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March 25, 2020

How to work remotely guide

What started as a trendy offering for tech startups to lure top talent into their ranks has exploded into a global employee perk. But what exactly is remote work?

Remote work, also known as working from home, is a working style that allows employees to work outside the office. Despite the name, working from home doesn’t mean you have to work out of your house. Many remote workers opt for working in coffee shops, museums, libraries, or even coworking spaces. 

The tech boom of the last 20 years has paved the way for the reality of remote work we see today. More than 8 million Americans work from home in some capacity, and those numbers only continue to rise. 

But behind the flash and glamour of working from home, there are some more complicated conversations that need to happen in order for your remote work transition to be successful.

How to start working from home

If you’re not currently working remote but you’d like to, you might be wondering where to begin. It can be tricky to navigate if your company doesn’t already have a remote work policy in place.

The good news is there are a few options you can choose from when planning your remote work future.

1. Pivot your current job

If you enjoy your current job and don’t want to leave, the obvious option is to turn your current role into a remote role. The easiest way to do this is to fold remote work flexibility into your next promotion cycle. Bring up the idea of working remotely to your boss early and often, explore your options, and be sure they understand your intention to work from home more. 

You can make this easier on yourself by doing the work up front. Create a business case for why allowing remote work benefits the company. Find some statistics and studies that back up your argument, and show why offering remote work benefits everyone.

2. Go hybrid

If you don’t think your boss will let you work remotely right away, try starting small. Bring the option of working remotely one day a week to your boss. Explain your situation and your plan for why working from home is important to you. Position yourself as the test subject for creating a more robust remote work policy. 

Chances are your boss doesn’t hate the idea of having remote workers, they are just fearful of how effective it will be. By offering this option to your boss, you’re giving them the chance to try remote work out in a low-risk situation. After a few months of nailing your work remotely, you can move the conversation to expanding your team's remote work policy.

3. Find a new job

Unfortunately, you might have to leave your current job to find a remote position. Job hunting for a normal gig isn’t fun, and finding remote work can be especially tricky. As remote work becomes more popular, more positions will open up and expand your job opportunities. 

Best websites for finding a remote position

If you're starting your remote work job hunt, you'll need the right recruiting tools. Luckily, there are plenty of online job boards dedicated to remote work companies and careers.

Here are six remote work job boards you can use to start your search:

  • Flexjobs.com
  • WeWorkRemotely.com
  • NoDesk.co
  • Remotive.io
  • SkipTheDrive.com
  • WorkingNomads.co

Even big job sites like LinkedIn have embraced remote work by adding ‘remote’ into their location filter options for job searches. As working from home becomes more popular, even more resources will become available.

Benefits of working from home

There are many obvious reasons working from home is so popular. Who wouldn’t want to trade in their hour long morning commute for working in your pajamas? Aside from the obvious benefits of not having to go into the office, there are plenty of reasons remote work is on the rise.

1. Remote work expands your job search

One of the big benefits of working from home is you can do it anywhere. That opens up a world of opportunities when it comes to your career.

As more companies offer full-time remote options for employees, the global talent pool opens up. You’re no longer limited to applying for jobs in your city and can look beyond your zip code for new opportunities.

2. Remote work gives you more flexibility 

Not being bound to the office opens up new opportunities for employees. The flexibility to create your own schedule around the other obligations in your life is unmatched. Not to mention all the time you save on not having a morning commute gives you time back to do other things, like get your kids ready in the morning or even walking your dog before you start your day.

3. Remote work improves employee happiness

The science behind working from home doesn’t lie. Employees who work remotely full-time are 30% more likely to say they're happy in their jobs than their office-bound counterparts. The top three reasons for this increased happiness? Fully remote employees say they value not having to commute, cite better work/life balance, and say they feel more productive at home.

Challenges of working from home

Working from home isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are plenty of challenges associated with remote work that employees will need to overcome. Many of these challenges involve soft skills to overcome – they aren’t the kind you can problem-solve away. They will take practice and patience to get it right.

