Gone are the days where employees were glued to their desk in a corporate office for eight hours a day, five days a week. The new norm in our modern, digitally-driven workforce is remote work!
In fact, a recent study found that 70% of professionals work remotely at least one day a week, and 53% do so for at least half of the week. But working remote isn’t just a trendy fad—it’s here to stay.
With 99% of respondents in a Buffer study saying they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, it’s clear professionals are realizing the benefits of remote work and don’t want to go back to their cubicles anytime soon.
To be even more productive, engaged, and satisfied with this style of work, we’ve compiled a few tips and best practices for remote working. We didn’t forget about you, managers—keep reading for training tips for remote employees too!
What Does Working Remote Mean?
Working remote allows employees to do their job from outside of the traditional office setting. This working style is based on the idea that work no longer needs to be done in any specific place to be completed successfully thanks to modern tools and technologies.
Remote work enables professionals to work in an environment that makes them the most comfortable, on the timeframe that is best suited to their lifestyle. This offers nearly unmatched flexibility.
How to Work Remotely
There are numerous ways that people can work remotely. That’s the main draw of remote work: it allows you to work in whatever way best fits into your everyday life. While remote workers who have their own business or freelance typically have the complete freedom to create their own schedule, those employed by an organization will likely have to follow the remote work policy laid out by leadership.
For example, some companies allow their employees to work remotely full time. Others give them one work from home day per week or month. Some let their employees work remotely for the majority of the week, but require them to come into the office once a week for all their in-person meetings.
No matter how often you can work remotely, there are nearly endless options of where to do so. Here are two main categories of remote work:
Remote Work from Home
When working remotely, many employees will choose to stay at home, which has its fair share of perks. You can work in sweatpants on the couch, in bed, or whatever makes you feel comfortable and productive. Most professionals also have reliable Wi-Fi in their home, which eliminates the need to find a secure public network. Working from home also eliminates the need to lug your computer, charger, and any other work materials around town. You could even cook a fresh meal at home rather than having to bring leftovers to the office or spend money on eating out. Perhaps the biggest perk of working from home is that it requires zero commute, which saves time and gas money while also minimizing your environmental impact.
The main negative of working from home is that it can potentially lead to a lot of distractions: the TV, loud neighbors, or a needy pet are a few examples. However, as long as you’re focused and following a schedule, you should be able to reap the benefits of working from home while also being highly productive.
Remote Work from Anywhere
Many companies have referred to their remote work policies with the term “Work from Anywhere.” This might mean working from a coffee shop or cafe, coworking space, community room in an apartment building, hotel, airport, etc.
Working from anywhere gives employees nearly endless flexibility. You could choose to work in a coffee shop because you like background noise, or opt for a silent library on a day you really need to focus. It also gives you the ability to take work on-the-go while traveling for either business or pleasure.
However, remote work from anywhere can present a few challenges and risks because you’ll need access to Wi-Fi, and not every place has it. Connecting to unsecure public Wi-Fi networks can create risks for data breaches or “man-in-the-middle” cyber attacks. However, you can skip the need for an internet connection altogether and stay more secure while working remotely by using a personal password-protected hotspot or an LTE device, such as a Microsoft Surface with LTE. Just keep in mind that hotspots could result in higher data usage and costs, and LTE devices are more expensive than regular ones.
Best Practices for Working Remotely
There are numerous tips for working remotely that can help you maximize productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. Here are three simple-to-follow best practices for remote workers!
- Have a routine. Flexible working conditions sound great, but can create a lot of distractions when it comes time to actually get work done. To combat these distractions, it’s important that remote workers establish some sort of a routine to keep them on track. While it may not be the exact same every day, and certainly doesn’t have to, having some sort of schedule can help you feel more organized—without this, you might find yourself tempted to do other things (like clean the house, take a nap, or go run errands) during working hours.
- Set dedicated working hours. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work Report, the most common struggle faced by remote workers is unplugging from their work. Since remote employees are typically looking at their screens and are “plugged in” to digital devices for the entire day, it can be difficult to detach and put them down after working hours. However, it’s important that you’re able to set healthy boundaries and aren’t online 24/7. For example, if your coworker is constantly sending late-night emails, answering at 3 am will give them the expectation that you’ll always answer at 3 am. Remember that you need personal time to unwind after work—answering that email the next morning is totally acceptable.
- Track your time. By doing a time audit, you can understand how long it takes you to complete different kinds of tasks and what distractions could be wasting your time, such as checking Facebook every 30 minutes. You can use a digital time tracking tool such as RescueTime or Toggl to track time spent on certain websites and categories. After you know how you really spend your time throughout the day, you can proactively schedule your tasks in realistic, manageable blocks with time built in for breaks and unexpected delays.
- Physically remove distractions from your workspace. To maximize efficiency when working remotely, you’ll want to physically remove any distractions from your work environment. For example, if you’re frequently scrolling through your Instagram feed, you can use apps like StayFocusd to block access to certain websites and apps during work hours. If you find yourself constantly checking your phone, turn it off and put it in another room while you’re working. Finally, you’ll want to keep a clean workspace so you won’t be tempted to organize and tidy up as a way of procrastinating.
Training Tips for Remote Employees
Training remote employees can present unique challenges for managers, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are a few training tips for remote employees that can help businesses get the highest ROI on labor costs from their remote workers.
- Use a variety of training methods. As you create a training program for remote workers, it’s important to include a balance of platforms and methods. For example, there are some generic topics that can be covered in group conferences so remote workers can learn new skills while also interacting with their in-office and fellow remote coworkers. You can mix this is with self-guided training modules, webinars, or online exams for further professional certifications. You might even consider investing in a Learning Management System to develop custom training curriculum for each employee based on their role and skill set.
- Drive interaction when training remote workers. When hosting a training webinar or online conference, ask for feedback and questions regularly. This turns training into an interactive experience rather than just a manager preaching at a remote employee who is silent on the other end of the line. Work to establish a fun and engaging training culture that makes remote workers feel comfortable. Ask the rest of your team to contribute to the conversation by sharing examples, stories from their own career, and best practices they’ve learned along the way.
- Create time for team bonding, not just skills training. Buffer’s remote work report found that 19% of remote employees feel loneliness is their biggest struggle, and 17% say it’s collaborating and communicating. Managers can help combat these problems by giving remote workers time to get to know their team on a more personal level. If employees are working remotely in the same city, it can be helpful to have an in-person meet-up at a coffee shop or shared workspace every so often. You could even start a virtual book club or other interest-based groups where your remote workers can schedule time once a month to video chat about non-work related topics so they can get to know each other better, build trust, and develop personal relationships.
- Check in regularly. When managers aren’t working in the same physical location as their employees, it becomes even more essential that they regularly make time for check ins and two-way communication. If you utilized a Learning Management System to create a training curriculum, log in every so often to monitor their progress then hold a quick call to recap what they learned and see if they have any questions. Schedule weekly or biweekly video chats to check in about their overall satisfaction and specific workload for that week. In between calls or video conferences, leverage an instant messaging app to send quick reminders, comments, or questions about a project. The more touch points and face-to-face interactions you have with your remote workers, the more engaged they’ll feel!
Remote work is the future of the workforce, and if you’re a business owner or manager, offering the remote work policies that modern professionals are looking for can help you attract and retain top talent.
Protected Trust can help by providing your organization with the Microsoft tools that enable your remote employees to achieve their greatest potential from anywhere on the planet, such as Teams, Office 365, and Surface devices.
Interested in transforming communication, security, and mobility in your remote workforce? Reach out to a PT expert today.