Suddenly find yourself working from home when you’re used to working in an office?
First of all, welcome. We raise a cup of coffee to you from the comfort of our standing desks.
The Hubstaff team is 100% remote, which means our team cracks open their laptops every day from apartments, houses, and coworking spaces around the world. We’re big believers in the power of remote work, not only for its productivity benefits but also because we’re able to tap into a larger talent pool when it comes to hiring.
Being a completely remote team from the beginning has had its challenges. Allow us to show you what we’ve learned along the way. Hopefully, these tips for working remotely will help make your transition much easier.
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The case for working remotely
Currently, many companies including Amazon, Google, and Facebook are encouraging remote work in an effort to limit potential exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19). Universities are turning to online classes for the same reason, which means more and more of us will be relying on technology to continue business as usual.
Beyond this, there are also other instances when remote work is necessary, such as staying home with kids during school breaks or when the office is undergoing a repair.
No matter why you’re working from home, adjusting to working at home is actually quite simple with the right processes and tools.
It takes a little adjustment, especially as a manager or business owner, but there are things you can do to ease the transition. Here are our 11 top tips on how to work remotely and also to get easily adjusted to work from home.
1. Get your files online
Most modern businesses use a range of software and apps to manage projects, communicate, track time, and more. This means many workplaces are already set up for distributed teams.
However, if most of your work happens offline, and you have advanced notice that you’ll be working from home, it’s a good idea to toss crucial files in a place you can access them remotely.
For us, the most crucial remote work software is:
- Google Drive and its apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides)
- Dropbox for sharing and storing files
- Invision for design
- Moqups for wireframes
- Github for development
In a pinch, you can package up files and use one of these platforms to make accessing and sharing work easier.
You’ll also want to make sure they have the proper devices to work from home, including a laptop or home computer.
2. Keep your communication channels open
The first thing you’ll notice when you switch from an office to a home setting is the lack of built-in communication.
One of our marketing team members shared a meme about how working remotely means not talking to another person all day, but it also has its downsides.
To keep morale up and projects on track, have a primary (and instant) communication option in addition to email.
We use Slack for one-on-one conversations and group discussions. Slack is free for small teams to use for an unlimited period of time, or $8/user per month for more features.
Create a workspace for your team and you’ll be able to keep the communication going, and see who’s online. This is crucial for in-person teams who are used to being able to walk over and talk to coworkers.
When you’re just starting out with remote work, over-communication is key. Communicate more than you think you should, so that if anyone has a question, there’s a comment thread or an email or a Google doc with more information.
It will save everyone a ton of time and headaches.
3. Hold your meetings as planned
Daily and weekly meetings should continue as planned, even if you or a member of your team is out of the office.
Here, you have two options:
- Turn a meeting into a document where everyone submits their updates
- Host a video conference or call
Again, software is your friend. Zoom is a great option for large video conferences, as you can also record the meeting for anyone who missed it to watch later.
If you want to change the meeting altogether, you can create a simple spreadsheet for everyone to add their updates. We use our Agile PM tool, Hubstaff Tasks, for its daily Stand-ups feature, which prompts everyone to answer three questions at the end of the day:
- What did you work on today?
- What will you work on tomorrow?
- Any roadblocks standing in your way?
4. Keep track of work
When work happens in an office, it’s very easy to see when people are 1) in the office to begin with, and 2) getting things done.
Changing the scenery can be good for productivity, but for those who aren’t used to it, it can be challenging to get focused and keep projects on track.
For this, we rely on our own time tracking and productivity app. Everyone on our team uses the desktop, web, or mobile timer to record work hours on specific projects and tasks.
The mobile app is especially useful for teams that are on-the-go as it can also track location and record time spent at client sites or en route.
It’s as easy as pressing a button to start tracking work time. Some organizations choose to capture screenshots while the timer is running, some track apps and URLs visited, and others choose to use the app purely for online timesheets. It’s customizable on a per-user setting so it’s really up to the manager and team.
The great thing about Hubstaff is that you’ll get a daily summary emailed to you with the projects your team worked on that day, and the hours spent on each one.
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5. Separate work and life space
Working from your bed seems like a great idea. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is not.
Many remote work advocates will tell you to get dressed and ready for the day just like you’re going into the office. Then, just stop before you head out the door and walk over to your designated workspace instead.
You did it! You just commuted to the office.
Some people have full offices in their homes, others choose to work from a kitchen table. No matter how much space you have, the key is just to keep work separate.
This will make it a million times* easier to “shut off” your work brain at the end of the day.
Just like in an office, standing, getting up and walking around, using a desk bike or taking yoga breaks are all good ideas.
When your workday is over, really make an effort to end the day.
If you’re missing your usual drive home, you can always circle the block yelling at other drivers for not merging properly to give yourself the impression of a commute.
6. Make time for small talk
You might be tempted to skip over this one, but hear me out.
Having casual conversations over Slack or any messaging app is crucial for keeping teams engaged and informed. Especially since this happens naturally in an office setting. You’ll quickly notice the lack of conversation when you work from home.
To combat this, start conversations just for the heck of it. Share your playlist or what you’re watching lately (we have dedicated Slack channels for this) and watch threads unfold.
Other best practices:
- Start every call with a quick, “How are you?” (and mean it).
- Managers should model this behavior by engaging with non-work conversations, too.
- Use GIF responses when possible, they are the unsung heroes of company culture.
7. Close the door
Or put on headphones.
You’re going to look over at the pile of laundry or sink full of dishes.
There’s no way around it.
But, you can ignore it (for now). Working from home at first can seem like you have endless opportunities to tidy up the space around you.
Don’t do it. Stay focused on the work you need to get done today and get to the house stuff later.
If you can’t stand working in a messy space, dedicate the first part of your morning to setting up the ideal environment for you. Then, close the door or put on headphones and ignore what’s happening around you like you’re the This is Fine dog.
9. Seek out and provide regular updates
This is a big one. If you want to keep your projects on track, check-in with your team occasionally to see where they’re at or if they need help.
You might not know a writer needs access to a file before they can get started unless they know to share progress and roadblocks as they come up.
This is even easier when using a PM tool since your team members can comment and tag you directly.
As the manager, you can submit updates, as well, so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing and can stay on top of their workload.
10. Create the right mood
Do you need classical music for an editing marathon? Or podcasts for a brainstorming session?
Maybe you want to dim the lights and get focused, or open the blinds for a burst of energy.
Consider your environment and make adjustments that will create the right mood for your best work.
This is even easier at home than it is in an office. You can only modify so much when you have fluorescent lights shining down on you.
11. Get ready for productive work
It’s really amazing to see how much you can get done in a focused, quiet workspace.
This certainly isn’t true for everyone, as some people thrive in a bustling office setting.
However, when you create the best environment for work-from-home teams by having the right tools and processes in place, productivity will take off.
Want more guidance on remote teams?
Check out our free ebook on managing remote teams, which has over 100 pages on how to successfully lead and manage remote teams.