Date published 22/05/17 Written by Nik Andreev @ DataKom
6 essential tips to successfully work remotely
Working remotely is a fast-growing trend which, thanks to technological advances and changes in the workplace, has exploded. So much so, a new term was coined for it – “telecommuting”.
Research supported by 500 managers from UK-based medium-to-large companies, reveals that 70% of organisations will have adopted flexible working by 2020. It seems like a no-brainer, as research conducted in the US shows that employee productivity goes up by 34% when they work away.
On the other hand, telecommuting can be viewed as a business strategy, and not just as an employment perk. Hiring top talent that isn’t available nearby is what also drives this growth for remote work.
But working remotely is a double-edged sword, and can often jeopardise your productivity and discipline, rather than help it. Maybe that’s the reason why IBM has started telling telecommuters to go back to their offices, or else be fired.
So, what can you do to make telecommuting work for you?
1. Set your working hours and get into a routine
Ah… the feeling of not having to work nine until five every day… But what now? Once you break free from the shackles of the office routine you’ll probably find time management a bit difficult.
Without having to wake up to be at the office at a certain time, suddenly it becomes easier to oversleep or put work off and do stuff around your home instead. That’s why such freedom demands great discipline.
Choose working hours, which suit you and - if you’re company requires it – get them approved. After all, you’ll need to be easily reached by your team. Whatever the hours, try to commit to them every day and get into the routine. That way it will be a lot easier to manage your time and remain focused.
Boss pro tip: Let your remote employees choose their own hours, to keep them motivated and productive.
2. Have designated workspace and keep it tidy
Probably the most important thing to do before you begin working remotely is to set up a designated space in your home. A place where you can keep your business files, work computer, storage and other equipment neatly in one place.
Supplies used all the time should be at a hand’s reach and documents or papers you don’t need – put away. This will keep you organised, productive and more focus on your work.
Keeping your workspace tidy is more easily said than done, but once you get started you’ll soon see how much stuff is actually not needed for your day-to-day tasks and can be stored away.
Boss pro tip: Give employees an option to mail and store items at the office.
3. Get reliable broadband (and have a backup plan)
Without the internet, we won’t have telecommuters, so the obvious thing is to invest in a reliable broadband connection. That’s if you decide to spend most of your time working from home. If your line of work relies on transferring large files (e.g. video) you may need to go for a more expensive plan.
And of course, going offline for longer periods of time is unacceptable, so you should have a backup plan. Tether your mobile data to your computer to go back online, or get a 4G dongle, but be mindful of your usage.
If all of the above fails, go out and use a public WiFi, but remember to fire up a VPN (virtual private network) to keep your connection secure and avoid man-in-the-middle attacks.
Boss pro tip: Consider paying for the business mobile data or dongle.
4. Ensure efficient communication with your team
Being away from the team and not having face-to-face meetings can really affect the way you get work done and how you actually speak to people.
You risk becoming invisible if you keep to yourself. So, try to stay engaged with your co-workers and send regular updates on what work’s been done.
Often companies will have a project management system in place where employees track their progress on different tasks. This would help you remain up-to-date on what’s going on within the business.
Email is fine, but a good addition is an instant messaging software, such as Slack, to chat to different people. It’s also essentially to understand what’s expected of you as an employee and what support you expect from the company. A lot of things can be decided at the beginning but can be overlooked over time, especially once work gets busy.
Boss pro tip: Make sure everyone uses the right platforms and they’re being used properly.
5. Set yourself up with a business phone
It makes sense to have a separate business phone, so you don’t divert work-related calls to your personal phone (although that could make an acceptable short-term option).
There are two ways companies can go about this. The first one is by issuing remote employees with a business mobile. That way all billing and support is handled by the company. It’s probably the easiest option - but the cost of the handset and the plan would need to be considered.
The second option is to set up a cloud-based phone system, which can then be integrated with the employee’s existing phone. VoIP is cheaper and routes calls over the internet, so this makes it very flexible. Cloud phones offer all the features (and sometimes more) a traditional phone does.
Boss pro tip: Consider paying for the business handset and plan.
6. Don’t lose the personal touch
When you don’t see your team in real life, and communication is often via email or instant messaging, it’s easy to forget that there’s a human on the other end.
And every telecommuter would agree that sometimes it gets lonely – there are no random one-off chats with colleagues when making tea, nor there’s a sense of getting to know the team.
This can be avoided by having regular calls with the team to discuss projects or even organise brainstorm sessions. And managers can provide support by planning regular events, or organise a few days for remote employees to work in-house.
Appointing different telecommuters with common interests to work on a project, is also a good tactic to increase engagement.
There’s no substitute to meeting people face-to-face, and getting more involved together remains key to staying creative and productive.
Boss pro tip: Organise regular meetups and team events.
Working remotely can be excellent for both sides when the right people are hired for the right job and the company manages them effectively.
Telecommuters enjoy the perks of working away from the office, while the company reaps the benefits of having happy productive employees.
Have you ever considered letting your employees work remotely? How did it go?