Remote work. Even the words cause us to dream of days sitting on a beach in Asia, typing away on a laptop while virtual assistants do all of our chores. The thing is, that can be the reality.
Yes, remote work can allow you to choose when and where you want to sit down and do your job. As the access to high-speed internet is becoming more accessible today, working remotely and maintaining a dream work-life balance is possible. Fully remote teams use collaboration tools and video conferencing to find the best practices to make remote work possible.
In this guide to remote work, we’ll show you what it’s all about and how you can achieve your dream of becoming a remote worker.
The same productivity can be achieved
lying on a beachwith a home office.
What is Remote Work?
Remote work is the concept of working anywhere in the world, from your local cafe on the corner to sitting in an office at home. Or it could be from a hammock on a remote beach in Sri Lanka to a misty mountaintop in the northern hills of India.
The world has never been smaller with access to high-speed internet in most developed areas worldwide and the incoming SpaceX/Amazon race to provide high-speed internet to every corner of the globe via satellites.
Remote work has been thrust into the spotlight this year, thanks mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic. With the concept of being stuffed into a crowded space with your office workers a big no-no for social distancing rules, many companies allow their employees to work from home and get a taste of what is possible.
With cloud-based tools like Zoom, Slack & Gmail/Outlook, many employees are now considering whether moving back to the office is necessary or whether the same productivity can be achieved
lying on a beach with a home office.
However, remote work is not only limited to full-time employees; it can also be a term used for freelancers or the self-employed who choose to avoid the nature of an office and go full time into remote working.
Aside from the apparent work-life balance benefits, many millennials find more joy in this type of work. Happily avoiding the micro-manager or the Karen in HR.
10 or 20 years ago, remote work seemed like a distant dream for many. Tim Ferris’s seminal 2007 book “The 4 Hour Work Week” showed what could be achieved; it’s only now, 14 years later, that Ferris’ vision could be achieved by the many and not the few.
Can You Work In a Remote Team?
In short. Yes, you can—longer answer. You should.
One of the main drawbacks of remote work is working in solitude. I’ve been working remotely for over five years now, and what office workers take for granted, I have to make an active part of my day.
Socializing with team members is an essential part of the company dynamic. Whole MBA modules are built around understanding “office culture.” When you work remotely, there is no office culture. It is you, yourself, and your laptop.
With that being said, working in remote teams can allow you to retain some sense of company culture still while engaging in remote collaboration.
Employees can ditch the office space and still maintain a positive work culture. One that relies on Whatsapp Gifs, Zoom backgrounds & Slack workspaces and avoids the awkward run-ins with that one person you kissed at the office Christmas party after too many tequilas.
However, for managers, motivating employees and making sure they are on track with projects can become more complex.
Remote work policies & check-ins become more critical to ensure that employees, especially those in different time zones, are getting their work done and still working the required hours.
There are, however, numerous tools and practices that management can take advantage of today. If anything, gone are the days of autocratic, overbearing managers believing they are god’s gift to employee motivation and positive work environments.
New managers should understand that a more Democratic & free approach to employees’ work will result in happier, more productive workers. Remote work can provide just that. Allowing teams to work remotely, free of in-person meetings that suck the life out of each attendee.
A remote team member working from the comfort of their own home is a happier one, and a happier team member is a productive one.
How Remote Teams Stay Connected
I’m a big believer in communication. I’d say it’s the cornerstone of any successful relationship.
Having problems at home? Try to improve your communication first before taking drastic action. Active listening & understanding are two hugely underrated skills and making sure you fully understand team members become more challenging when you go remote.
You cannot transfer emotion or body language over a WhatsApp message. I’ve watched manager-employee relationships break down in front of my very eyes over a message that the employee interpreted differently from how it was intended to be received.
The nuances of digital messages are on a knife-edge. We live in an age where an unanswered text can be seen as an insult and a “haha” be interpreted a thousand different ways.
As a remote manager or startup founder, how do you navigate this communication minefield to maximize your employee productivity when working in a fully remote team?
Start by setting clear ground rules and expectations.
- If you send a message at 7 pm on a Friday, do you expect to receive an answer right away, or can it wait until Monday?
- Should all messages be at least recognized and replied to during work hours?
- When is it ok to ignore a message?
- What platforms should particular messages be sent over? Simple messages over text, important tasks via email, and conflicts over Zoom?
