These days, many businesses have begun hiring remote workers to employ highly-qualified individuals no matter where they’re located. On top of that, the COVID pandemic has forced many companies to adapt. For this reason, we’ve put together some essential tips to help you if you’re one of the many of us now working from home.
Working Remotely Is On the Rise
Whether you’ve been working remotely for years or only just started due to the pandemic, it takes some adjustment and can be quite challenging. The truth is, it’s more than a simple change; it’s a lifestyle adjustment!
It’s not easy for many to stay motivated, creative, and productive from a home work environment. Without the boss in the next room and coworkers you can go to either for advice or even a quick chat during breaks, it can be challenging to maintain your work rhythm and live up to the expectations you’ve set for yourself.
That said, there are a number of advantages to working from home. What’s more, a growing number of companies have been turning to remote work to fill essential roles, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Let’s start by taking a look at the current trends.
Remote Work Stats and Trends
The world was already seeing growth in the remote work market in 2020, but that skyrocketed in March. Now, most big tech companies in the US have fully embraced a remote working environment, including Facebook, Twitter, and Apple. Nevertheless, they’re not the only ones.
Remote Work Has Grown by 44% In 5 Years
According to FlexJobs statistics for 2019, remote work grew 7.9% in a year. That’s a significant increase, but the trend is growing massively when you look even further back and continues to do so.
FlexJobs also reports that remote work has grown by 44% in the last five years, 91% in the previous ten years, and 159% for the last twelve years. That’s huge!
62% of Workers Have Worked From Home During the Pandemic
In a Gallup poll taken in March-April 2020, it was discovered that 62% of employed Americans have worked from home during the crisis. What’s more, 57% have been offered remote work by their employers.
Remote Workers Work Longer Hours and Have More Focus
According to a report conducted by Owl Labs, remote workers report that they work more than 40 hours per week regularly, which is 43% more than on-site workers. On top of that, an increasing number of on-site workers report that they struggle to maintain their concentration at their desks.
It turns out, those who work from home are better able to concentrate on the tasks at hand than those working in an office. This trend may partially be due to the proliferation of open-office environments, meant to open the space for more collaboration and creativity, and harm overall productivity.
It’s also essential to point out that even though remote workers report working long hours, they often do so by choice because they love what they do, rather than the pressures of the office environment that are usually the reason for overtime for on-site workers.
Remote Workers Are More Engaged and Productive
Despite the obstacles of working from home, employees report being more engaged and more productive than when they worked on-site. Remote workers are able to more easily get started with their days and stay engaged with their work more efficiently.
A study conducted by Stanford showed that those transitioning to remote work reported an increase in performance of 13%. The researchers also speculated that part of this increase is that remote workers take shorter and fewer breaks and are less distracted at home.
Interestingly, workers also report an increase in job satisfaction when working from home. Overall, they reported a higher level of happiness than those who go to work every day.
88% of Organizations Worldwide Became Remote During the Pandemic
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of the work-from-home market. According to a global survey conducted by Gartner, Inc., 88% of business organizations all over the world turned to remote work when the pandemic started.
While this may sound like a lot, it’s crucial to realize that 4.7 million people were already working remotely before the pandemic started. Although this is only 3.4% of the US workforce, this statistic comes from the US Census Bureau for 2015, meaning this number is likely higher in 2020.
What These Stats Say About the Future Of Remote Work
Remote work is fast becoming the new normal for millennials and the upcoming Gen Z workforce. Most report the benefits of having a flexible schedule and higher productivity. When working from home, it’s easier to maintain a better work/life balance.
The modern office environment may someday be a thing of the past. For the most part, those who have transitioned to a remote working model have chosen to continue doing so. Remote work is here to stay!
Are Remote Teams the Future of Business?
While there will always be jobs that require a hands-on approach, those businesses that can manage a remote team stand to benefit from this change. As the statistics discussed above point out, remote teams tend to be more productive, easier to manage and minimize certain business expenses.
From a business perspective, hiring remote workers is one of the best ways to attract top-notch talent. If you’re limited to hiring only locally, you’re limited by the skill levels and experience of those around you. Hiring remotely doesn’t have these limitations. You can select the best candidate from a pool of worldwide talent.
For many startups, hiring a remote team is the only feasible way to maintain their shoestring budget. Renting a commercial building comes with a lot of expense. According to a Global Workplace Analytics report, businesses can save as much as $11,000 per person a year by allowing them to work remotely.
