Remote working from home is more convenient than commuting to an office, but being a successful remote worker comes with a few challenges.
With the increased popularity of remote working, there is a new wave of remote workers joining the movement. Here are the top 5 tips for how to succeed as a remote worker in 2021…
1.) Take care of yourself
Being a successful remote worker all starts with you. Just like a standard office job, you need to maintain a healthy personal lifestyle in order to consistently perform at your best.
Being the best version of you starts with maintaining good health. Since remote working involves many hours of sitting, you will need to be mindful to take breaks, walk around and get some fresh air. However it’s not just about physical health, but also mental health. Working remotely from home can make you feel lonely and isolated. Taking your social life into your own hands- by actively reaching out to friends and family- becomes more important when you work from home.
When you work from home, the dress code (if there is any at all) is less strict. You can practically stay in your pajamas and no one will care as long as you’re productive. But it’s still a good idea to dress up moderately in front of the camera and at least comb your hair so you don’t look like you literally just woke up- even if you did just wake up.
Presenting yourself as if you’re prepared for the workday instills confidence in your colleagues. But it also serves a queue to help you mentally switch into “work mode” rather than doze off and lose focus.
When you work at home, sitting on the couch for 8 hours a day doesn’t cut it. It’s bad for you back, neck and overall productivity. You need a proper desk so that your laptop sits a at a comfortable level for typing. You need a good quality chair so that you can swivel around and adjust your seating position for maximum comfort. Fast and reliable WIFI internet is of course the bread and butter of being a remote worker.
2.) Communicate often
Working from home presents some communication challenges. Although you might use several messaging apps on your computer to talk with colleagues, it’s not enough to simply be part of the communication channels. You must also effectively use those communication channels.
Reactive vs Proactive Communication
If you wait for your manager or colleagues to ask you “what’s going on?” before talking to them, then you’re communicating reactively. But if you reach out to your team to let them know about your progress on a regular basis, then that’s considered to be proactive communication.
The problem with reactive communication is that it forces others to reach out to you in order to access information. That eventually becomes a one-sided communication strain and can cause frustration for others. Reactive communication often results in your team having outdated information. It’s especially problematic if you are blocked on an issue and need help, but you wait for others to reach out to you. Don’t wait until others reach out to you. Reach out to them first. Be proactive.
Communicating proactively means that you provide your team with information that may impact them, as soon as possible. The manger is interested in timelines, so if your deliverables will be delayed, it’s best to tell the manager sooner rather than later. Your team is interested in circumstances that might block their own progress or require a change of plans.
Not all communication is in the form of a chat discussion or video call. Most companies use project management software to track tasks. The software will track who is working on which task as well as the current status of the task. This includes software like Trello, Jira and ClickUp.
Ideally, you should ensure that the project management board is in sync with the state of your work. If your task is “in progress”, then the board should reflect that. It’s a fundamental requirement by pretty much any remote company, but sometimes people forget- and then confusion leads to miscommunication and inefficiency.
3.) Have good Slack/Zoom etiquette
Amongst the many software tools that a remote worker will use on a daily basis, Slack and Zoom are among the most popular. If you use these softwares for work, it’s good to have proper etiquette in how you use them.
Relevance and privacy on Slack
Slack allows you to communicate with your team- either broadcasting a message for everyone in the organization, or having a 1-on-1 discussion with a colleague. Choosing the right place to hold a discussion is crucial.
Keep your messages relevant
Each Slack channel serves a purpose, and should only be used for the designated purpose. If you are in the #design channel, you probably shouldn’t talk about #engineering or #sales, unless it specifically ties in with a design topic. Start all discussions on the relevant channel so that only the interested parties will see the message.
Make some discussions private
Sometimes you need to kindly move certain discussions from public channels to private channels. Keep everything nice and respectful, with extra sensitivity on public channels. Don’t say something that might tarnish someone’s image on a public channel. It’s awkward, embarrassing, and can permanently damage your relationship with colleagues. If you think that a discussion might get heated, then you should move the discussion to a private chat ASAP.
Microphone and camera on Zoom
Video conferencing with Zoom is a common activity when you work remotely from home. Your team will often begin the day with a “standup” call, where everyone verbally states their work plan for the day.
When using Zoom, there are 2 important actions you should know: how to mute your audio and how to turn off your camera. Once upon a time, there was a man who didn’t have this knowledge and the story didn’t end well…
Mute the mic
Why should you mute your microphone? One common problem is that your microphone will pick up background noise and other recipients on the call will hear that noise… Now imagine if everyone on the call has background noise- it becomes a fanfare of distractions. So when you aren’t talking, you should mute your audio. Then when you’re ready to talk, you should unmute it. If you need to step away from the laptop while still attending the Zoom call, then you should mute mic before leaving.
Turn off the camera
The other thing you’ll need to occasionally do is turn off your camera. Depending on your company, you will usually leave your camera on so that colleagues can see you. But sometimes- particularly if you need to excuse yourself and step away from the computer during a call- it’s a good idea to both mute your audio and turn off your camera so that you can maintain your privacy and also prevent your team from getting distracted.
4.) Know your team
In a remote working environment, you will rarely- if ever- meet your colleagues in person. You won’t meet them at a physical office nor go on lunch breaks with them. Therefore, you won’t know your colleagues very well outside of virtual discussions. The better you know you team members, the more effectively you can remotely collaborate with them.
Timezones and availability
Knowing the availability of your colleagues can make collaboration a smoother process. Some companies- especially those with an international workforce- have workers in different timezones. Try to memorize the work schedule of your colleagues so that you can schedule collaborative activities at the best times for all participants. There are many challenges to working in a different timezone, but when you know your team’s timezones and availability, you can easily overcome those challenges.
Roles and responsibilities
Everyone on a remote team- just like any organization- has specific roles and responsibilities. Sales, marketing, engineering, writing, product management, and customer service are just a few of the types of roles that might exist within your organization. Knowing who to reach out to when you have questions will help you solve problems faster and reduce the chances of miscommunication.
5.) Deliver Results
There is nothing that a organization values more than your ability to deliver the goods. Although employees are generally obligated to work the standard 40 hours a week, remote teams mostly care about results more than micromanaging your time.
You should understand what “delivery” means within your company. If you’re a writer, then deliver probably means publishing an article. If you’re a programmer, then delivery means releasing a feature to customers. If you’re a graphics designer, then delivery means releasing polished graphics files that meet the criteria.
There are many steps that lead to delivery, but delivery is the final step at which your work produces value so that the company can monetize and ultimately survive. When you consistently deliver, your job security will be hardened because you’re a valuable asset to the organization.