1. Remote work can be boring

One of the undeniable benefits of working in an office environment is interacting with others. The biggest obstacle with working remotely is feelings of boredom or isolation. Unless you create a routine that forces you to get out of your house and talk to other people, you can get stir crazy pretty quickly. 

2. Remote work can be distracting

Another benefit of working in an office is that it’s designed to keep you focused. The usual distractions found at your house don’t go away when you start working remotely. That Netflix show you’ve been meaning to binge is still right there! It takes an enormous amount of discipline to keep yourself focused on the work at hand.

3. Remote work can cause communication problems

Collaboration is crucial to getting your work done, and in an office, it’s easy to do. The option to brainstorm at a coworker’s desk or hop into a spontaneous meeting is right there.

When you work remotely, you have to be much more deliberate with your time and how you communicate. If you don’t make a point to over communicate what you’re working on, things can get messy fast. 

Common remote work terms

The world of remote work is a little different than your typical office environment. Not only are there different terms you should know, but there are also different types of remote work.

This section will cover some of the most important remote work terms you’ll want to learn.

Telecommuting/working remotely/working from home

These three terms all mean the same thing: you’re working outside the office. These phrases can be used interchangeably, and can be used to refer to remote employees, whether they work from home part-time or are fully remote. 

Flexible work

Flexible work refers to policies that allow employees to work from home part-time. Many companies have flexible work policies in place to allow employees the option to skip the office every so often. This can be a standard one day a week or it can be completely flexible to the employee’s discretion. It all depends on the company.

Digital nomad

A digital nomad refers to a fully remote employee who travels the world while they work. This style of remote worker has boomed in popularity since Instagram travel accounts became popular. Many digital nomads work in cohorts and some even blog about their experiences. There are even some companies, like WiFi Tribe, that have made a business out of the digital nomad movement.

Hybrid teams

A hybrid team refers to teams made up of remote workers and onsite employees. Hybrid companies often allow their employees to choose where they work from and set their own schedules.

Hybrid teams are different from distributed teams in that there are still some employees who work in a traditional office setting.

Distributed teams

A distributed team refers to a team working in different geographical locations. It’s different from a hybrid team in that often, employees are working in different countries and in different timezones. This is a very popular method for global companies and can present its own unique challenges. 

Which industries are embracing WFH?

The chances of finding a remote position depends on the field you work in. Some jobs are easier to do from home than others are. Companies with a heavy focus on technology have been among some of the first to pioneer remote work.

According to Forbes, the five most popular career fields offering remote positions are:

  • IT
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Sales
  • Customer service

All signs point to more industries joining the remote-work trend as technology advances. That's likely due to the fact that technology helps employees stay productive and communicative while working from home. Teams with access to that tech are more likely to allow their employees to telecommute.  

Remote work career paths

Knowing which industries are hiring is only one piece of the puzzle; the question of what job you can do is another thing entirely. If you're looking to start a career that gives you the option to work from home, you should explore some of these options. 

Here are some career paths that are seeing a rise in remote work options:

  • Virtual assistants
  • Video editors
  • Social media specialists
  • Translators
  • Freelance writing
  • Information technology (IT)
  • Customer service representatives
  • Data entry and transcription
  • Online teachers and tutors

If your line of work relies mostly on your ability to use a computer, your chances of pivoting to remote work or finding a job that is fully remote is much higher. 

Tips for working from home like a pro

The challenges don’t stop once you’ve finally convinced your boss to let you work remotely. There are plenty of pitfalls and distractions ready to try and knock you off track.

We’ve collected the best remote work tips for keeping you productive and sane while you get the hang of things. 

1. Create a separate working area

One of the biggest traps of working remotely is the lack of separation between home and work. If you’re not careful to keep the two apart, you might find the lines starting to blur.

