Learning to Work Remotely: 20 Essential Rules for Remote Workers

Coronavirus is now a global pandemic, driving a large portion of the world’s population to the safety of their homes. While business lockdowns and quarantine have unfortunately rendered many employees temporarily jobless, others are fortunate enough to keep their livelihood by working from home. 

While working from home sounds ideal, transitioning to it is not as easy as it sounds. Learning to work remotely can be a real challenge to those who are not familiar with the concept, and this is what we are going to address here by sharing 20 tips to help you adapt to your new environment quickly.

learning to work remotely

Working from home is not a new trend and is considered to be ideal by a growing number of workers who recognize the benefits of working remotely. In an annual survey conducted by Owl Labs in 2019 among 1,202 respondents, there are more remote workers than on-site employees. While the reasons behind their decision to work remotely also vary, the study also shows that remote workers believe that they are happier, more trusted, and less stressed compared to employees who work in a traditional office setting.

Source: Owl Labs

Despite the known advantages of working remotely, some of those who are new to this setup do not adapt quickly.  The expectations about working from home do not automatically match with reality. The unwritten rules for remote workers require adjustments not only from you but also from your family and/or other people you live with. Right now, many are probably stuck at home struggling to adapt to a remote workplace without the physical presence of coworkers. Some have seriously considered shifting to working from home 100% and are now dealing with the reality that they have no idea how to properly start doing it. 

If you are currently facing this work from home dilemma, the best practices that we will share here may help you understand the work from home dynamics better and help you learn how to work remotely from home. This way, you can be a productive and efficient home-based professional.

Create the Right Environment

The environment plays a big part in our level of productivity. While you can’t bring your office to your home, there are ways to recreate the environment in a specific part of your household.

Tip #1. Find your own space

Home might be the most comfortable place for the majority to be in, but it sure is not an ideal place for everyone to work at. If you are working from home, the line between professional and personal life gets reduced to a wall, a divider, a curtain, a doorway, or just a small span of space.  Depending on where you are situated in your household, it is important to secure your place to keep your work and personal life separate. Here are some of the places in your house where you can take your table and chair to set up your workstation:

  • In your bedroom but far from your bed
  • Behind a sofa in your living room
  • An unused corner of your home
  • Along a wall–you can line up a table or two along a wall depending on how much space you need.
  • The kitchen

remote working tips

Tip #2. Get creative with your setup

If you are transitioning from office work, you might think that the ideal set up is something similar if not exactly the same as your office space. While this is a neat idea, it is not achievable most of the time, especially if your house has limited resources. Amid the current pandemic, many have been forced to get creative with their remote offices

The key is not to mimic your office space but to have a comfortable set up that can help you get into your productive mode. The goal here is to achieve the ideal workplace ergonomics to optimize productivity without sacrificing your comfort level and below are three key elements you can start with:

  • Secure a table in a quiet but comfortable corner.
  • Grab a comfortable chair, or you can even set up a standing workstation.
  • Make sure to choose an area that is close to a power source to avoid moving later on in case you need to charge your laptop. 
  • Make sure that your backdrop does not show anything too personal to you or your family, as well as things that can be distracting to your work colleagues.

Tip #3. Dress for work

When you are transitioning into work from home environment, psyching yourself up for work can be a challenge. While the idea of working from your bed in your pajamas is very inviting, it does not help you get into a productive mindset. 

In an article from Today Style, a fashion expert says that getting dressed for work can set the tone for the day. According to fashion experts and psychologists, here are some of the things remote workers may consider:

  • Business casual is still the safest option.
  • Dress closer to what you normally wear to work.
  • Find the balance between being comfortable and being presentable.
  • Dress appropriately, especially during video conferences, even if this means you only have to wear a nice top–yes, this happens in real life.

Tip #4. Lay down proper boundaries

The house is where a family member, a roommate, or a pet can step in at any given time begging (or demanding) for your attention.  This can be a little awkward if you are in the middle of a video conference with your colleagues, or better yet with your boss or a client. While these things can be unavoidable sometimes, the chances of them happening can be reduced by laying down the boundaries with your housemates. 

Let your family or roommate know your work schedule and ask them to not disturb you during those times as much as possible. While this may not work on your pets, it can at least lessen if not eliminate unnecessary human distractions.

