink New Year Goals Mind Map(opens in a new tab or window) or Yellow Rectangles SWOT Analysis Mind Map(opens in a new tab or window) can give you the tools to plot a path for success. Or conduct a SWOT analysis(opens in a new tab or window) to refine your career vision and strategies.

6. Upskill with online courses

One considerable benefit of working remotely is the elimination of the daily commute, giving us ample time to develop new and hone old skills. Use this time to upskill with any online courses that take your fancy; sign up to an architecture course on Open Culture, conquer the kitchen courtesy of leading chef Massimo Bottura or finally learn that language. You’ll be more motivated to clock off - and subsequently, clock back on - if you’re actively exploring pursuits that bring your joy outside of your work life.

How to boost team productivity when working from home

1. Communicate effectively with your remote working team

Even the best leaders and team members might struggle with communication while working remotely. The lack of body language can make difficult discussion subjects even more difficult while assigning tasks or giving feedback over email can often come across as dismissive, cold or unfriendly.

The key to success is to revisit your communication skills generally, then apply them specifically. Firstly, get familiar with listening as a fundamental communication skill - a very important skill when remote working. In addition, apply a varied approach to your communication; save phone calls for more personalized check-ins, Slack for quick feedback and check-ins, video calls for daily team meetings and email for formal and external communication.

2. Give your remote working team autonomy

If you’re hired the best people, then they’re capable of doing the best job no matter where they’re located. Empower them to make decisions and take ownership of tasks rather than giving in to the temptation to micromanage. Not only is autonomy a way to make people more productive, but it also reduces dependencies and often leads to quicker task delivery, as well as being a morale booster; the University of Birmingham’s Business School found(opens in a new tab or window) that higher levels of job satisfaction and overall well being were related to those who had a considerable amount of control of their tasks and schedule.

Conversely, if your team member that finds your manager is tempted to take a high touch approach, show them through your diligence that you can be trusted with successfully completing, as well as adding value to the tasks you’re assigned. Checking in regularly will also put your manager’s mind at ease.

3. Use the right collaboration and remote working tools

Image by Charles Deluvio vis Unsplash.

Don’t think you’re alone in this monumental shift to remote working; a number of clever tech apps and platforms exist to fill the gap of water cooler chat and daily face-to-face catch-ups in order to facilitate collaboration and smooth over daily kinks in task completion. Many companies migrate documents and resources to Google Drive(opens in a new tab or window), a file storage and synchronization service, where the location of staff is irrelevant and collaboration is straightforward and simple. Slack(opens in a new tab or window), the instant messaging tool, has a favored communication tool across leading tech companies from Airbnb(opens in a new tab or window) to Dropbox(opens in a new tab or window), with many using it as a near-replacement for internal emails. Other popular options include Zoom(opens in a new tab or window), Google Hangouts or Ring Central VIdeo(opens in a new tab or window) for video conferencing, Trello(opens in a new tab or window), Asana(opens in a new tab or window), Basecamp(opens in a new tab or window) or in a new tab or window) for organizing and tracking shared tasks, as well as something like Glint(opens in a new tab or window) to continue the all-important feedback loop between managers and staff. Plus, a good old fashioned phone call never goes astray, especially when sensitive matters need to be discussed. And of course, for all your design, organizational(opens in a new tab or window), and presenting needs, Canva(opens in a new tab or window) has you sorted.

Why not remind your staff which collaboration channel is which with a Canva template? Bright color combinations and bold text can be a fun reminder to your team members where to turn if they have questions about a task - try Yellow Design Process Blog Graphic(opens in a new tab or window) and Yellow SEO Strategy Mind Map displays information in a simple and eye-catching manner.

4. Create clear processes for remote working teams

It may seem counterintuitive but clear processes and supportive culture are actually inextricably linked; direct, concrete processes help to remove confusion and miscommunication, giving way to confident employees and productive teams. One critical step in ensuring your team feels included and empowered to take on their specific tasks is to ensure that there is a unified, simple process that they can follow from project to project, allowing for some independence with their work. Here are the critical stages to bookmark with structured steps:

A clear briefing process: When starting any project, it’s important to host a meeting and ensure all relevant stakeholders are present. It’s also important to provide enough context, set clear expectations, and metrics for success, as well as giving enough space to your team members to ask any questions or raise any initial feedback, allowing for clear alignment with tasks and outcomes from the beginning.

Regular syncs: Once your project has been launched, it’s important to regularly check in with your team and see how each individual is doing. Whether this is a weekly meeting, daily sync or a quick email to individuals, make certain to ensure that your team feels like they can safely and effectively communicate their progress or any issues they are having. Additionally, to foster a feeling of inclusivity, take turns in hosting these meetings, so that everyone feels seen and heard.

Final retrospective: Once you’ve finished any project, sprint or a set period of time such as the end of the week or month, it’s important to check in and see what was done right and what can be improved and what could be made better. It’s also an opportunity to check in with team morale levels and adjust accordingly.

If your staff need written direction for new processes, consider using a Canva template to communicate this new knowledge. Templates such as Charcoal and Green Effective Communication Process Flow Chart(opens in a new tab or window) and Red and Purple Process Flow Chart(opens in a new tab or window) clearly address step-by-step processes in a fun, approachable way.

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