One easy way to avoid this is to create a separate workspace for when you’re telecommuting. This can be as simple as a desk in your living room to creating a home office in an entirely different room of your house. 

2. Get the right tools for the job

Depending on your line of work, there are a number of tools you’ll want at home. Think about what you have in your current office at work that you couldn’t live without. Use that to create a list of supplies you need.

You should also consider what tech you'll need to accomplish your day-to-day job. Along with stable WiFi and your work laptop, there are plenty of apps that assist remote work and can transform your productivity while working from home. Explore these options to find ways you can work more efficiently while away from the office. 

Home office supply ideas

The right tools for the job go beyond the right technology. There are plenty of non-tech supplies you should have ready around the house just in case.

Here are a few ideas for your home office to get you started:

  • Desk
  • Wall calendar
  • Printer
  • Notepads and pens
  • Sticky notes
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Filing cabinet
  • Paper shredder

The quickest way to find what you need in your home office is to not have it when you need it. You will inevitably run into problems. Just be sure to have a notepad and pen ready to whip up a shopping list when the situation arises. 

3. Create a schedule 

A hidden benefit of working in an office is the routine you get into. Humans are creatures of habit that crave structure. Don’t let your newfound remote work status throw you off your game. 

“Try to normalize your routine as much as possible. Get ready as if you're going into the office. Give yourself at least 30 minutes in the morning before you log on. Open your windows and get some sunlight.”

Anastasia Masters
Content Marketing Specialist, G2

Creating a routine will help you start your day off right. You should still be setting a consistent time each day to wake up, get ready, and eat breakfast. This routine will help you prepare mentally to begin your work day and shake off the sleepiness.

4. Establish boundaries

One of the hardest things to do when it comes to remote work is establishing boundaries. The temptation to grab lunch with a friend or hang out with your dog during work hours is real. Be sure to communicate with people in your life what your working hours are and be firm that you cannot be bothered during those times. 

This also goes for establishing boundaries with your company and your boss. Just because you’re online at home during your working hours doesn’t mean you’ll work outside your schedule. Set a firm stop time for work every day and stick with it. When the clock hits 4:30pm, turn off your computer and leave work for tomorrow. 

5. Work when you’re most productive

One secret benefit to working remotely is that you’re not bound by normal business hours. This gives you the opportunity to set your own working schedule for when you’re most productive.

Don’t go crazy and start working at 4pm until 2am, but be strategic about your hours. A simple way to do this is to plan out your day before you get started to help keep you focused.

”Be intentional from the very beginning of the day: write down goals before you sit down at your desk, and include small ones so you get the satisfaction of checking them off the list.”

Holly Hunt
Content Marketing Manager, G2

If you know you’re a morning person, start your work earlier in the morning when you’re most productive. Just be sure to communicate with your team what your working hours are and include them in your communication apps like Slack or Google Calendars. 

6. Utilize time blocking

Time blocking is a time management strategy you can use to help structure your day by blocking off large sections of time on your calendar each day for specific tasks. It’s as simple as opening your calendar app and creating a new event on your calendar. This is great for both keeping you on task and showing the rest of your team what you’re working on.

Be sure to leave time on your calendar without anything scheduled. This leaves you time to take brain breaks, eat a snack, or go for a walk. You don’t want to over-schedule yourself, but you do want to create a sense of structure where you can. It’s all about balance.

7. Meal prep your lunches

Time flies fast when you’re working from home. Before you know it, noon hits and you haven’t even thought about what to eat. You could order from Grubhub or DoorDash, or you could plan ahead and meal prep some easy, quick lunches you can grab while working remotely. 

Meal prepping will save you time and money while you work remote. Not to mention it’s the easiest way to ensure you’re eating healthy when you’re home.

Set aside time on your Sunday nights and prep five quick lunches that you can reheat and eat during the work week. Or gather staple items like fruit, sandwich ingredients, and veggies that you can use to whip up a quick and healthy lunch. 