- How should you share documents? Email or Slack?
- How are you going to give feedback?
Left alone and communication rules are made up as the company grows and can lead to many conflicts and unrealized expectations later on.
Top tip: Limit your communication methods to 3 platforms (Whatsapp/Slack, Email & Zoom). If you start communicating with your employees on more than 3, then things start to get real confusing, real fast. Let’s take a look at these tools in more detail:
Did Zoom even exist pre-pandemic? If there is one company that won Covid-19, it is Zoom. The company has become synonymous with video calling.
While “Zoom fatigue” is real, you cannot knock the company’s ability to connect people easily via video calling. With fantastic features to schedule meetings, invite others, share screens, and more, Zoom is the cornerstone of a productive and engaged remote worker.
This platform has saved my skin more times than I can count. With the ability to create documents, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, and more and share them with others to collaborate on, for FREE is a game-changer. While the free version only gives you 15GB of memory, this is more than enough for a freelancer.
Remote companies rejoice. Slack allows remote employees to communicate with the entire team, keep track of projects, share documents, and create project groups. Employers with remote workers should consider moving all casual & work conversations to Slack. This would be a poor guide to remote work if we didn’t mention how you can store and manage your employee communication.
Who doesn’t have an email address these days? But, do you know how to manage your inbox? Did you know that email inbox manager is a job you can do (remote, of course)?
Managing my inbox correctly was one of the best skills a former manager taught me before I knew how. I was overwhelmed, constantly checking my inbox throughout the day and becoming more unproductive as a result.
Knowing how to manage your inbox, label certain emails automatically, and check them infrequently is a crucial skill to master for any remote worker.
Essential Remote Work Tools
To begin your journey into flexible work, there are specific non-negotiable tools that you need to make it possible to work from
the beach home. While there are two essential items you need to work remotely, there are many others that will help you make that transition all the more seamless.
The first of the two essential items. A laptop is a quintessential tool you need to work remotely. When we think about remote work, the image of an individual in a cafe typing away, headphones on, is easy to imagine. When it comes to a laptop, you need to consider what type of work you will be doing before investing in one.
Are you a graphic designer and therefore need powerful graphic cards, or are you a software engineer and prefer a Linux operating system over Windows?
Some essential laptop accessories for remote workers include:
- A wireless mouse
- Laptop case
- Bluetooth headphones
- Laptop stand
Next on the essential item list for remote workers is a pocket wifi. Since a laptop and the internet is often all you need to get started if you’re planning on shooting off to the far corners of the globe, you want to make sure you stay connected.
When running an online business, you may need to take a video call from a customer or employee, keep track of orders or attend zoom meetings to discuss various projects in real-time. With this being the case, you don’t want to be caught out without access to the internet.
While most cafes, hotels, and even parks have Wifi now, sometimes it can be a bit suspect and often insecure. A pocket Wifi, especially one that can be topped up using your credit card, is your pathway to making sure you’re always available and never missing a beat.
Ok, so I know this is not a “tool,” but having the technical know-how for freelancing projects is important. Today, it’s never been easier to level up your skills with the abundance of online courses available.
Top tip, avoid the “fake gurus” who try and pitch you their “secret recipe” to success or get rich quick schemes. When looking to buy an online course, stick with the legitimate course-based websites out there, such as Udemy, Coursera & Teachable.
Want to learn digital marketing, SEO, graphic design, or content marketing? There’s a course for that. Looking to learn spreadsheet maintenance or how to build a dashboard? There’s a course for that too.
Alternatively, if your skills lie in the more “soft” area and you want to run a business rather than build one, look to partner with an MVP development service, who can take all the technical know-how away and create a product you can run.
An Online Profile
While, again, not necessarily a tool, something that is essential for any freelancer or entrepreneur wanting to go fully remote. If you’re looking to get into the world of freelance remote work, an online profile isn’t just important; it can be your lifeblood.
From developing one on Upwork, Fiverr, or even LinkedIn, your online profile is where you will showcase your work, submit bids for jobs, and where potential employers can find you.
Ensuring your online profile is frequently updated and sells your services is crucial for sustained success in remote work. Alternatively, for entrepreneurs working remotely, an online profile is equally important but for different reasons.
A solid LinkedIn page, for example, can help with networking with others in your industry, promoting your business, or finding prospective employees. The beauty of an online profile is that people can find and connect with you any time while you work from home despite the different time zones.
