15 Tried-and-True Tips For Remote Working

Hot Remote Jobs is a remote team. Our main bases might be in Seattle and Buenos Aires, but we have team members in Philadelphia and Sydney, Belgium and Brazil, and everywhere in between. Once a year we meet up at a retreat, but apart from that, everyone can work from wherever they wish, whenever they choose.

We’re not alone. Basecamp, Buffer, Zapier, and Help Scout are just some of the big tech names that have entirely remote teams. Basecamp literally wrote the book on it. But even more companies, large and small, are embracing remote working for all or part of their employee base. 37% of Americans currently work from home part-time, and that number is growing. Dell, Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, even the USDA all have part of their workforce remote, showing that remote workers can be just as productive as their office counterparts, no matter what Marissa Mayer thinks.

But it isn’t easy. Going remote, whether that means the whole team or just bringing on a new remote member, requires buy-in from the entire company. It doesn’t just happen, it needs to be a considered choice, and everyone needs to work to constantly improve the processes that make remote work work.

Here are 21 of the best tips we have for companies, managers, and remote workers that have helped us build an awesome remote team, work effectively, and stay 100% productive no matter where our team members are.

1. Communicate Deliberately

Contrary to popular belief, remote workers have to be better at communication than their office brethren. Communication plays a vital role in work, and when team members are apart, it’s vital to put communication front and center.

Without being able to tap the person at the desk next to you on the shoulder, you need to be clear in your chosen communication channel if you need something or are stuck. If you don’t then people can lose track of where the company is, where projects are, and lose their own focus.

2. Talk to your team

When communicating, don’t just type, talk. Sometimes you need face to face communication to get ideas across quickly. Having a five-minute chat over video can circumvent hours of back and forth over Slack trying to answer questions. If you have a main office and only some of the team members are remote, you can also set up a “portal,” an always-on video connection that remote workers can tune into anytime to contact the rest of the team.

3. Find the team’s golden hour

With team members spread all over the world, getting everyone online and around at the same time can be a challenge. And that’s before trying to remember who is +4 UTC and who is -5 UTC (plus factoring in daylight savings). However, it still makes sense to find the time when the majority of the team is available, so that you can schedule all-hands meetings or other important events during that time.

4. Communicate about nothing

When you’re in an office, most conversation involves talking about nothing. Sports, TV, movies, anything but work. This is just a natural part of human behavior. But when you’re remote, it can feel like you shouldn’t bother with any communication that isn’t work-related and vital.

While it’s true you shouldn’t become one of those people creating Slack noise, you still want to create a team mentality online, and that includes just chatting about nothing. Creating a #random channel for exactly that, random stuff, means everyone knows where to put their hot take on last night’s GoT.

5. Create a portal

You can take the video chat idea one step further and set up a constant live feed for people to join. If the entire team is remote, then team members can pop in and out as they wish. If you have an HQ, then setting it up to constantly stream the office can help remote workers see what’s going on, and quickly chat with anyone they need to.

6. Ask For Quiet Time

So far, all these tips have been about talking to colleagues. But sometimes you need quiet time to really get on with work. In an office environment, you might shut a door, or just put your headphones in and it would be obvious to the rest of the team that you need focus. But when you’re remote, as Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout notes, nobody knows the best time to interrupt you.

7. Set up your work space

When your home is your office, it can be whatever you want it to be. But it needs to be a place of work. Setting your work space apart from your home space allows you to better delineate the two, and lets your brain know when it needs to be in work mode or home mode.

If you’ve got the room, then setting up your own office is ideal, but even if not, take a corner of a room just for work, where you go to do that and only that. Then the rest of the home is for rest.

8. Take Breaks

Breaks come naturally in an office environment. Coffee breaks and lunch allow for some respite and time away from the desk and screen. At home though, if you’re in the flow, you can easily sit at the same desk from morning to night. You’ll get up to grab a coffee from the kitchen for five minutes, but without putting thought into it, you might not even leave the house. But taking breaks form the screen is important for both your productivity and your health.

9. Change the SCENERY

One of the major benefits to remote working is that you can work wherever. Some people take this to the literal extremes, moving from city to country every few months as the mood takes them. You don’t have to upend your life, instead head out to work in other places, such as a coffee shop, library, or a co-working space to help keep juices flowing.

10. Embrace The Alone Time

When you are in your own space, you can do your own things. Want to work in your pajamas? That’s A-OK, though maybe not if you have conference calls set up. But the larger point is that you can set up and work in exactly the environment you want and that works for you. Things that would feel odd in an office environment, such as stretching exercises, can be performed with abandon when you’re alone.

11. Create a “to-don’t” list

To-do lists are all the rage, but when working remotely, a to-don’t list can be just as useful. When you’re at home, then you’re acutely aware that there are other things you could be doing. Laundry, Dishes, Cooking. Online, it’s even easier to get sucked into the internet when there is no one looking over your shoulder. People who work remotely need solid intrinsic motivation, but everyone has been down the rabbit hole of following article after article online, finding that it’s an hour later and they can’t even remember how they got there.

Every time you think about doing something that could be a distraction. Reading an article, replying to a non-urgent email, doing the dishes, write it down on your to-don’t list and save it for later.

12. Work in Sprints

Focus can be an issue for any worker, but remote workers feel it more acutely as there are so many distractions. To allow yourself dedicated time to a task at hand, work in sprints of no more than an hour at a time before you take a break. This way, your main task gets your entire focus for the allotted time, and then you can take a break for a few minutes to recharge.

13. Plan ahead

Structure is vital for a remote team and its members. When there is an overhead to organization, the need to plan in advance so you don’t have to schedule too many impromptu meetings is more important. Remote workers need to learn how to plan and structure their days effectively so they can both have time for the all-important communication, but also the quiet time that working remotely allows so they can be more productive.

14. Create processes

When working remotely, creating processes the entire team can follow makes sure that everyone is performing at the same level no matter where in the world they are. This creates efficiency, but also means that everything from coding, to support, to finance, is done to the highest standard.

15. Work visibly

When remote, a colleague can’t sit next to you to go over a doc, or pair-program as they could in an office. Therefore having open documents facilitates collaboration and feedback. Other team members can jump straight into your docs or code without you having to send them over email or message.

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