8. Dress for success

Working in your pajamas sounds like a dream come true, until you hit day 10 in sweatpants. There is a psychology behind dressing for success. Research psychologist Jeffrey L. Magee surveyed over 500 companies to find out whether dressing for success really mattered; the results shouldn't surprise you. 

When you look good, you feel good. The same can be said about dressing up for work. When you go through the motions of dressing up for the office, you can help shift your mind into the right mode for getting work done. 

9. Over-communicate with your team

One of the hidden roadblocks of working remotely is communication. You’re removed from your coworkers and forced to rely on communication and messaging tools.

Practicing over-communicating with your team is vital to keeping things on track. Create a remote work communication strategy and action items to ensure everyone is on the same page.

10. Invest in the right tech

Remote work technology goes beyond a work laptop. If you’re working remotely for an extended period of time, you’ll want to invest in a VPN. 

Most companies have files and documents that can only be accessed through their shared work IP address. A VPN allows your computer to appear as though you’re working from the same IP address as your office, giving you easy access to those files.

A VPN also allows you to mask your internet location and activity while also securing all of your information. The added step of encryption means you get the added benefit of data security and privacy.

Related: Don't have a VPN but think you might need one? Here’s a look at the best VPN software on the market, reviewed by people like you.

11. Double down on your hobbies

Few things feel more isolating than working at home all day and hanging at home all night. That’s why investing in your hobbies outside of your home is so important.

Have a reason to leave your house a few nights a week, whether it’s a cooking class, an improv show with friends, or a bike ride down a nearby trail. It doesn’t always have to be fancy or expensive. Just give yourself a reason to leave your home every so often.

12. Learn virtual meeting etiquette  

When you’re remote, all of your meetings become virtual meetings. Video conferencing software solutions like Zoom and Skype are crucial to staying connected while working remote. When you’re phoning in for your next meeting, it’s important to keep proper meeting etiquette in mind.

Virtual meeting etiquette tips

Want to avoid looking like a jerk to your coworkers? Knowing the right way to conduct yourself during a virtual meeting is key. The good news is that most of these tips should be no-brainers. 

Here are a few tips for staying polite while on a video call with your coworkers:  

  • Dress appropriately
  • Mute yourself when you’re not talking
  • Turn off your video if you need to step away
  • Take your meetings away from distractions
  • Use the video chat function when others are speaking
  • Avoid eating during your meeting
  • Say goodbye before signing off

13. Utilize cloud solutions

The best part of working remotely is that you can work from anywhere: the trick is finding a way to take your work with you. Utilizing cloud content collaboration suites fixes this issue.

Cloud storage allows you to access your work from anywhere. Many cloud providers also include data encryption, collaboration tools, and storage across multiple files types. Those perks make cloud content collaboration the ideal solution for your remote work needs.

14. Take brain breaks

When you’re working from home it can be easy to lose track of time and lean into workaholic tendencies. Remember to take breaks at home the same as you would in the office. Scheduling time to talk with your coworkers can be a fun way to break up the day and feel connected with your team.

“If you can, get some quality time in with your coworkers via video chat. [It] doesn't have to be for a meeting, it could just be for some company. Making time to just chat with coworkers when you’re remote can help break up feelings of boredom and isolation.”

Daniella Alscher
Content Marketing Associate, G2

The pressure to be online all the time when you're working from home is constant. Don't let that stop you from taking a true brain break from your day-to-day.

Watch a single YouTube video or an episode of your favorite TV show on Netflix to help clear your head. Burning yourself out is bad for your personal happiness and your productivity in the long run.

Successful remote work takes balance and personalization

Remote work isn’t for everyone. Even though study after study shows that remote workers are more productive, it also shows that remote workers are lonely and face feelings of isolation.

Finding that right balance is the key to transitioning to working from home. Use the tips from this article to pioneer your own working from home destiny!

Looking for more insights about remote work like the stuff you read in this article? Check out our WFH Hub with curated content around working from home and remote teams.

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