In the age of high-speed internet, Wi-Fi hotspots, and remote workspaces, it is easier than ever to work from home or anywhere with a decent internet connection. Many companies are starting to embrace the blended workforce, meaning a growing freelancer and remote worker population.
The ability to work remotely or be your own boss as a freelancer provides for a lot of freedom. It’s important to know how to use that freedom to your benefit so that you can be just as productive in a remote environment as you would a more traditional brick and mortar job.
If you’ve been used to cubicle life and being able to talk to people face-to-face, transitioning to remote work will have a learning curve. With patience, organization, discipline, and planning, you can learn to be a productive and valuable remote worker. Read on to learn about eight best practices for remote work.
1. Get Dressed for Work
Just because you’re not going to a physical location for work doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get dressed for work. While you don’t have to wear formal work attire, it’s important to not spend the whole day in your pijamas.
If you don’t get dressed when you get up, you’re more likely to allow yourself to get comfortable and not be productive. Also, because remote work positions are becoming more common, it means that teams need to communicate differently. If your project leader schedules an impromptu Skype meeting, you won’t be caught off-guard or rushing to make yourself look presentable if you get dressed at the start of your day.
2. Define a Designated Workspace
Because you might be working from home or another remote location, it’s important to figure out the type of environment and workspace work that best suits you. Figure out if you need it to be library-quiet or if you prefer some white noise.
If you need absolute quiet, consider investing in some noise-canceling headphones and set up your workspace in an area that has a door that you can close. This is especially important if you don’t live alone; you need to have a place where you can go and shut everything out if necessary.
If a little white noise helps you concentrate, you can always leave some music or the TV on in the background. Sitting near a window or a door can also help to provide some background noise while not distracting you from the task at hand. You can also check to see if there are any remote workspaces in your area. These spaces provide a place to work, internet connection, and a way to socialize and meet other remote workers.
3. Define the Hours of Your Workday
If you’re working remotely for a company, it’s likely that your workday starts at the same time as it would if you were going into an office. Freelancers, however, often keep non-traditional work hours that fit their schedule and needs.
Figure out what hours you’re most productive, even if that means that you start work at midnight. No matter when you begin your workday, make sure that work time is exactly that. Just because you’re working remotely doesn’t mean that you’re always available to friends, family, and other distractions that may occur during your workday.
It’s also important to end the workday at a set time. When working remotely, it’s easy to get comfortable in one space and keep working long past when you normally might if you were in an office. Work-life balance is important, regardless of whether you’re a traditional or a remote worker. When it’s time to finish for the day, log off and leave any unanswered messages or work for the following day.
4. Communicate and Handle Email Well
Communication is important in any job, but when you work remotely, it becomes even more crucial because you can’t walk down a hallway to have an in-person conversation with a coworker.
When you’re working remotely or freelancing, it’s important to keep multiple channels of communication open with your team or client. Be attentive to your email and take the time to write well thought out emails that inform the team of your issues and progress. Respond to any emails you receive in a timely fashion; don’t let them pile up.
If you have a messaging client, make sure that you’re online and available during work hours. If you need to step away or you have another meeting, update your status in the messaging application to let the team know when you’ll return or how to reach you in case of emergency.
5. Make Sure You Have the Tools for the Job
Whether you’re a freelance writer, developer, tester, or project manager, it’s important to make sure that you have all the tools you need in order to work remotely as you would in an office. The following are a few basic tools that every remote worker needs to be successful.
Reliable, High-Speed Internet
One of the most basic and most important tools for remote working is a solid high-speed internet connection. If you don’t have reliable internet at home, consider using a remote workspace, which is a cost-effective way of providing you a space to work. The added benefit of a remote workspace is that you get to meet other remote workers.
- Laptop: At a minimum, you need to have a reliable laptop, with enough memory to handle your work tasks, and one that is capable of video calls without interruption.
- Smart Phone: For most people, this is a tool they already have, but it can be used as a mobile hotspot or backup email/communication device if necessary.
- Noise Canceling Headphones: If you need quiet to work and you can’t find it at home, a good set of noise canceling headphones comes in handy. They’re relatively inexpensive and portable, which makes them perfect for remote workers who need to focus no matter where they are.
Time Tracking Software
If you’re working remotely for a company, you likely have access to any company resources and time tracking applications. If you’re a freelancer with multiple clients, you need a reliable way of tracking your time and keeping your hours for each client separate.
Many freelancing platforms have their own integrated time tracking software. If you work for yourself, you can use free timekeeping applications like Clockify to keep track of your hours by project.
Defect Tracking Software
If you’re doing any kind of software development work, you need to have a way to track any issues with the client and possibly other team members. Before you start bidding on jobs, make sure you have a system in place in case the client doesn’t.
6. Don’t Forget About Security
While leveraging technology and the Internet allows us to work from almost anywhere in the world, it can also expose us to security threats. When you’re working remotely or freelancing, you’re not just exposing your data, but you’re also potentially exposing your client’s. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you use a firewall and a secured WIFI connection.
- If you’re working in a public space, never leave your laptop or other technology unattended.
- Password-protect your computer.
- Consider two or three-step authentication for logging in to your system. You can use a password + token or password + token + fingerprint scan for added security.
- If you’re working on sensitive files, only keep what you need on your hard drive. Store the rest of the data on an encrypted external hard drive.
7. Be Flexible and Present
If you’re working remotely or freelancing, you need to ensure that your presence is felt even though you don’t have a physical presence in an office. Make sure you’re flexible in your communication methods and remember that it’s your job to make sure that the client is satisfied.
In addition to doing good work, it’s important to make sure the client is comfortable throughout the project. Learn how and how often your client wants to communicate with you. Some people prefer a daily email update, while others may prefer a status report at the end of the week. No matter what you prefer, be flexible to the client’s needs. They can’t see you every day, so whatever they need to feel confident about you and your work is worth doing.
8. Be Respectful
Remote workers and freelancers are fast becoming a larger part of the global workforce. It’s entirely possible that you could end up on a remote team of people from all different countries and cultures. It’s important to remember that we live in a global society and that means being respectful of other people’s culture, language, and traditions.
It can also mean a language barrier in some cases. While there are plenty of translation tools available, they’re not perfect. When using written communication, some things can get “lost in translation,” and it’s easy to get frustrated. But they may be experiencing the same thing when they read your emails. It’s okay to ask for someone to clarify something or ask for them to present the information in a different way. Remember that you’re on the same team and you’re all in the same boat. It’s important to find a way to work together and overcome any barriers.