Many employees are rejoicing as remote working gains popularity. It’s a dream for those who love flexibility and freedom, but it can be intimidating for employees who consider themselves extroverts or are used to going to an office every day. Whether you are excited or nervous about working remotely, there are some unique challenges to face as you start figuring out your new remote work life.
Whole Whale has two full-time remote employees (one being our Chief Whaler!) and everyone else has the option of working from home on Fridays. After more than 6 years of experimenting with remote work, we’ve learned a great deal along the way and have funneled those experiences into 9 of our favorite remote work hacks. Build these tricks into your routine to ensure a smooth transition, maintain productivity, and create a sense of camaraderie with your coworkers.
Invest in a communication tool
Clear, consistent communication is going to be key for your remote work success. This doesn’t mean you need to be talking to your coworkers all day long, but knowing that everyone has a common tool to brainstorm, ask questions, and post notes is crucial.
There are so many communication tools these days, but our favorite is Slack. We have a channel for every client along with many internal channels, like one for “Analytics”, one for “AdWords”, and one for “HR.” We even have fun channels like “Travel” and “Music” where employees can post non-work related content. These serve as our virtual water cooler and help everyone feel connected beyond the daily grind.
Weekly check-ins and monthly BOCs (Beverage of Choice)
Meet your new best friend, the video call. Don’t be afraid to use it and use it often. At Whole Whale, every manager and direct report has a weekly check-in. We conduct these via video for those who are remote, along with a daily staff meeting held every morning for each team member to recap what they did the day before and what their priorities are for the day ahead.
The weekly check-in is effective for non-remote workers, but it becomes even more important for those who are remote as it ensures that there is a time every week where the remote worker can raise concerns, give feedback, review goals, and feel connected to their manager and/or direct report. There are a plethora of video tools out there, and after experimenting with a few we’ve found Zoom to be the best for quality connection.
We’ve also developed a check-in concept called the BOC (Beverage of Choice) for employees to chat with each other about non-work-related matters. We put BOCs on the calendar about once a month and talk about anything new in our lives like things going on with our families, our workout routines, new music we love, an awesome movie we saw, etc. These help us stay connected to each other and build relationships that go deeper than work. And yes, we use video calls for BOCs with remote workers. Grab your favorite beverage and turn on your webcam. Cheers!
Develop a routine
Maybe you’re thinking working remotely means every day is a free-for-all of sleeping in, Netflix, and naps. False. Developing a daily route can be helpful in terms of productivity and getting your mind in the GTD (getting things done) zone. Maybe your daily routine is actually a weekly routine, where certain days of the week look different than others so you still get that remote work flexibility. Figure out a schedule that works for you (and your team), and own it.
Take advantage of being remote
While it’s crucial to develop a routine, that routine doesn’t have to look the same as it would if you were commuting to an office every day. You want to take advantage of being remote so you can experience some of the perks! Maybe you incorporate a lunchtime yoga class into your routine twice a week, or perhaps on Wednesdays, you always work from the same coffee shop with a friend. Maybe you start a little earlier than your coworkers and end the day earlier (or the other way around). Maybe you take more “vacations” but build in working days since you can work from anywhere that has WiFi. If you take advantage of these perks you won’t feel the same confinement as you would sitting at the same desk every day — regardless of whether that desk is in an office building or your home.
Be a human (get dressed)
This one is simple: Don’t be a pajama sloth. Get out of your pajamas. Put on other clothes. Hey, I’m not judging. It doesn’t need to be a pantsuit (but #pantsuitnation forever), it could be workout gear. Just put on something that isn’t what you wore to bed. This will do wonders for your mind and will get your brain out of relaxing mode and into work mode (even if your desk is within arm’s reach of your bed).
Work in Sprints
If you are unfamiliar with Agile Project Management, now is the time to get cozy with this system. If your company uses a project management tool to track work and review that work every X number of weeks or month (our favorite is Asana), there is no place to hide. Because you don’t have the typical office distractions, you’ll probably be even more efficient than your non-remote coworkers. Tracking and reviewing your work in an agile way will allow you to show off all of your hard work in a way that can’t be seen day-to-day. It will also help you feel accomplished even if you haven’t left the house in 3 days. (Bonus tip: Leave your house.)
Have a workspace (or two)
Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you can work anywhere, like from your bed. Don’t go there. Instead, find a space in your house or apartment and designate it as your Work Space. This will get your mind ready to work and help you to stay focused on work — similar to changing out of your pajamas in the morning. If you want to take advantage of being remote, having more than one space that is your designated Work Space will allow you to move around. This can be that sweet spot in your home and a certain table at your local coffee shop or library.
Build a community outside of work
This is key if you’re going to be remote: You need humans that you can interact with in real life, even if you are an introvert. Build this community in whatever way works for you — joining a book club, making friends at your local yoga studio, climbing gym, running group, etc. Build this community and actually hang out with them on a regular basis.
We’ve given you a few tips, now figure out what works for you! It’s great to experiment the first few months and develop a pattern that you’ll be able to sustain over time. It’s also okay — and in fact totally normal — if your routine or remote working needs change over time. If you get in a remote work funk, that means it’s time to switch it up. Have fun with it!
Do you work remotely? Have any tips or tricks we left out? Let us know over on Twitter. We’d love to know what works for you!