Develop a New Routine

Routine changes are inevitable now that you will be home for the most part of the day. To avoid work and household routines from bleeding into one another, developing a new routine should keep things organized.

work from home schedule

Tip #5. Create a new schedule

Make the necessary adjustments to your household routine to accommodate your work hours without sacrificing the non-work related things. This can mean rescheduling laundry day, preparing meals earlier for you and/or your family, etc. And if you are a mom or a dad, some changes in the childcare dynamics are inevitable now that you are working from home. 

It is important to find the balance between work, family, and household chores and creating a new routine to accommodate them can help make your day less disorganized and stressful.

Tip #6. Operate on shift

If you are employed by a company that works on a regular schedule, you will likely work on the same shift that you had when you were working at the office. But if you are someone who has a free reign on your working hours, having a fixed routine can help you get more productive.  

Pick a work schedule and stick to it. Do you prefer working a straight shift? Or are you someone who would rather spend your working hours sporadically throughout the day? Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, take advantage of having flexible work hours to determine which hours of the day are best to dedicate to your work. 

Tip #7. Take breaks

Taking breaks is also part of a healthy routine; there are even studies that prove how workers who take longer breaks end up being more productive than those who do not or only take short breaks. 

Factor in your lunch or dinner time and try to avoid eating meals while working. Aside from meal breaks, take a few quick breaks every few hours–this is especially important when you are working an eight-hour shift. Breaks are necessary to rest your eyes and refresh your brain, so do not skip them.

Tip #8. Know when to call it a day

Believe it or not, working from home does not automatically translate to a healthy work-life balance. It is easy to get lost in your own world when you are comfortable working from home, which can lead to losing track of time. Before you know it, you have spent more hours working than you are supposed to. 

At the office, the end of the day is hinted by your colleagues getting ready to leave their desks. You don’t have to look at the clock to know that it is time for you to do the same as well. At home, however, you have to be more mindful of when you should step away from your desk. It does not have to be a precise time, but determining when you should stop working is an important part of your work from home routine.

Get the Right Tools

Companies that allow their employees to work from home are likely to have a suite of the best productivity tools they would like their employees to use. But if you and your team are left to your own devices, these are just some of the applications that can help you start on the right foot.

Tip #9. Utilize communication tools

Physical isolation makes virtual communication more valuable. With virtual communication being the only way to connect with your work colleagues, getting the best communication software systems is vital to make sure that the communication line is clear and stable when you are working on your tasks and projects. 

Zoom features video conferencing function designed specifically for business purposes. One of its useful features for remote workers is its collaboration function. This feature allows you to create a group with your colleagues where you can drag and drop documents as well as audio, video, and image files to share with the members of the group. When it comes to group meetings, the host can use the share screen function for presentations and more.

Source: Priori Data

Tip #10. Explore collaboration platforms

If you are part of a team, working from home means collaborating with your colleagues takes place in a virtual workspace. Collaboration tools for remote teams make this possible as they usually include features that allow team members to access and share documents from a centralized cloud-based location, thus, keeping everyone on the same page. Some collaboration applications also have built-in communication tools, but there are also independent solutions dedicated to this category.

When it comes to collaboration tools, is one of the best remote work software in the industry. It is a compact and robust platform with a straightforward interface that does not require rigorous training to learn how to use. Among its standout features is its highly customizable structure, which means you can tailor the platform according to your needs.

Tip #11. Track your time

While the top time tracking tools help companies monitor their employees’ working hours. This type of application is also helpful to independent workers–it does not only keep track of their productivity, but it also helps them keep their focus on the tasks at hand. Some time tracking tools are equipped with smart alerts that remind you to stay focused in case you end up wandering on websites and applications not normally used for work.  

Time Doctor features make it an ideal time tracking software for remote workers. It is a popular time tracking tool among freelancers as it does not only keep a precise record of your working hours; it also helps keep you focused on your tasks. It has an in-app notification that alerts you when you end up doing non-work related activities on your computer. It also provides a detailed report of your day, so you can review how productive you have been and which areas you need to improve on.

If your team works from home, check out our guide on remote team management for best practices and tips.

Tip #12. Use document management applications

Papers and other physical files can only add to the clutter, and this is something you would rather avoid bringing to your home. Not only can they get damaged or lost, but they are also not convenient to use when you and your colleagues are working remotely. 

PandaDoc benefits remote workers by providing them with a robust document management platform. This web-based platform does not only allow users to create, submit, share, and store documents in a location easily accessed by everyone involved in the task or project. PandaDoc also has a built-in electronic signature feature, which allows you and your colleagues to sign documents digitally.

