According to Upwork, by 2027 a large majority of the US workforce will be working online. This trend began even before the emergence of COVID-19, meaning it’s important to learn how to work remotely to prepare for any eventuality, whether you’re part of a digital marketing company, working for a sales firm or a member of a HR team.
There’s no universal formula for becoming an effective online worker; everyone has to create their own schedule and method of staying organized. However, working and learning remotely offers the advantage of flexibility; it often provides more freedom, meaning staff can adjust their schedules to fit in with other commitments.
If you’re anxious about the switch to a remote working setup, here are several advantages and disadvantages, and how you can make sure you’re still operating at full capacity without being in the office:
- The advantages of working remotely
- The disadvantages of working remotely
- How to be a successful remote worker
- The bottom-line
The advantages of working remotely
Commuting to office work isn't easy, especially in poor weather conditions or heavy traffic. Trains and buses are prone to delays that can make staff arrive late to the office. Working remotely is advantageous in such conditions; instead of worrying about how you’re going to get to the office or how long your journey will take, you can make a cup of tea and work on projects in the comfort of your own home. Not having to commute to an office and pay for food in lunch breaks also helps workers save money.
Most office workers need to wake up a few hours before commuting to work to prepare. With remote work, you could potentially wake up minutes before starting, and be drinking coffee as you plan your work schedule.
Regular office jobs can sometimes be draining; coupled with that are the stresses of travel and the effort of commuting. Remote working on the other hand rids you of these energy-draining activities. With the freedom to control your schedule, you can plan your tasks around when to buy food, do the daily chores, spend time with your family, read a book, hit the gym or watch a TV show.
Regular office set ups can be uncomfortable, and staff may not feel comfortable complaining about these issues because of fear or a strict company budget.
Remote working offers staff the freedom to set up their workspace to suit their preferences. You can buy the chair you want, move your office to your favorite coffee shop, set the room to be as warm or cool as you like and generally have anything you can afford to feel more comfortable when you’re working.
A quiet work environment
Not everyone loves to work in a noisy environment. In an office set up, there will always be co-workers asking questions, talking loudly and making all kinds of noise. An environment like this can be challenging when someone is doing work that needs them to be creative or generate ideas.
It’s easier to control your surroundings when you’re working remotely. According to research by Alexander Mann Solutions, most people prefer working in an environment that’s quiet and without distraction. This helps them get more done within a short period and makes people less stressed and happier when working.
The disadvantages of working remotely
While working remotely offers numerous benefits for both employees and management, it also has some downsides:
Working remotely often denies staff the opportunity of getting to meet their co-workers, and makes social interactions and organising team building activities extremely difficult. This can have a significant impact on job satisfaction.
Humans are social beings and a lack of human interaction can negatively affect an individual’s social life. If possible, plan to visit your office occasionally to connect with other workers. Alternatively, go out for lunch with a family member or friend, take a walk or meet other remote workers in public spaces like coffee shops.
While better than a noisy office environment, remote working can still be rife with distractions. It requires discipline, and in a home environment, it’s easy to be distracted by the thought of a TV show you’ve wanted to watch for a while, a luring YouTube video or an attractive book on the shelf.
Dealing with distractions is the only way remote workers can remain effective. Maintain your work life balance; plan out leisure time in evenings and create a working environment that will enable you not to interact with distractions. It may be worth installing apps that prevent you from checking videos and using social media or working in a room without a TV.
Successful remote working relies on computers, smartphones and a sufficient internet connection. There may be periods when the signal strength of the internet drops, the computer needs an update or crashes. When this happens, work can be adversely affected. A remote worker needs to have back up for emergencies; these can be an extra source of internet, a second computer/laptop or a smartphone.
How to be a successful remote worker
Adjusting to remote working during a pandemic presents many challenges. Here are a few things that you can do to ensure you're as productive as possible when you're out of the office:
1. Try different work set-ups
The flexibility remote working provides gives staff the freedom of choosing where they work, what time they start and what they wear.
Without regimented office times, breaks and traditional working structures, many people choose to sit at their desks without interruption until they’ve completed all their tasks. This isn’t an ideal working method, as it can make them tired, bored and quickly leads to burnout.
Spend time figuring out the best type of set up that you can use to ensure you don’t get into a rut. Take advantage of the flexibility and freedom you have to find a schedule and environment that works best for you.
