An obvious one perhaps, but remote workers need to be more deliberate in their communication than office or based colleagues. When you can’t tap the person next to you on the shoulder, or walk into your manager’s office, you need to be intentional in communicating your needs or questions – the information or response you want – so you can stay on task and meet your deadlines. You also need to be proactive in scheduling regular calls or virtual team meetings to exchange updates, check in on project progress (or change of course or priority), stakeholder actions or feedback and other information that ensures you don’t feel ‘disconnected’ or ‘out of the loop’ in any way.
2. TALK…DON’T EMAIL
Resist the temptation to fire off emails to everyone. Instead, schedule daily or every other day, 10 minute ‘reconnects’ by phone. You’ll learn about what’s happening and what colleagues think, feel, are excited about or struggling with (and you’ll get aligned on actions and decisions more quickly) than engaging in email ping-pong.
3. START EACH DAY WITH A ‘GOLDEN HOUR’
A golden hour is your time to: plan and prioritise your work for the day and – if necessary – test and agree them with colleagues/managers; respond to urgent emails; provide information to other remote workers to enable them to be effective; make a To Do List or create a weekly activity planner and generally organise your daily schedule to maximise time and minimise distractions.
4. PROTECT TIME
Sometimes, remote working can feel like an endless stream of conference calls, video conferences and check-ins – with no time to do the work! And, unfortunately, when you work remotely, nobody knows the ‘best’ time to contact you – they tend to telephone, use Teams or email when it’s the best time for them! So, you need to be intentional in protecting your time. Know the times of day when you’re most productive and protect that time as much you can. Turn off Outlook, put your phone on silent, close the door of your remote workspace so you can focus on your work. Try using the automated “Focus Time” setting in MS My Analytics.
When your home is also your office, it can be hard to separate the two. As much as possible, try to create a designated workspace (and avoid working on your kitchen table or on your lap on the sofa) so your brain (and your household!) know when you’re in ‘work mode’ or ‘home mode.’
6. TAKE BREAKS AND MOVE ABOUT
Breaks come naturally in an office or hotel – coffee, lunch or simply moving to a different area of the hotel or office for your next meeting. When you’re working remotely, and in the flow of work, you can easily sit at the same desk, in the same position, for hours – just making a quick coffee or snack and then sitting right back down again. Set a timer on your watch or phone to ensure you take a break from your screen and stand up and move about for 10 minutes every hour.
7. CREATE A ‘TO DON’T’ LIST
When you’re working from home the ‘lure of the chore’ can be hard to resist! You are acutely aware of ‘stuff’ that needs to get done e.g. household chores or life admin. It’s even easier to be drawn to the internet or social media if no-one is watching over your shoulder! People who work remotely do need a strong degree of self-motivation, but we’re all human and easily distracted and – before we know it – an hour has gone by. Every time you think of a distraction, note it down on your ‘To Don’t List’ – it’s a great technique for strengthening willpower to resist!
8. ESTABLISH A WORKING PATTERN OR STRUCTURE
Establishing a working pattern or daily routine is essential for remote workers. Plan and structure your working time around your deliverables and – potentially – other personal, family and caring commitments. It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed if you are carrying around all the things you ‘must’ do in your head. So, list them out under ‘work’ and ‘other’ and allocate blocks of time to them. You may need to flex them in response to others, or to emerging opportunities or unforeseen developments – but establishing your ‘core’ working pattern (and communicating it to others) helps you to set and manage expectations about when you are and are not available. It’s up to you to ‘self-police’ this. If you start responding to emails at 9pm at night, others may think it’s fine to contact you at 9pm at night. Working remotely doesn’t mean you have to be available 24/7 – but it does mean you need to communicate your working pattern clearly (and frequently!)
9. HAVE A ‘SHUTDOWN’ RITUAL
When you do finish work for the day, have a specific ritual that helps you manage the transition into ‘home mode’ – and signpost to your household that you’re now ‘at home’ and available to them. This could be: tidying your desk, filing your notes, closing and logging off the computer, switching off the light and closing the door to your workspace or office room etc. Don’t be tempted to write the To Do list for tomorrow…you’ll end up trying to start it!
10. GO EASY ON YOURSELF
You’re still you even if you’re now working remotely. Don’t think you’re expected to be more, do more, produce more or prove yourself more in some way. You will have energy ebbs and flows; there will be days when you just can’t get motivated and – as long as that doesn’t become every day – it’s OK. Ignore the ‘mind-chatter’ that says if you’re not ‘logged on’ and in constant contact, others might think you’re slacking off. Cut yourself some slack and try to establish working rhythms that work for you and meet the needs of the business. That includes making time to learn and grow too! Investing 60 minutes a week in your professional development – e.g. by completing online courses, joining webinars, reviewing articles etc. helps you keep up to date and means you don’t neglect your long-term career development plans.