Remember when your boss told you that you couldn’t work remote because they couldn’t support it? Yet, here we are.
When it comes to remote work, people tend to fall into one of three categories: You're already experienced working in or running a remote team; you've worked from home on occasion but it's not the norm; or you're new to this whole work at home thing.
No matter which category you fall in, things feel particularly chaotic at the moment. As more coworkers, customers, and families are living and working at home, everyone is wondering the same thing: how can I possibly stay sane, productive and professional while homeschooling 3 kids, dealing with roommates, cooking and cleaning, or battling umpteen other distractions.
As the challenges of COVID-19 continue to evolve, this article will share nuggets of remote wisdom to help you remain productive (and mostly sane) in any remote work situation.
While the current state of affairs might not be the ‘normal’ work from home set up, together we can adapt, embrace new norms, and make it all work. No one knows how long this will last, so preparation is key.
Is Remote Work Still a Thing Once This Is Over?
Before we get started, let me say that Coronavirus or no virus - remote work is here and here to stay. It’s been slowly building in the background, with a small but mighty workforce that is finally getting the limelight it deserves (maybe for the wrong reasons, but hey). There's no shortage of statistics to support this.
According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work, “Of our respondents, 99% said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. This is a notable stat to have discovered; while remote work is sometimes portrayed as a trend, these results infer that it's here to stay. Out of all the data we collected, no response was as powerful as this one.”
What Is Remote Work?
Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully.
Professionals now have the flexibility to design their days so that their work and personal lives can be experienced to their fullest potential and coexist peacefully.
Who would’ve thought such a novel concept could exist?
There has been a cultural paradigm shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace - and remote work has capitalized off of that newfound freedom.
Let’s not forget that not every person has the luxury of being able to do their job from anywhere in the world. If you are reading this article and can actually work remotely, it is a privilege and a blessing that should not be undervalued - especially in today’s world.
How Do You Work Remotely?
From one remote worker to another, here are some tips for keeping distractions and uncertainty at bay, so you can remain focused and get stuff done.
1. Get Up From Your Bed to Work
Get up, brush your teeth (maybe put on pants?) and get into your work zone. This is the first skill you must develop to be an effective remote worker: the discipline to get yourself out of bed when you don’t have to.
2. Set a Schedule for Yourself
With the flexibility that remote work offers, you are no longer confined to the 9-5 hustle and bustle of traditional offices. The ability to set your own schedule is seen as one of the biggest benefits of remote work but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create a schedule for yourself and one that works for you. Set it and stick to it.
Pro Tip: You can always change this and even develop different schedules for different days of the week but tread carefully. It takes time to build good habits.
3. Set Up the Right Work Environment for Yourself
If you only work remote once in a blue moon, working from the couch or a corner coffee shop might cut it. But when working remotely becomes your new day-to-day, you need a work space that works for you and helps you stay productive.
Make sure to set up an uncluttered space with desk and a supportive, yet comfortable chair. Consider adding “joy items” like family photos and plants. Keep a water bottle (and/or coffee mug) in arm’s reach. Have a pad ready for notes and lists.
4. Find and Use the Right Tools
In an era of SaaS domination, there really is a tool for just about everything. Don’t think that because you aren’t in an office you can’t collaborate, brainstorm or run an effective meeting. You just need the right tools to do so.
At PhoneBurner, we’ve been leading the remote work revolution since before it was trending on Twitter. We have a 100% remote team that helps people do phone outreach from anywhere, and have up to 4x more live conversations every single day.
Here are some of the tools we use to work remotely:
- Slack: For company updates, day-to-day communication and alerts.
- Zoom: For meetings, one-to-ones, brainstorms, design reviews and more.
- Wrike: For project management, accountability and visibility of what we are working on.
- Miro: For real-time collaboration and planning.mThink of this as your virtual white board.
- PhoneBurner: For power dialing and outbound prospecting. Yes, we actually use our own product.
5. We are Humans Who Need to Eat, Drink, and Take Breaks
One of the biggest upsides of remote work is the lack of office distractions. A quiet zone (if you can create one under your current circumstances) can give you the ability to hyper-focus and actually get meaningful work done, but sometimes we can get lost in the flow.
It’s important to remind ourselves that we are human. We need to eat, drink, get up and stretch, and take breaks, and this is perfectly okay.
Pro Tip: A short 10 minute walk around the block to get some vitamin D is a great way to clear the mind and find a new wave of energy (or just a distraction from the 3 hour nap you actually want to take).
6. Build the Right Processes to Ship Meaningful Work
If remote work is a long-term game for you or your business, the processes you implement will make or break your success. There are great resources from companies like Basecamp that have been working remotely for years that I highly recommend:
Shape Up from Basecamp: How to stop running in circles and ship work that matters. If your team struggles to ship (remote or not), Shape Up will help you break free of processes that aren’t working to get you on the path towards shipping meaningful work.
They also have a phenomenal podcast called ReWork that talks about how to work and run a remote business.
7. Understand Remote Work and Embrace the Culture Shift
As with most things in life, there are pros and cons. The same goes for remote work. If you want to work remote and do it right, you have to learn and there is no better place to learn than from companies and individuals that have been working remote for years.
Check out The Guide to Remote Work by Zapier who, like our team at PhoneBurner, have been working remote since their launch.
This book shares everything they’ve learned about running a remote team - successes, failures and everything in between.
8. Magic Can Happen Outside an Office
There’s a common misbelief that novel ideas and big business decisions can only be made face-to-face inside an office conference room. Believe it or not, the office isn't the only place to make meaningful work happen. Magic can happen outside an office too.
Recognize it, embrace it and experience it for yourself.
You would be surprised what two people with a voice connection and a screen share can accomplish.
9. Schedule Time to Unplug
Just like traditional workers have the ability to leave the office when the clock strikes 5 o’clock, you have the power to unplug too. Remembering to stop working is one of the challenges that most remote workers struggle with.
It sounds simple, right? You are wondering, ‘how do people struggle to stop working?’ Well always easier said than done, but commit to mastering this early and you will already be ahead.
10. Remember Remote Work Isn’t Always What You Think It Is
Similar to scrolling through Instagram, life is not always what it appears to be. The same goes for remote work.
Amir Salihefendic is CEO of Doist, the fully remote company behind popular task manager and to-do list app Todoist. Salihefendic stated that “remote work isn't just a different way to work – it's a different way to live. And, unlike what you might see on Instagram, working remotely doesn't mean you jet set to exotic locations to drink piña coladas on the beach.”
While there are many benefits to remote work, like not having to spend 1-3 hours per day commuting, there are downsides as well.
Salihefendic reminds us, “we need to acknowledge that isolation, anxiety, and depression are significant problems when working remotely, and we must figure out ways and systems to resolve these complex issues.”
Needless to say, mental health matters. It’s important to recognize the impact that working remotely has on us and take steps to face challenges head on.
Check in with coworkers, both about work and just to say hello. Keeping up connections can make you feel more connected and engaged both at and away from the keyboard.