Top 10 Tips And Tools For Remote Beginners

Remote work is now an established part of the “new normal,” but after a year of working from home, many still struggle with it. These remote work best practices will help people feel connected, optimize performance, maintain their sanity and stay motivated.

Establish A Dedicated Workspace

An Internet connection is essential (more on that below), but just as important for a remote work environment is a haven from distractions. Distractions can include family members, pets, chores and others. Find a corner where you can set up a desk, preferably in a room where you can shut the door. If at all possible, it’s a good idea to make this a work-only space. Make sure the desk, chair and computer are set up ergonomically.

Use A Good Computer

Of course you need a computer, but it should be a good one. Employers typically provide computers for in-office workers, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that they will provide them to remote workers. Whether it is company provided or your own personal computer, it needs to be reliable and able to handle higher-bandwidth situations, such as video conferencing.

Invest In A Robust Internet Connection

You need a stable, reliable Internet service. A good minimum requirement is 10 Mbps upload and download, but household needs can vary. If your family has TVs, tablets, phones and laptops using bandwidth at the same time, you may need more than 10 Mbps. Your employer may be willing to help offset the costs, and you also should talk to a tax advisor about deducting these and other home office costs.

Use Two Monitors

Working all day on a 13″ laptop screen or even a single larger screen will slow you down. My own remote employees do complex work that requires cross-referencing information from multiple sources. I worked with one individual who struggled at home, and then realized she was trying to do it all on a single screen. We got her a second monitor and her performance quickly improved. In fact, she is now one of my top performers.

Set Work/Life Boundaries

Work-life fit, work-life blend, work-life harmony, work-life synergy —  whatever you choose to call it, it is essential both for both employees and leaders. Regardless of time zones, no one should be on a video call at 8:30 PM when they really should be reading their child a bedtime story. A strong work ethic is great, but it can also lead to burnout.

To avoid burnout, set regular work hours and rhythm, including incorporating breaks and lunch time in your day. If possible, use your breaks to go outside for a change of scene — walk the dog, water the garden or run an errand. When you come back to your desk, you should find yourself at least a little refreshed.

Use Video For Meetings

You may have heard the popular axiom that communication is 7% verbal and 93% nonverbal. Remote communication hinders nonverbal communication, but video is one way to overcome that. It’s never as strong as in-person interactions, but you can make a stronger connection when you see one another face to face.  For one thing, seeing someone smile or smiling yourself triggers neurotransmitters in your brain that relax you and lower heart rate and blood pressure.

Avoid Excessive One-On-One Meetings

In the brick-and-mortar world, managers would pop by an employee’s cubicle for a five-minute chat. But after going remote many are scheduling 30-minute meetings. If you manage remote teams, consider using platforms like Slack or Teams to replace the cubicle chat & find the right balance of communication and productivity. Consider also including several people in those brief virtual chats so you can stay in touch while moving faster (to better outcomes).

Don’t Have A Meeting If An Email Or Chat Message Will Do

There are advantages to having regular short meetings, like shift change downloads or Agile-Scrum standups. But if the information can be shared with remote team members in an email or chat, that’s one less meeting on your people’s calendars.

Use Your Best Written Communication Skills

Working remotely makes clear, concise written communication in real time more important than ever, because of the increased reliance on email and instant message channels. Without non-verbal cues to help, writing becomes disembodied words. Some jobs don’t require mastery in this area, but any job that requires a good deal of collaboration and back-and-forth communication does.

Practice Sprint And Rest Techniques

Here’s a time management trick for yourself and your team. Get an egg timer and set it for 45 minutes. During that time, work hard on your project or task. When it rings, set it again for 15 minutes and use that time to step away from the work and recharge. Make a sandwich. Throw a load in the washer. The point is to take a break and reset your mind before returning to project management.

There are lots of advantages to working remotely, especially if you take a deliberate approach to doing it well. Don’t forget these 10 tips, and you should be well on your way to doing just that.

You can always reach out to Chris Dyer, the founder, and CEO of PeopleG2, where he manages 30 full-time remote employees and 3,000 independent contractors. Chris is a leadership speaker, best-selling author, remote work, and company culture expert.