Deal with Virtual Distractions

While working from home means not having a supervisor or manager to keep an eye on you, this should not be a reason for you to give in to the virtual temptations. Doing so will only create unhealthy working habits that will be hard to break later on and eventually affect you and your profession negatively in the long run.

Unlike physical distractions (other people in the house, pets, etc.) which can be easier to avoid by physically distancing yourself from them, virtual distractions are a different story because you can access them directly from the same devices you are using while working. 

Tip #13. Avoid social media 

Sign out from your social media accounts on your computer. If they are bookmarked, it helps to hide or remove them from your bookmarks bar as well. 

The urge to check out what’s going on in your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., is tempting from time to time, but the tendency to spend more time browsing through your social media accounts than necessary is too high. These distractions not only affect your focus, for the time being, but you can also develop into a bad habit that can be detrimental to your productivity.

social media and productivity

Tip #14. Put your phone down

There is a good reason why engaging in non-work related chats, text messages, and phone calls for a significant period are frowned upon in various workplaces–they are distracting and they take the valuable time you should be spending on work-related tasks. 

Now that you are working from home, avoid the habit of constantly checking your phone when you are working. Turning off notifications can also help you to ignore your phone and concentrate on work-related tasks.

Tip #15. Have a separate email for work

Most companies provide their employees with their work email. In case you are free to use your own, having a separate email for work is better than using only one email for work and personal communication. This does not only keep work and personal life separate, but it also keeps your emails more organized, as well as prevent you from getting distracted by your personal emails while working.

Tip #16. Choose your background noise

Put on some music but not on full volume–just loud enough for the sound to drown out other distracting noises. For some, having the TV on in the background also helps them focus on their work from home tasks. Just make sure to avoid streaming videos on your work computer as it can be more distracting than helpful in keeping you focused on your job.

Maintain a Positive Company Culture

Just because you and your colleagues are working remotely does not mean you need to isolate yourself socially. Take part in social interactions and virtual events with your coworkers; however, just make sure to observe proper conduct as company policies still apply even when you are in a remote work setting.

work from home environment

Tip #17. Keep a healthy social connection

Physical, social distancing does not mean you also have to be socially distant from your colleagues. Depending on the culture of your company, a healthy dose of non-work related interactions are allowed and even encouraged. This provides mental breaks, especially during stressful times.

Tip #18. Follow work from home policies

Make sure to check with your supervisor, manager, and/or human resources department if there are guidelines to adhere to while you are working from home. Knowing this ahead of time can help you prepare properly, especially on how to conduct yourself appropriately while working from home. Understanding the do’s and don’ts not only helps keep you in check, but it also enables you to avoid potential repercussions. 

Tip #19. Check for feedbacks

With you and your colleagues working in a different environment, everyone is adjusting, not just yourself. To make sure that you are doing things properly, it does not hurt to seek feedback from coworkers and especially your supervisor or manager. This way, you will be able to see which areas you need to improve on and make the necessary adjustments from your end.

Tip #20. Practice self-discipline from day one

Whether you are working independently or part of a team, how you exercise self-discipline will determine whether you will productively enjoy the benefits of working remotely or take advantage of it. Working from home may sound like a great idea, but it also means you have to deal with some of your weaknesses by yourself. 

Without your boss and your responsible work colleague to help you stay focused on your tasks, the potential for finding excuses to procrastinate and distract yourself is high. Exercising self-restraint and discipline from day one and consistently sticking to your routine while avoiding distractions will help you start on the right foot and keep you on the right path.

Work From Home Is No Longer the Future But the Present

Work from home is not a one size fits all business model, but it is something workers have been gravitating to over the years. Studies continue to prove its advantages over on-site deployment. In a survey by  FlexJobs, 65% of 7,300 respondents claimed that they would be more productive working from home. There, however, are businesses and even workers that are not fond of the idea.

But given the current situation, learning to work remotely is a much better option than not working at all. And with most office workers being driven back to the safety of their homes, the effectiveness of working remotely will be tested on a much larger scale and it is interesting to see how this will pan out in the end. 

Stephanie Seymour

By Stephanie Seymour

Stephanie Seymour is a senior business analyst and one of the crucial members of the FinancesOnline research team. She is a leading expert in the field of business intelligence and data science. She specializes in visual data discovery, cloud-based BI solutions, and big data analytics. She’s fascinated by how companies dealing with big data are increasingly embracing cloud business intelligence. In her software reviews, she always focuses on the aspects that let users share analytics and enhance findings with context.

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