Using a Reliable VPN
Depending on the type of remote work you’re doing, you may be asked to get a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will protect your internet connection from cybercriminals, even on public wifi, and enable you to link to your work computer remotely.
If you’re an employer or freelancer in need of a VPN, you can find in-depth reviews and VPN comparisons on inVPN.com.
How to Work Remotely: 20 Essential Tips
Now that we’ve looked at the advantages for businesses let’s consider the workers. Are you thinking about working remotely? Have you been offered a job that will allow you to work at home, but you’re worried about being able to focus and maintain your expectations? Don’t worry—we’re here to help!
If you’ve landed a remote work job or are thinking this model may be the best fit for your schedule, there are a few things you should know. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few tips for newbies to give you a better idea of what you’re in for.
1. Invest in Reliable Technology
The first and most crucial thing you need to be a remote worker is access to reliable and consistent wifi. While most employers should be understanding if your local internet goes out for a couple of hours, they won’t be happy if it happens all of the time and might think you’re making up excuses.
If you like to work in coffee shops or other places with a lot of white noise around you, make sure you’re not restricted to the environment. Should the wifi go down while you’re at Starbucks, it’s best if you can hop in your car and be home in a few minutes where you have a reliable connection.
The home environment is also the best place for video conferencing and taking calls. Again, make sure your internet connection is strong enough to prevent losing a connection during video calls.
In addition to a reliable internet connection and a decent laptop, you may want to invest in other tech as well. For example, many remote workers find a good pair of noise-canceling headphones helpful so that you can work anywhere. You may also find a wireless keyboard and mouse is nice to have or even an additional screen.
2. Discover Your Working Style
While some remote jobs will have designated hours when you need to be logged on and available to respond to emails and chats, others won’t care when you work as long as you get the job done. If you have this flexibility, it’s essential to discover and stick to the working style and schedule that works best for you.
You might find that your most productive time is in the mornings. On the other hand, maybe it’s in the evening. To be the most productive you can be, ensure that you build your schedule around your best time to work.
The same goes for your working environment. If you work best with white noise around you, it may be best to work at a cafe. If you work best in total silence, those noise-canceling headphones we talked about may be an excellent investment.
What’s more, it may help to dedicate a room or corner of your house to your work. Set up a desk or your personal office at home. One of the best things about remote work is having a flexible schedule. Take advantage of this fact and make your job work for you.
3. Be a Good Communicator
In any work environment, communication is everything and often the lynchpin for success and promotion. This goes double for remote work. Even if the only communication you have with your boss and coworkers is by chat, be sure to reach out and communicate.
Because you’re no longer a few desks down from your coworkers, your accomplishments and goals are no longer on display or shared over casual talk. For this reason, it’s crucial to over-communicate. Reach out to your boss and advocate for yourself.
Share your progress clearly with your boss. If you don’t communicate, especially when working on a long-term project, your boss has no way of knowing what you’ve done or how far along you are. Be blunt about the important milestones you’ve accomplished and state everything you’ve done to get there.
4. Embrace the Community
One of the biggest myths about working from home is that it’s lonely. The truth is, most remote work environments have virtual chat rooms or message boards where you can interact with others in the organization, and it’s not all about work. Many companies put aside space for casual conversations and for sharing personal news, such as the birth of a new child.
Even if you don’t have this, it’s fairly easy these days to find groups of remote workers who meet up regularly just to chat and share their experiences. If you’re feeling confined and need someone to talk to about work that’s unaffiliated with your organization, these groups can be a good solution.
Still, if you’re seeking remote work, it may be that it’s because you’re naturally an introvert. The good news is that while the traditional working environment has always been geared towards extroverted people, the new work from home model is more beneficial for introverts.
If you’re happy working from home, a lot of introverted people get most of the socialization they need from social media and other forms of online communication. As long as you maintain good communication in your virtual working environment, you’re finally free to be an introvert.
5. Know When to Take a Break
One of the biggest challenges for beginners who have started working from home is knowing when to log off. As a remote worker, you’re likely to receive emails and messages at all hours of the day, especially if you’re working with others in different time zones across the world. It’s critical to know when to take a break.
