Best Practices for Remote Work
Remote work is not a new trend. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and global lockdown, remote practices had become a significant component of most workforces. The rise in tech and freelancing jobs promoted the concept of remote jobs, while the pandemic and subsequent lockdown gave it a boom.
Remote jobs have a sort of excitement about it. Over the years, it has been the hype by entrepreneurs, internetpreneurs, freelancers, and some tech employees because of its looseness, freedom, and ease. Despite the attractiveness of the benefits of remote work, few experts warn about negative consequences like isolation or reduced productivity.
As the pandemic and its dire consequences continue to linger, more people are hop into a very different system from the office structure they know. Although the pandemic has set some specific challenges to software developers, its effects touched the workforce regardless of industry. Naturally, not all employees got a proper adjustment, and some find themselves leaning on trial-and-error.
Workers on the line aren’t the only ones struggling. Many companies and organizations are ill-equipped for this transition, so they fight to fit in and keep their business afloat.
Not everyone comes well equipped to be working remotely – both physically and psychologically. While WFH (Work From Home) has its obvious perks, it poses a threat to the undisciplined, those dependent on the social side of work, and lazy people.
Novice employees are not an isolated case for possible trouble. Even work veterans are drained and overwhelmed by remote work. A post by BBC talks about video call fatigue and how overwhelming it is for people at home, having to pretend they are interested in a video call while getting distracted by other things.
Remote work found us in an intricate predicament, and I decided to explore some possibilities to address it adequately. This post glances at some of the best remote job practices for both companies and employees.
Best Remote Practices for Individuals
Dress up and dress your bed
When people have to leave their house for work, they first take care of basic chores like dressing the bed and selecting the outfit for the day.
Dressing a bed seems so ordinary, but a survey carried out by GoodHouseKeeping on a thousand people found that those who spend some minutes dressing their bed led more productive lives. Doing something as simple as dressing a bed gets you better prepared for the day ahead, with a clear mind and determination — and most importantly — free of clutter.
One of the perks of working from home is that you don’t have to bother about your outfit. You could practically make it in your pyjamas. But your outfit is detrimental to productivity since a careless way of dressing suggests a similar type of work life. When you lounge around all day in your pyjamas, it is easy to get too lazy and bored. You get more inactive because you are too comfortable.
To make your day more enjoyable, dress up nicely. Regardless if someone will see you or not, this will still boost your self-confidence and productivity. You need to look good and relaxed during meetings with other employees or clients. Running around trying to get dressed for an appointment will only increase your anxiety and nervousness.
Maintain life-work balance
When you work in an office, there’s an inevitable commute delay. One hype around remote work is the ability to work at your own time and place. But how good is this? Are you ready to blur the lines of work and personal life when you work from home?
Work is always within reach and, most ideally, in the laptop in the room, meetings can take place anytime, managers could reassign priorities, and emails are within a hand’s reach. When you turn your home setting into a working environment, it’s easy to get carried away, and some workaholics could find themselves working remotely round the clock.
For places still on strict lockdown, some employees have to manage their children and other responsibilities that people otherwise tend to outsource. Without much support, these individuals could face a very overwhelming reality.
One way to maintain a healthy life-work balance is to create a schedule that works according to your needs. Set a routine for recurring events and even plan for possible interruptions. Get productivity tools that track your time so that you can analyze your time management. Without some fundamental self-reflection, you might end up spending too much time that otherwise would be most appreciated elsewhere.
Curb indiscipline and distraction
Employees list a few sources of distractions in the office: loud colleagues, the AC settings, the lighting, random and frequent meetings, and co-workers stopping by their desk. However, the home office comes with its own distractions.
When the TV is on, it can be a nuisance, even if you do not actively watch it. Without external supervision, you could also fall victim to daunting statistics about social media app usage.
Distractions also come in human form. There is just something about someone who stays at home and working all day. Parents, partners, or friends of remote employees sometimes take their presence for granted, striking up conversations at inappropriate times, assign chores as part of their workflow, or simply interrupting.
To escape the indiscipline and distractions of a crowded house, you could bring your work outside. Coffee shops, libraries, and shared office spaces can be a perfect fit for some remote jobs. Apps like Toggl Track and Hours are good for setting schedules and tracking productivity.
Phone apps like Flipd will lock your phone for a particular time frame and even prevent you from cheating (like restarting the phone to bring it up). This uninterrupted time frame is set exclusive for work. This feature seems harsh for personalities who don’t suffer from social media addiction, but it works for everyone keen on using portable devices. Flipd cuts a lot of needless screen time so you can convert it into productive output.
Deal with isolation
Not everyone running a home office have someone to keep them company. Work from home is marginally different than the hustle and bustle of the office. Seeing and talking with your colleagues in the office has its own energy that rubs off. Some people benefit more than others from being in a office environment.
