What’s the difference between a remote worker and an office worker?
(Hint: it’s more than just the fact that the remote worker is probably wearing PJs and chilling with her cats all day.)
Remote.co says it’s lots of things, like greater levels of productivity, engagement, and morale for remote workers. Remote working—whether it’s by freelancing, teleworking, or working for a remotely-run company—is also linked to lower stress levels, less turnover, and less overhead. Oh, and it’s pretty great news for the environment, too.
For others, during the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home can feel altogether new and overwhelming.
So instead of trying to convince you it’s awesome, we’d like to help you put in place tools and tricks to help you get the most out of working remotely.
Shhh, Don’t Disturb the Remote Worker In His Natural Habitat
Before we get into anything else, we need to talk about your work environment. Whether you’re working from home, the library, or a coffee shop, here’s how to make sure your environment works for you.
1. Keep It Tidy
Because a decluttered workspace is a decluttered mind. Keeping your desk tidy is a great way to keep distractions at bay—something that’s even more important for you now as you prove yourself away from the office.
2. Say Bye to Your Bed
Oh man. Would you look at that warm, cozy bed over there? It’s beautiful. It’s so close…
Hold it right there, aspiring remote worker. I’m warning you—step away from the bed and leave your bedroom RIGHT. NOW.
Having your workspace within eye shot of your bed is not a good idea, so please, for heaven’s sake, put it anywhere else. Trust me. The nap of shame is not your friend.
3. Set Boundaries
Speaking of not torturing yourself by gazing longingly at your warm and cozy bed. Let’s talk about boundaries.
The line between life and work gets a little fuzzy when you’re working from home. Keep yourself sane, keep your loved ones happy, and stay productive by:
- Setting regular hours that work for you and your family;
- Not working outside those hours (especially during family time!);
- Not working during meals; and
- Not working in the bedroom, which should be a place for relaxation.
4. Keep Your Tools Handy
An easy way to not work where you’ll be able to climb back into bed is to go work at the nearest coffee shop. Trust me, it works! (Pro tip: don’t ask the barista to bring you a blanket and pillow for a power nap. They don’t like that.)
No matter where you work, there’s a few tools you’ll need on hand to stay productive. We’ll get into this more later, but for now, here’s the important stuff:
- Make sure you’ve got access to wifi;
- Make sure you’ve got enough battery on your electronics/outlets to plug them into; and
- Make sure you’ve got what you need to be reasonably comfortable, like food, water, and a nearby bathroom.
5. Mix It Up
Isn’t it nice out today? How about a little picnic and some work time in the park?
That’s the beauty of remote work. As long as you have your tools with you, you can be productive wherever. A change of scenery can work wonders for your creativity, and it’s nice to not feel like an antisocial cave creature every once in a while.
The Toolbox Is the Remote Worker’s Best Friend
Ah. Speaking of tools.
From browser extensions to full-blown software to the physical necessities, having the right tools in your toolbox can make all the difference for your productivity.
The physical stuff—the importance of which is often underestimated. But what will you do when the construction workers next door keep blasting Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie nonstop and all you want to do is close your laptop and move your hips? Slap on those noise-canceling headphones, of course. Here are our other suggestions:
- a microphone-equipped set of earbuds for long phone conversations
- an ergonomic but not-too-comfy chair
- a paper and pen for brainstorming
- the basics like your phone, laptop, tablet, and chargers
- a bluetooth keyboard for your tablet/phone
2. Travel/Remote Work Related Apps
These app creators just get the #remoteworklife. Oh, and if you’re working remotely while traveling, get ready for Airbnb and Uber to be your best friends. Here are some of our other favorites:
- MileIQ — for tracking mileage for work
- Coffitivity — for a bit of background noise (I’m using it right now!)
- SafeTrek — for walking alone at night
- SunDial — for a quick glance at your remote team’s timezones and work hours
- Trippy — for answers to all your travel questions
3. A Reliable Communication or Project Management Tool
Because working remotely is so much easier when everyone’s on the same page. If there’s any one thing you should invest in if you’re looking to run things remotely, it’s powerful project management software like Workzone.
Depending on your needs, just make sure to be in constant communication.
4. Other Miscellaneous Software & Websites
As long as you have reliable communication and project management software, we’re pretty sure you’ll be fine. But here’s some other stuff that’ll help you stay focused, stay productive, and stay sane as a remote worker.
- lux – for making your screen brightness/color scheme work for you and your schedule
- Headspace – for getting some headspace and clearing your mind during breaks
- Google Drive – for document sharing and editing
- InkCards – for easy thank you notes to clients or colleagues
Habit Keeps the Remote Worker Going
Because willpower is a rare resource—and motivation can get you started, but habit is what will keep you going.
From my own experience as a freelancer to other remote workers around the web, here’s our best advice on maintaining habits that’ll keep you successful when you’re working away from the office.
1. Get Social
Look at all the fun things I can do when I’m done working from home for the day! Meet ups and other planned social interaction keeps me sane. From meetup.com.
You’re not spending all day in an office anymore, so make sure you’re getting the human connection you crave by regularly spending time with family and friends and meeting new people, too. Relax, recharge, and make some new friends.
2. Stay Accountable
Forget mentors—find an accountability partner.
Ask around on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn—whatever you have to do, scoring a no-nonsense accountability partner can make a world of difference when you’re debating whether or not to stay in bed that extra half-hour. Because the best kind of accountability partner would have already texted you saying, “Are you at your desk yet?”
3. Take Breaks
Just like you do in the office, it’s a good idea to get up, get moving, and get your eyes of the screen for a little while.
Working in 90-minute chunks is widely recommended by scientists and me, an expert on working from home. If you consider freelancing for 2 years and managing to NOT binge-watch everything in my Netflix queue the stuff of a remote working master.
4. Swallow the Frog*
What’s that one thing you’re thinking about before you go to sleep at night with an impending sense of dread that makes you regret applying for your job and doing this remote work thing and maybe even ever being born in general?
Do that thing first and get it over with. Eat that frog, and you’ll be riding breezy the rest of the day.
(*No animals were harmed in the making of this guide.)
5. Stick to the Schedule
We talked about this a bit earlier under the Environment section but it’s so important that we’re going to talk about it again here.
You really won’t be able to get anything done as a remote worker if the only thing keeping you from wasting time on Twitter or scooting off early is the watchful eye of a supervisor.
Whether you’ve got a sales quota to meet or a list of tasks to check off, a strict schedule is what will get you there. Habit and your own personal rules about when you start working and when you stop are your greatest allies in the quest to prove your value as a remote worker.
Make your schedule and set your own rules. Then enforce them with an iron fist.
How Do You Get Things Done When You’re Away from the Office?
Do you already use most of these tips, or did you discover a few new things you can try next time you work from home? Let us know in the comments below!