Start small; try beginning your work schedule in the morning until early afternoon, or working for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Experimenting with different workplaces besides the office, such as a bedroom or even a coffee shop, is also recommended. By trying to work in all these places and during different times, staff will know where they’re most productive.
Spend some time setting up your home office. According to research by Buffer on the state of remote work in 2019, 84% of remote workers work from their homes, although most don’t have a good work setup. Many prefer sitting on a desk in their house without customizing their workspace.
It’s important for remote workers to set up a room in their home where they can work comfortably. Their chair and desk should be set up well and comfortable. Working in a good set up not only prevents individuals from getting injuries but also makes them more productive.
2. Create work boundaries
The need to work from home can make it harder for staff to maintain their work life balance. Some workers associate working remotely with being occupied every single minute; they wake up and immediately start working and continue until they sleep. This simply isn’t healthy.
Remote workers need to create boundaries between their work and other responsibilities. Here are some tips that can help you develop a healthy work life balance:
Select office hours
Though remote workers often have the freedom of working whenever they want, they need to choose regular office hours. This will make it easier for them to relax once they finish after work. Once they’ve decided on these hours, remote workers shouldn’t complete tasks beyond working hours.
Remote workers also need to share their working hours with their family members. Because they’re always home, their family members may think they’re always available. Making it clear that you’re working from a specific time will give you more freedom and prevent disruption.
Have a dedicated workspace
Remote workers need to have a place they’ve dedicated to doing their work. Many work from their couches or desks that they also use for relaxing or doing other duties. Such a set up confuses the brain; we associate places with certain activities, so working on the couch where you usually relax can make it harder to concentrate.
To be effective during work, a remote worker needs to dedicate a room or space in their house that’s different from their place of relaxing or sleeping. That way, the brain will know when it’s time to work, relax or sleep.
Using objects to stimulate your brain into work mode can also help to enhance productivity. Some workers trick their brain that it’s time for working by wearing specific clothes or shoes. When the brain associates such objects with work, it’s easier to stay more focused. Getting your brain used to routines like this can take time.
Turn off notifications
Every individual has the urge to respond to a notification on their phone or computer. Even if isn’t important, it’s easy to feel tempted to respond, as the simple act of reading a notification increases our dopamine levels.
Responding to notifications can make it difficult to accomplish tasks on time. Turn off your notifications during working hours to concentrate. Apps such as Slack can help in setting temporary measures to mute updates.
3. Prepare for meetings
Video meetings are vital for remote working. Though chat applications such as Slack allow communication with co-workers, they don’t offer the benefits of communicating face to face or hearing another person’s voice.
There are several things a remote worker needs to do to have a successful meeting. The first thing is to keep the camera on during remote calls. The caller needs to see their face to know that they’re really paying attention to what’s being said.
During a video call, workers should also need to be dressed as if they were in the office and strive to be in professional clothes at all times.
The room you’re using for your video calls also needs to be well lit, and the camera set correctly. The average person sends up to 10,000 non-verbal cues within a minute during face-to-face interaction. Your camera needs be set up in a place where the caller can see your face clearly and properly to utilize of the benefits of video communication.
4. Be accountable
It’s easier to be accountable and productive when you have supervisors around you in an office setup. As a remote worker, you’re often left to your own devices and have to rely on your own motivation and willpower.
Creating accountability can help a remote worker stay on track. Here are some ways remote workers can stay accountable:
Set time blocks
Creating time blocks is one of most the effective ways remote workers can stay focused on their goals. Have time scheduled for doing various tasks; it’ll help you focus on the work and nothing else.
Telling your colleagues what you plan to do and how long it will take to accomplish everything can help you get the work done. You can do this by sending a message in your organization’s chat app every morning before beginning the tasks you hope to finish. It also enables you to have a record of the tasks you’ve accomplished.
Use a to-do List
Writing a to-do list helps remote workers to plan what to do during the day. Having this list also enables them to prioritize tasks. Sharing it with other people in the company can help a person to know whether you have too many items. Alternatively, you can use to-do list apps to allocate yourself enough tasks that to handle during the day.
Working remotely has become a massively popular way of working. Regardless of your profession, it gives you freedom to work from you preferred location. However, before you make the switch, you need to know its benefits, downsides and how to succeed. Knowing more about it will enable individuals to plan well and have a balanced perspective of remote working.