A recent poll observes that Canadian employees feel isolated and lonely at home. The lack of office collaboration takes a toll on remote employees. Even the all-known small talk around the water cooler can flip some switches and bring positivity.
To battle the effects of isolation, we turn towards our trusted tools for digital communication - Slack, Social Media Apps, and Group Chats. Even when physically away from your colleagues, it is best to talk to them regularly. Reach out to them proactively; it is always possible to change someone’s day for the better with a simple ping.
Learn to write coherently and smartly
Emails are the primary method of communication for remote employees. Learn to write correctly and logically. Otherwise, your co-workers might easily misinterpret what you say.
Collaborating with other employees often means writing comments, reports, feedback, and reviews on the workspace or a group chat. Do this with benignity. Avoid using unprofessional abbreviations, colloquialism, and slang that others would find confusing and unethical. Be as professional as possible.
Avoid writing in CAPS. It denotes ‘shouting’, and you don’t shout at your colleagues in the office, so better keep it that way on digital grounds. Use proper punctuation.
Passing your message across doesn’t require long wordy texts. Effective messages are precise, to the point, and without too many adjectives.
Best Remote Practices for Companies
Good remote structure
Structure, rules, and organization are significant reasons why an office environment works. In a typical office, things have their place and time. Similarly, management needs to establish separate rules, guidelines, and policies to organize remote work properly and align it to normal business operations.
A good structure allows employees to know what to expect and when to expect it and prevents confusion and surprises.
A working structure includes the necessary tools for work, time frames for meetings, role assignments, individual responsibilities, and daily job activities. At any point, employees should know the task they are working on, their teammates, and the tools needed for each job.
With an operational structure in place, employees can better plan their schedules to accommodate their work.
Project management tools
Centralized project management tools are essential to every organization trusting a remote team to do the job right. The tools are beneficial to employees and project managers who need to stay updated with their team’s work.
There is an extensive list of tools or software for every aspect of remote work. TeamViewer and AnyDesk are great for remote access, and Slack and Microsoft Teams handle real-time communication well. Internal workflow is better with apps like Trello and Asana. For video conferencing - Zoom, and Skype come in handy. File hosting and sharing apps like Drop or Google Drive. Online appointment scheduling like Calendly or Google Calendar. Time tracking apps like Timely and EverHour. Note-taking apps like EverNote and Google Keep. Github for version control and collaboration (for software developers).
Some management tools are not free to use or are designed to fit specific organizations. It is the company’s responsibility to renew subscriptions to platforms and digital tools that their remote team use – not the teams’. Employees who are not conversant with a particular tool (especially custom-made ones) should undergo some training before delving into them.
Tools with broader use in a company should be easy to use and convenient for everyone. They should also run a good track record and be estimated to be last for a long time. You don’t want your team to get used to a platform, only to switch it with another soon after. Jumping from tool to tool creates disruptions in the work ecosystem and should be avoided.
Collaboration and communication
Isolation, loneliness, and disconnect from other employees are typical issues employees face while working remotely. Regular communication is key to creating a seamless flow in the work environment.
A proper way of communication shouldn’t only be to point out mistakes. Employees will be thrilled to have a say in the day-to-day activities of the team. Managers can also check in regularly to know how everyone is faring and maintain positivity. Regular internal communications keep employees’ morale up and help them find their life-work balance.
To battle the devastating effects of isolation and disconnect, some employees could pair up with colleagues and work together instead of individually. It is hard to bring the whole remote team together, but people who are set to work together also feel more responsible for what they do.
Celebrate wins and have fun
>In a traditional office environment, employees get recognition for their hard work. This fact does not have to change in a remote setting. Project managers should give credit and praise when due to motivate and encourage others.
”All work and no play make Jack a dull boy”. Managers can think of ways employees can have fun or corporate hang-out remotely. For example, you can dedicate a channel on Slack to non-work topics like movies or even games (like the emoji game) where everyone can participate freely. Extracurriculars like these give people something to look forward to at the end of the day or week, and are a great contributor to team synergy.
We should note that remote work is a continual, gradual process on both sides - company and individuals. Both the organizations and the individuals that comprise it should strive to achieve balance as they gain more experience.
The synergy between people and the collective shape they work under is what makes businesses possible. Our post-pandemic circumstances reminded us once again that we must plan and accept alternative protocols as part of business continuity.
Although the concept of remote work has been around for ages, our current circumstances reminded us about one thing: what we consider an alternative route to success could very well become the only route.
Our readiness to face this reality requires us personally to prepare well, but always keep in mind how we fit into the big picture. What makes companies survive core disruptions to their work culture has a lot to do with their ability to adapt and overcome collectively, not just individually.