What does it mean to work remotely?
Working from Home (WFH) means you are able to get work done remotely either full-time or part-time for your employer (or yourself). However, this doesn’t mean you are only able to work at home.
Advancements in technology and data security allow you to work from anywhere around the globe; including coffee shops, hotels, trains, airplanes, and some people even work from the beach!
Part-Time Work from Home: This is the most common arrangement where you’re allowed to work either one or several days from home per week. The other days you are expected to work from the company’s offices.
Full-Time Work from Home: This is where you strictly work for a company or yourself out of your home. In many cases, you’ll need to first build trust with a company or be doing less complex tasks to land this gig. While the trend is picking up steam due to cost savings for companies, it’s often discouraged due to studies pointing to feelings of loneliness or lack of engagement.
How to effectively work remotely
Below is the best advice we’ve compiled from personal experiences and with insights from professionals frequently working remotely. These ideas will help you prepare for a successful and productive experience getting work done from home or anywhere outside the office.
1. Figure out childcare
If you have young kids at home, you’ll want them out of the house or occupied while you’re working. Even with locks on the door, noise-canceling headphones, and someone watching the kids – you’ll run into plenty of distractions.
There’s nothing like kids screaming at the top of their lungs while you’re on a call, wanting to play every time you leave the room, or just banging on your door until you respond.
Not to mention, you may also disrupt your kid’s day as well. If your little ones take naps, you may need to tone down your voice so you don’t “wake the beast” sleeping in the other room. Enjoy the peace while it lasts.
As much as you love them, working from home with little ones around is extremely challenging. It can affect your work productivity and quality.
2. Set expectations with family
If you have older family members or a spouse at home, you must set rules for when you can and cannot be disturbed. One good way to enforce this is by putting a calendar or daily schedule on the door to make sure everyone knows when you’ll need to be left alone.
Of course, you should establish a way for those in your house to contact you if an emergency occurs. Setting boundaries around when you’ll need to focus on work and when you can step away for family interactions is critical.
3. Set expectations with manager and co-workers
Similar to your family, let your manager know when it’s expected you’ll be working and if you have any non-work commitments throughout the day. Some companies are flexible, but most will expect you to be at your computer for the full workday.
Make sure everyone knows the goals for the day or week and what you’ll be working on. Your manager and team members shouldn’t be questioning if you’re watching TV in your pajamas, playing video games, shopping, or browsing the web all day.
Some useful ways to accomplish this include:
- Having daily standup meetings first thing in the morning to clarify responsibilities and deadlines for tasks
- Emailing your boss to confirm priorities or communicating progress on deliverables
- Sharing calendars so everyone can see when you’ll be busy and free
Finally, it helps to be predictable when you’re working from home part-time. If you’ll be regularly working remotely on certain days, let the team know. Consistency helps so people can schedule around those days if they need you in-person.
4. Carve out and prepare your workspace
Finding a comfortable place in your house is absolutely crucial for productivity when you work remotely. Having a defined location that you can physically and mentally step into helps get you into work mode.
You’ll be most effective at work if you’re sitting (or standing) at a desk that is:
- Free of paper and clutter that may get in the way every time you sit down
- Away from any TVs that are sure to distract you
- Near natural light, so it doesn’t feel like you’re in a dungeon (positioning is key to prevent glare on your screen)
- Close enough to your internet router to get a strong WiFI signal
- Next to a power outlet to plug in your laptop, phone, a power strip, or any other devices
- In a room with a locking door that is away from frequent family traffic
If you don’t have an office or a spare bedroom, a few alternatives to consider would be space in the garage, attic, or even a decent-sized closet. You can also find temporary walls at most hardware stores or even online to create a space of your own.
5. Have a backup plan
It’s bound to happen at some point. The internet or your computer crashes, whether it’s for a couple of hours or a full day.
There could be a storm in the area, heavy snowfall, or just an issue with your internet provider or power company. When you’re working from home, loss of power or the internet can ruin your entire day and cause you to lose hours of productivity.
Instead, be prepared for the situation ahead of time. Scope out your local cafe, coffee shops, library, or any other business to check the availability of WiFi and power outlet access.