It’s tempting when you first start remote work to answer every email and message that comes through right away. After all, you want to make a good impression. However, it’s dangerous to set the precedent that you’re available 24/7. Remember the hours when you are most productive and stick to those.
When working remotely, your work and home life may begin to blend. It’s easy to become lost in your work, where you find yourself spending most of your time in front of your screen. While there may be times when long hours are required, it’s up to you to schedule time for yourself and for your family.
Just as you have the freedom now to set your own working hours, you also need to manage the rest of your life. Set aside time for your workout routine. As a remote worker, you can take time off for doctor’s appointments or take care of your kids. It’s easy to make up the time you need to complete projects, even if it’s the middle of the night.
6. Enjoy the Perks of Remote Work
Remember that there are some serious advantages to working remotely. For instance, you can work from anywhere. That’s anywhere in the world! So, if you’d like to go on a road trip or visit a tropical beach, you can do that.
Life is different when you work remotely. You have a lot more freedom. Of course, with this freedom comes responsibility, but once you’ve established a solid routine for yourself and are getting your work done when you need to, remember that you’re free to break that routine.
You don’t have to put off going to the dentist anymore because it doesn’t fit into your schedule. If you need to take a day off in the middle of the week, rearrange your schedule and plan to work a Saturday or Sunday. You’re your own schedule manager now!
Tips About Working Hours
Maintaining consistent working hours may not always be possible while working remotely. However, it’s crucial for many of us to establish a comfortable and productive routine.
7. Get An Early Start
With a traditional job, there’s the morning routine to think about. You get up, brew some coffee, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, and then commute to work. During this time, you wake up, briefly welcome your coworkers, and get to your desk. At home, the transition can be a lot more jarring.
When working from home, some people like to dive directly into work as soon as they wake up. While this may sound a little crazy if you’re used to a more traditional schedule, it makes a lot of sense for remote work.
If you wait too long in the morning and get a sluggish start, it’s easy to lose motivation for starting the day. Working as soon as you wake up is an efficient way to get your work done with more time leftover during the day.
8. Structure Your Day Like a Traditional Job
Remember, you’re the manager of your time and schedule. Be sure to get yourself in gear and not lose focus on the work that you need to do.
It often helps to make yourself a daily schedule. If you have telecommunication meetings, note those on your schedule and decide what you need to accomplish in between, just like in a regular office environment. You can use things like Google Calendar to plan your day.
9. Act Like You Are Going Into Work
Just because you work from home now does not mean you shouldn’t still have a structured routine. If it helps, act like you are going into the office. There’s a mental association with the work and the office that may be missing at home, so it’s crucial to create this for yourself.
Like a regular job, set your alarm and get up like you would for any other job. Make some coffee, take a shower, and wear nice clothes if that helps to put you in work mode. You can even set up separate accounts on your computer for work. Separate your personal things on the computer from your work ones.
Tips About Your Work Space
Although everyone is different, it often helps to have a particular place to focus and work. Consider setting up a home office or other workspace.
10. Dedicate a Specific Space for Work
If you can, set up a home workspace. This space can be as simple as a corner with a desk but can also be a room dedicated as your home office. Your bed and the couch are spaces that should be reserved for leisure time, and it helps to keep them that way.
You might find you’re more productive if you set up a space that looks just like a traditional office. Give yourself a desk and a comfortable chair (but not too comfortable), and keep everything except for work-related materials away from this space.
11. Leave Home
Even with a dedicated workspace at home, you may find that it helps to get out of the house. Go somewhere like Starbucks that has tables and wifi. The people and noise can be stimulating and help you to be more productive.
Libraries and similar public spaces can simulate an office environment. If you’re an early morning worker, consider getting some things done as soon as you wake up at home and then heading somewhere else for the late morning or afternoon for additional work.
This is an especially effective technique if you start the day by finishing the most challenging task and then reserve the afternoon for easier things like answering emails and planning the following day.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
When you work from home, it’s essential that you take care of yourself. The better you feel, and the more energy you have, the better you’ll perform on the job at home.
12. Guard Your Time
Working from home is a different beast than going to the office. It’s crucial that you protect your time. Communicate with your family or roommates when your working time is and stick to it. Don’t get caught up doing laundry or running errands when you should be working.
On the other hand, many home workers tend to work longer hours than they would in the office. This is because it’s more challenging to stop working once you get started. Sometimes, you’re so focused that you don’t want to stop. Remember to protect your time and don’t overwork yourself.
