As remote working grows in popularity, more of us are looking for ways to maximize our productivity and how much meaningful work we get done when we’re not surrounded by our teammates.
Remote working affords you the flexibility to work in the way that suits you best, but you might find these tips from experienced remote workers helpful in figuring out what your perfect work setup looks like.
1. Work to a schedule
One of the best parts of remote work is the option to structure your day in whatever way suits you best. Though you might need to aim for a period of overlap with team members in other timezones, you’ll likely have more flexibility in your schedule than you would if you worked in an office.
Contrary to this flexibility, Josh Pigford, founder of Baremetrics, says one of his best tips for effective remote work is to work to a strict schedule. Scheduling his day down to the minute, when possible, lets Pigford get as much meaningful work as possible out of his day, while also allowing him to switch off completely when the day is done:
Be very intentional with your time. Budgeting time is a lot like budgeting money. Just as Dave Ramsey says you need to ‘give every dollar a name’ you need to ‘give every minute an assignment’.
2. Make your status clear
One of the things we lose when switching to remote work is how easy it is to check-in with teammates in the office about what they’re working on. According to remote Microsoft programmer Scott Hanselman, when you work remotely it’s even more important that your colleagues and boss always know your current status:
Remote workers need to make it easy for folks to answer the question “What is that person working on?”
Though every team handles this differently, Hanselman recalls a simple twice-weekly check-in that worked well:
… when I ran the team, we’d send out a list of three things each Monday that we wanted to accomplish that week. We’d follow up on Friday with what happened to those three things – what worked and what didn’t.
If you use a team chat app like Slack or HipChat, you could also set up a channel like we did at RescueTime to keep everyone more connected. Using automated messages chosen voluntarily by teammates, we were able to create more connection between the team.
We can see when someone’s grabbing lunch or a coffee, when someone’s working late, or when someone else is heads-down and needs to be left alone to focus.
3. Start your day with a routine
Like Pigford’s strict schedule, Sara Rosso from Automattic has foregone the ease of working all day long in her pajamas that comes with remote work in favor of a set routine to get her workdays started:
Finally I got into a routine which always helps me get into work mode no matter where I find myself: I get up every morning, get dressed & presentable (brush teeth & hair!) and leave where I’m staying to get a coffee, ideally an espresso. My ‘commute’ is self-enforced and is as far as the nearest coffee shop. When I step back inside, I’m ready to work.
Rosso explains that without a routine, her remote working schedule was too flexible. A regular routine kicks her brain into work mode and isn’t reliant on being in a specific place—very important for someone who tends to travel a lot and work in unfamiliar cities.
4. Use video chat to spend time with your team
Though remote teams rely heavily on team communication tools to stay in touch about their work, it’s less common for remote workers to spend time working during a call with their team. But Ben Sharpe, former CTO at Baremetrics, says it’s useful to sometimes have a video call running while everyone works, to replicate some of the synchronicity of working together in an office:
Even if you’re sitting there coding, having other folks working alongside you is helpful for staying focused. Plus it makes it easier to ask or answer questions as they come up.
This might not work for everyone, but if you miss the buzz of having teammates nearby or you find you’re pinging each other constantly in your team chat app, setting aside some time each week to work together during a video call might help.
Making remote work work can take some effort. But as it becomes more popular, we can look to those who are already doing it successfully and learn from their mistakes.
How do you stay focused and productive when working remotely? Let us know in the comments.