Here are a few things to remember if you do need to work remotely:
- Grab your power supply
- Get a cheap travel mouse to work faster
- Pack some water and snacks (food at these places may not be cheap)
- Bring pen and paper if you are a note taker
- Finally, getting to know the barista or employees at the place often helps if you need anything (e.g., lower music volume, glass of water, free coffee refills)
As a last resort, you may just need to go into your company’s office if you don’t have an alternative option.
6. Save your work frequently
Related to the above advice, you should be saving your work as frequently as possible. This goes for any documents you work on locally (computer’s hard drive) or over the internet like Google Docs. All it takes is for your computer to randomly reboot or crash and everything is lost.
Personally, I like working on cloud solutions more than local copies since it helps with collaboration and everything is backed up in real-time. However, if you lose internet connection before it saves or syncs – it’s possible you’ll lose anything you worked on.
While it may not take as long to do something a second time, it’s a lot less frustrating if you don’t have to do it at all. So save your work often!
7. Dress for Success & use video meetings
If you work from home regularly, you know it can get a little lonesome. You may also feel disconnected from the rest of your co-workers since you don’t get much face time.
However, most companies have adopted some form of virtual meeting or video conferencing technology (WebEx, Zoom, BlueJeans, Adobe Connect, etc.). This allows your team to use a webcam to enable the meeting participants to see each other.
This “face-to-face” conversation allows you to pick up on non-verbal queues you won’t get over the phone. Plus, it’s just nice to occasionally interact with a human, even if virtually, rather than a computer all day.
It may go without saying, but you should be dressed professionally or clean if you do video meetings. Wake up in the morning and get ready for a day at work like you would if you were going into the office.
Taking a shower and putting on decent clothes will set you on the right track from the very start of the day. It will help get you in the mindset to jump into the work by gearing up for battle, even if you work remotely.
At the very least, you won’t run into an embarrassing moment by connecting to a video meeting with your boss wearing an old t-shirt and sweatpants – keep it classy.
8. Stay connected & check-in
When you’re not working in an office, it can become easy to lose personal connections with your team. You’ll begin to truly understand what is meant by the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind”.
What you can do to prevent this from happening is to check-in periodically. Use your company’s instant messaging software to chat with peers about both work and non-work related topics. This enables you to build a relationship with those you work with on a regular basis.
You should also be regularly connecting with your manager about tasks you’ve been assigned to complete. These check-ins help make sure you are meeting your manager’s performance expectations when you work remotely.
10 Best jobs that allow you to work from home
1. Administrative Assistant or Receptionist
- Responsible for managing multiple calendars to schedule meetings and other appointments.
- Coordinates travel for your manager or other employees based on their calendar.
- Communicate on behalf of the manager or executives to share or request information as needed.
- Interact with other employees, customers, or vendors to plan and schedule events, appointments, or meetings.
- Understand the unique working style and priorities of each individual you are assisting to help them achieve their goals.
2. Blogger, CopyWriter, or Content Editor
- Write and edit an array of content types from blog posts to sales copy to long-form content.
- Conduct research to find relevant sources and references for your writing.
- Develop an online business and personal brand to get your content recognized by industry leaders.
- Work with publishers in the media industry to promote your content.
- Collaborate with other copywriters or bloggers to develop content and reach a wider audience.
3. Technical or Business Consultant
- Build and maintain a general knowledge of technology and industry trends.
- Build expert-level knowledge of the company’s solutions or service offerings.
- Determines and understands the client’s business issues and opportunities to present and demonstrate the company’s capabilities as the best solution.
- Partner with the sales team and account managers to coordinate demonstrations and identify opportunities.
- Applies product knowledge, presentation skills, and technical understanding to effectively present products or services to prospects and customers.
- Address customer questions and needs professionally by listening and responding with a thoughtful answer or solution.
4. Customer Service Representative
- Provide a positive experience for individuals while they are customers of the company.
- Communicate with customers over email, chat, and phone to address questions, issues, or concerns.
- Manage and resolve support tickets and confirm resolution with the customer.
- Partner with Account Managers to resolve and follow-up on customer issues or opportunities.
- Engage technical product and service teams to resolve issues.