13. Guard Your Workspace
Just like your time, your workspace should be sacred. While you are working, there shouldn’t be outside distractions taking you away from your work. If you need to close the door and lock it so that the kids don’t barge in, do it.
It’s particularly important to guard your workspace if you’re on a call or video chat with a client. The last thing you need is a barking dog or the doorbell ringing in the background while you’re trying to negotiate an important deal.
14. Schedule Your Breaks
It’s good to break up your day when you can so that you’re not sitting in front of your computer in one spot for hours on end. Stand up, move around, take your laptop outside on sunny days. Move to a separate area to eat lunch and take a break for 30 minutes.
You may want to set the alarm with scheduled breaks to, at the very least, stand up and stretch. Take conference calls while walking around the house or taking a stroll outside. It’s crucial to break up the day, and moving your body increases productivity when you return to work.
15. Stay Fit
Like any work environment, you’re at your best when you can find a way to be active. When working from home, it’s easy to fall into a rut of not getting enough exercise. There should be more movement in your life than going from the bed to your laptop and back again.
Many modern office environments include fitness centers for keeping in shape. Whatever it is, make time for some type of exercise, whether it’s a morning job or going to the gym in the afternoon. You may find that a simple 20-minute workout in the morning will set you up for a productive day.
Tips for Maintaining Communication
When people who don’t know any better think of working from home, they often wonder how to communicate effectively. With some remote jobs, particularly freelance work, your only contact may be through email or a chat program like Slack or Asana.
16. Communicate How and When You Can Be Reached
It’s imperative, especially if you’re managing a team, to make it clear how you can be reached and when. Since no one can pop into the office for a quick chat, it should be clear how communication is to be handled on a remote basis.
Also, it’s important to answer your emails within a reasonable amount of time during working hours, even if it’s just a ‘hang on, I’ll get back to you in a bit.’ Oftentimes, the sender will be picturing you sitting at your computer at home, expecting you to see their email as soon as it’s sent.
Nonetheless, if someone sends you an email outside of work hours, it’s okay to wait until you’re working to answer it. Maintaining a personal life outside of work is critical for your own sanity and health.
17. Be Proactive With Your Communication
With remote work, communication is extra important. You should keep your boss and team informed on what you’re doing and how it’s going. When you make progress or solve an issue, reach out, and communicate what you did.
Also, to solve problems quickly, don’t be afraid to use the phone. It’s easy to miscommunicate via chat, which can cause problems. That said, for simple tasks, a quick chat request, text, or email may be the most efficient way to handle many things.
Tips About Software and Tools
With a laptop and a solid wifi connection, you’re ready to work from home. However, there are some tools and various apps you may need to master.
18. Use Software to Stay Connected
There are a number of platforms your employer may use to manage a remote team. We’ve already mentioned Slack and Asana, that enable tasks to be assigned and have extensive chat communication features, but there are many others. Whatever you end up working on, take some time to fiddle around and get to know what you’re doing.
Also, if you have access to a general Slack channel where you can communicate with others in the company on a general basis, don’t be afraid to pop on there to discuss work or whatever.
19. Make a Video Studio
For video conferencing, you may want to set up a decent space. Make sure you have a professional or plain background where you plan to take your video calls and make sure you have adequate lighting.
It also helps to dress professionally and make yourself overall presentable to make a good impression. Lastly, make sure you have a decent microphone, although most earbud sets work just fine.
20. Know When to Get a VPN
For many employers, the reason they shy away from remote work is a matter of security. Oftentimes, potentially sensitive information is being shared between remote workers, which can be intercepted by hackers and pose other security threats.
If part of working remotely involves connecting with your organization’s network, you should have a VPN to protect your connection. Most employers will provide you with the necessary software and equipment, and it’s critical that you follow the procedures you’re given.
Without a VPN, cybercriminals can intercept sensitive data. They can also hijack unencrypted connections and sniff out passwords to cause all sorts of problems. However, with a VPN, you’re protected as you work remotely.
Suppose you’ve been working remotely for a while, and you’re struggling with it a little. You’re not alone. Remote work comes with a unique set of challenges, and we don’t always have someone we can reach out to for help. With that in mind, we truly hope these essential tips will help you to make the transition and optimize your remote working potential.