A Practical Guide to Remote Working

Remote working has been a hot topic for quite some time now. It first became a global conversation when Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo!, called her staff back into the office in February 2013. Since then, IBM followed suit in March 2017 with an end to its remote working policy. These decisions rippled through the business world, with much discussion on whether remote working would remain viable. 

Fast forward to today, and we have now been thrown into the largest work-from-home experiment in the history of the world! We are all seeing how change can happen very quickly. The coronavirus is changing how we operate today as a society, with many of these changes becoming our new “normal.” Given many of you are now likely reading this article from home or on your smartphone, you all know exactly what I am talking about. 

My words of wisdom during this time of change:  Practice makes perfect. 

As a Prodoscore employee, I have been working remotely for the past four years – as is everyone else in the company. It is the only way we know. So I thought I would write this article as an opportunity to share what we have learned. Think of this as a pragmatic guide to help your transition as you go through the steep learning curve of figuring out how to make sense of your new work environment. 

Establishing Trust

The first thing to think about is how to build trust – both within your team and with your other co-workers in different departments. Research findings show that remote workers spend more time doing their jobs than those in the office. Think about the time you spend getting a cup of coffee, chatting with colleagues about the weekend, or sitting in meetings! Yet, the perception is that people think that if they can’t get a response right away, you must be off doing something that isn’t work-related.

So, the first concept to embrace is how to over-communicate. That means sending replies to others letting them know that you received their request, as well as possibly a time when you will be able to respond in full. This type of extra communication might be different than how you normally operate. But, right now, you are in a period of building trust. A good way to do that is with extra emails, messages, calls, etc. to show others you are available and working. 

Set up a Mental and Physical Place to do Your Work at Home

Working remotely is more of a state of mind vs. a physical location. We all want to be productive. Especially now, in the depths of a global pandemic. Employees that remain productive will help their companies navigate through this difficult time and emerge the other end intact. This is where it is important to try and get into a mindset of working while you are in a room in your house, or the area you set up in the kitchen, to do your work. 

Those with young children have an especially difficult challenge. Whereas when I started working remotely, that was part of my original plan. Today, for many of you, the decision was made for you, so understandably, it will probably be the hardest challenge to overcome. 

Some ideas to consider are choosing times when you or your spouse/partner are on “parent” duty. Seek help from other family members or grandparents. Try having different work shifts, even into the evenings. One way or another, you will need to find ways to work uninterrupted without young children that need your attention. 

Don’t Forget to Take Breaks & Establish Work Cycles

When working remotely, it is not with an expectation that you will be working 24/7. It is important to break up your routine with an “off-time”. Don’t feel that you still need to work from 9-5 or whatever your “normal” shift was at work. 

This flexibility is one of the best things about working remotely. If you want to choose to exercise in the middle of the day or late afternoon, then you can work that into your schedule. You just need to have an offset for that time, such as working a little later than you would have done without the change in schedule. In the end, remote workers understand that it is all about getting the work done. You know what a “good” or productive day is. Be authentic to yourself and your employer, and you will feel better as a result. 

We as human beings are not “wired” to work non-stop. Our brains just don’t work that way. Distractions occur, we get tired, or we just lose attention. A productive home worker recognizes this reality when planning out their day. For me, I have found that 90-120 minutes is my sweet spot. I can be very productive working on a project, writing an article, preparing a presentation, etc. for that amount of time. But I then need to walk away and take a break. Good distractions I work into these breaks include making a cup of coffee or tea, eating lunch, catching up on news or social media posts, or reading a chapter in a book. 

If you see a pattern, it is to over-communicate and strive for balance. Finding the right mix of personal and work time will result in being on top of your game. This includes engaging in great conversations online and video calls with co-workers, maintaining good relations with your family (especially when restricted to staying at home under today’s extraordinary conditions), and being in a strong mindset. 

Those who can achieve this balance stand to be the most productive, and can even offer creative solutions when brainstorming on how businesses must adapt to our changing landscape and search for the “new norm.”  In the interim, I wish you all the best in your transition.