In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people are stepping into remote work for the first time.
My company has been remote for 10+ years, and during that time I’ve discovered how to be productive and lead highly productive remote work teams.
I originally put these remote work tips together for the school where I serve on the board, but they quickly became requested from many other people I know.
This article is intended for those people brand new to remote work, and the remote work tips I share are designed to help you be as productive as possible.
I’ve specifically limited the list to what I believe are the absolutely most important remote work tips I can share.
Let’s dive in!
1. Whatever your morning routine, keep it
The most counter-productive thing you can do right now is create a new morning routine.
The second most counter-productive thing you can do is change your existing morning routine.
As best you can, keep the status quo for your morning routine. You can only manage so much change at one time.
Wake up at the same time, get dressed like normal, make coffee, have your “me” time. Whatever “routine” looks like for you in the morning, be kind to yourself and keep it.
2. Dress for work (no, really)
Pajamas and sweatpants are fun until they aren’t. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the novelty of a new environment will inherently make you more productive.
You are brand new at remote work. You’ve not developed the discipline yet to wear whatever you would like and still be highly productive.
Dress for work, as if you were going into your normal work environment. Fix your hair, do your makeup, tuck in your shirt, put on nice shoes.
You need the foundation of “normal” in order to find early success in remote work. Make your wardrobe your best visible reminder that you are ready to win the day.
3. Dedicate a space to remote work (big deal)
For those that enjoy working, this is important. For those that need more external motivation, this is even more important.
Take the time saved from your commute, along with whatever spare time you may find in your day, and dedicate a space to your remote work.
If you have an office, perfect. Turn it into your remote work space. If not, find a room not used very often and transform it into your remote work space.
Make this one of your first tasks, and once it is complete, communicate it clearly to whoever else is in your household. They need to respect this new space.
The more everyone feels like it is a real work environment (you included), the more likely you will be productive in it.
4. Schedule your day with time blocking (crucial!!)
The new freedoms found with remote work can be paralyzing if you don’t manage them properly.
In your usual work environment, there are routines, norms and natural accountability to keep you focused.
In a remote work environment, none of these exist. It’s incredibly easy to say “Wow that table is dusty.. I should really dust it!” and then stand in shock when an hour has passed by.
I don’t think I can overstate how critical time blocking is if you want to be productive in a remote work environment. I’ve even written an article about daily time blocking that will help you get started.
Discipline is your friend. Make fast friends with it through time blocking.
5. Participate in daily stand-ups
What is a daily stand-up? It’s a quick summary of how you are feeling, what you are working on for the day, and obstacles you are facing to get your work done. Daily stand-ups take many formats, but if you have not done it before, simply answer these 4 questions and send the responses to your supervisor/manager/boss:
- How do you feel today? This lets those in charge know how you are feeling (happy, sad, anxious, worried, sick, excited, etc.). It’s a quick way to let people know your mental and emotional well-being at the beginning of the day.
- What did you do yesterday? Give a quick recap of the work you completed yesterday. You don’t have to go into great detail. Just give the brief highlights and ensure nothing noteworthy is left out.
- What will you do today? This lets those in charge know what to expect of you. Setting appropriate expectations is important, so be as detailed as you can, and do your best to meet those expectations. Confidence and trust in you as a person grows when you say what you are going to do.. and then do it.
- Is there anything blocking your progress? Sometimes work can’t happen because a roadblock exists. Communicate that clearly at the start of your day. If your internet is being difficult, let people know. Do you have a kid who is home sick? Let people know. Again, setting appropriate expectations goes a long way for you being successful and productive in working remotely.
Trust me when I say that your superior will gain a newfound respect for you if you do this. Plus, if you’ve said you are going to do something publicly, you are more likely to do it (consistency + commitment tendency).
It’s natural accountability, and you need it as you step into remote work for the first time.
6. Results win, tasks lose
You should be results-oriented regardless, but it is especially important in a remote work environment.
Why? Nobody sees you checking tasks off your list, and to be perfectly honest, your boss won’t have the time to care.
I don’t say that to be mean – it’s just the honest truth. What they will care about, however, are the results you produce.
Let me give you a quick example:
- Task-oriented: Today I finished my lesson plans for the rest of the week.
- Result-oriented: Today 93% of my students turned in their assignments on time.
Let me also give a quick word of caution for those that are now discovering they are task-oriented: there is nowhere to hide in remote work.
It’s a wake-up call to focus on doing the right things, not doing all the things right.
7. Adopt a can-do mindset with new tech software
Most of you are going to be using brand new technology and software. That can be scary.
But it will only be scary if you let it be scary.
If you want technology to be hard, it will be hard. Tell yourself technology is easy, and when it doesn’t work the way you want it to, blame the people who made it and find the hack to make it work!
I know this sounds so silly, but the subtle change in association is powerful. Instead of putting the blame on yourself for being tech-illiterate, you put the blame on the software creators for not understanding you well enough.
And when you think that way, figuring out new tech becomes a game, not a chore. Because when you get it working right, despite their best efforts, you win!
P.S. I create, sell and support tech software for a living. Sometimes turning it on and off really does work.
8. Over-communicate (and then communicate more)
Effective communication is the lifeblood of remote work.
When you think you’ve communicated enough, you haven’t.
Over-communicate, and then communicate more.
9. End your day with a shutdown routine
This is my final remote work tip, and it’s the one that is most often neglected.
You absolutely need to allot 15-30 minutes at the end of your working day to shutdown. Otherwise, remote work will bleed into your regular life, and it will quickly become a destructive habit.
I know this because I’ve been there, and it wreaks havoc on your closest relationships.
Schedule out a 15 or 30-minute time block to transition out of work mode. I like to turn on classical piano and read a book. You may want to have a different routine like meditating, writing or praying.
The contents of the routine don’t matter as much as establishing the routine itself.
Don’t brush this off as a nice-to-have wishlist item! This needs to be a part of your day, and you need to make it a priority.
There are many other things that I could have shared, but I didn’t list the kitchen sink of remote work tips because I wanted to keep the important ones important.
Remote work is great. I love it, and I can’t imagine life another way. But, with great freedom and flexibility comes great responsibility.
Be disciplined, follow these remote work tips, and you will discover a more productive you!
If you’ve found these remote work tips helpful, please share them with others. It’s a simple way for you to pay it forward for the value you’ve received! You can do so by clicking on the share buttons associated with this article.
Until next time,
I agree that having a work space is very important. Not sure about over communicating though. Yes, communication is important, but to be honest, I find all those online meetings that happen just because your manager thinks they should happen pretty useless. Sometimes they’re a waste of time, in my opinion. If everyone in the team knows what to do and how to do it, I think it’s a better idea to just let them do it. What I think is super useful when working remotely is using tools. My team uses kanbantool.com, we like it a lot. We can see clearly who is working on which task and where we are with the project, it makes work a lot easier and smoother.
Over-communicating doesn’t necessarily mean more meetings! I agree that less meetings is better. Over-communicating is mostly about clear and concise writing. Writing is an excellent forcing function to get clarity for yourself and from others, and using tools that enforce better written communication are always a huge win. 🙂