5. Customer Account Manager & Sales Representative
- Manage field activities to generate and close sales opportunities.
- Achieve sales and profit goals within your assigned region.
- Update revenue and cost forecast models for your assigned accounts.
- Manage customer relationship management (CRM) data input and track ongoing metrics.
- Direct interaction with customers to promote the company’s products and brand.
- Maintain and expand customer base by building and maintaining rapport with customers.
6. Data Entry Clerk or Clinical Coder
- Perform manual data entry and document scanning tasks at a rapid pace with high accuracy and quality.
- Review charges and select proper codes for services performed (e.g., diagnostic tests, in-office procedures, injections/infusions).
- Review reference documentation to substantiate the information on the claim, bill, or other documents.
- Use correct coding guidelines and/or client-specific guidelines, review and edit charges appropriately to resolve claim edits and coding-related denials.
- Research questions/issues or conducts special projects as assigned.
- Maintain knowledge of systems and guidelines, government regulations, protocols, and other external requirements regarding coding and/or billing.
7. Project Manager
- Manage complex and large scale cross-team, cross-functional initiatives.
- Interface with management and engineers to facilitate initial analysis, estimate work efforts, define milestones, and manage resources.
- Build strong relationships with stakeholders and understand their business challenges and opportunities.
- Manage projects effectively by collaborating and interfacing with multiple teams.
- Track progress, manage dependencies, evaluate risks, and communicate ongoing status to project leadership and stakeholders.
- Clarify priorities and push team members to be highly effective in meeting objectives.
- Develop domain and technical knowledge for the business areas you support.
8. Software Developer & Engineers
- Work on the design and implementation of the next generation of features for existing or new applications.
- Support code programming, feature design, bug fixing, and code reviews.
- Research and apply industry-leading designs, frameworks, and solutions.
- Liaise with the Technical Support team to debug and resolve customer issues or defects.
- Create user-oriented documentation to support and explain the features you develop.
- Work with senior members of the development team and management to engineer new features.
9. Travel Agent or Advisor (Corporate or Personal)
- Responsible for coordinating corporate or personal travel for clients by handling all upgrades and comfort preferences.
- Ensure compliance with corporate travel policies and vendor contracts.
- Research travel options, optimal routings, and lowest cost.
- Reserve airfare, hotel rooms, or rental cars for the customer.
- Establish and maintain client relationship in order to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Resolve moderately complex client service issues.
10. Worksite Coordinator
- Determine site entry and security requirements. (documentation, training, credentialing, etc.)
- Work with employees and contractors to schedule attendance and set work expectations. (Solar Panel Installers, Construction Equipment Operators, Electricians, Plumbers, etc.)
- Support logistics and scheduling of vendor materials and services.
- Collect timesheets for staff working on-site.
- Create requisitions and invoices for services as required.
- Conduct an inventory of parts and equipment required at the site.
Research that proves working from home is a good thing
Nick Bloom is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University. He is also a Co-Director of the Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. The NBER conducts research related to economic impacts across a variety of economic problems.
His research has focused on management practices and uncertainty. The research we focused on compared the productivity of those who worked from home with those commuting and sitting in a cubicle for a full workday.
Professor Bloom believes that no one should be afraid to tell their manager that they want to work at home. Here is a video of him explaining the research and why there’s strong evidence that more of us should be working from home.
Some of the key findings from this study of employees working from home found on average:
- Employees were able to achieve as much productive work time as those working in a cubicle for 8 hours a day.
- Meetings started on-time more often since attendees were not showing up late due to traffic, running between meeting rooms, or getting stopped by co-workers.
- However, over 50% of participants believed working remotely 100% of the time is not effective due to feelings of isolation and lack of engagement.
There have been countless other studies on this topic, but overwhelming evidence supports the idea that some (not all) work could be done remotely if the job allows. If done right, employees will see greater efficiencies in getting their assignments completed while providing a greater work-life balance.
Working from home provides incredible flexibility for those looking to spend more time at home. It can reduce costs for companies while also eliminating hours of commute time for you each week.
Has your company adopted a work from home (WFH) policy? Do you work out of your house for your own business?
Leave us your thoughts on what works well for you below.