How To Be Better Team Members
While working remotely can be especially hard on remote teams, we’ve identified these eight best practices to ensure that you can be the best remote team member you can be and that fully remote teams remain as productive and as happy as possible.
Make Good Communication A Priority
I think we know by now what I think about good communication. But just because it’s important for you does not mean that everyone shares your values. Invest in proper communication tools and decide on certain communication non-negotiables. Or, go a step further and train remote teams on how to be better remote communicators.
Improve Your Project Management
Good project management will keep everyone in line and ensure that everyone knows what they are working on and what deadlines they are working to. Tools such as Asana, Trello & Click-up help keep fully remote teams engaged in their work and clear on their expectations.
Apply Your Company Culture Best Practices
Did your team used to have casual Fridays or happy hour Thursdays? If so, you can keep doing these things. Allow your team to express their regular office best practices but online instead. Meet on Zoom for a drink or two or make a remote-first pub quiz. Just because you’re all sitting at home doesn’t mean you can’t keep up your company culture.
Agree on Remote Work Policies
Like you have specific office rules, you need remote work rules as well. One of the most challenging things is keeping yourself engaged and making yourself productive and accountable for your work as a remote employee. You won’t have a manager looking over your shoulder in your home office, so you need to make sure you set up some good remote work policies that everyone agrees to.
Manage Your Hours
When working remotely, it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting away your laptop at 5 pm and then working on your phone until the late hours answering messages from the person in charge. The key to remote work is to manage your hours.
Try and separate home from work as much as possible. Work in another part of the house rather than the bedroom or lounge; otherwise, you’ll always feel the pull to work to answer that last email.
Engage In Collaboration
When working in an office, it’s easy to jump over to someone’s desk and collectively work on a project. Or book a conference room to solve a problem. Take that online, and it becomes more difficult. We are happier when helping others, so set aside time to spend working with others and helping them on projects. You never know when you might need their help in the future.
Improve Your Work Environment At Home
Do you work on a desk with old coffee cups and children’s toy’s all over it? Do you sit at your laptop in your pajamas or get distracted by an untidy house? It’s essential to keep your work area free from distractions.
Remove anything that isn’t work-related out of where you are working and dress like you are going to the office. These little psychological tricks are great for keeping you productive.
Work Part Of The Time On Your Own Projects
If it works for Google, then it’s going to work for you. Make time to work on projects that you’re passionate about. Whether that’s improving your skills, volunteering on a community project, or building a business. It’s important to allow your creativity to flow and not get stuck in a rut when engaging in remote work.
Fully Remote Companies
If this article has inspired you to get started looking for remote work or joining a remote team, you can start by checking out the companies below that are moving forward with remote employees. Working for these companies can ease you into the life of remote work or working from home.
The ultimate automation tool, Zapier, helps businesses build Zaps where information is passed between software to automate as many mundane tasks as possible and make life easier for remote workers.
Everyone’s dream job, work for Google but do it from the comfort of your own home! Google recently announced that they don’t expect employees to return to the office until 2022, so while this isn’t fully remote, you can get in now and then move to one of those fancy offices at a later date.
Dream of working for yourself or have some skills to sell? Upwork allows you to create an online profile and submit bids for jobs from anywhere in the world. Since being on Upwork, I’ve made Facebook ads for Australian Politicians, built a website for a Boston-based business consultant, and wrote articles for a fantastic, brilliant and excellent MVP development service based in the Philippines (no prizes for guessing who that is).
Life’s too short to spend it stuffed in an office, shuffling between meetings
Your Own Remote Company
Want to have the ability to choose your hours, hire employees and set your own work policies? Then maybe it’s time to look into building your own business. We’ve spoken at length about where to begin when it comes to starting a tech startup or why you need an MVP, so if you like the idea of being your own boss, start with these two articles first.
The Future of Work?
Covid-19 sure did put a spanner in the works, but it also looks to have sped up the adoption of remote and flexible work. With ever-improving internet speeds, unique and changing employee demands, cheap and easy international travel, and new remote worker visas introduced across the globe, remote work looks like it’s here to stay.
Life’s too short to spend it stuffed in an office, shuffling between meetings.
It’s time to take control of your environment and your work. Remote work has enormous benefits for those willing to take advantage of it. It can be hard to make a change, but it’ll be even harder to go back once you do.