Taking the leap to work remotely can be incredibly exciting. When you’re no longer constrained by a commute, you have more time, and you can work in the way that is best for you. Especially with the rise of the internet and digital working, you no longer need to feel that remote working would make doing your job harder, or rule you out of being taken seriously for progression opportunities.
As a result, employees who choose to work remotely are often found to be happier, and so productivity increases. A Stanford University study in 2013, which looked at a call centre company, reported that performance increased by 13% when they allowed 16,000 of their employees to work remotely. Additionally, employees can choose to live where they want to, rather than having to decide this based on their commute, which can make things like buying a house more affordable. This also includes being able to live abroad for periods of time, when agreed with their employer (top tip – notifying your employer is not just courtesy, it’s necessary to check for any payroll implications).
Think remote working sounds good? Whilst it can often feel exciting and daunting at the same time, we take a look at how you can make this new style of role work for you.
Set your boundaries
Whilst working at home means no commute, no commute also means more temptation to log on to your laptop in the early hours. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll just reply quickly to an email, but if you make a habit of this, people will come to expect a response from you at all times. Just because you don’t have to leave to catch a train, doesn’t mean that you need to spend your old commute time online.
This can also be important if you are working abroad. It can be difficult to manage working across different time zones, but make sure that it’s clear when your working hours are in relation to your colleagues. Respect their boundaries as well, and let them know that you don’t require them to reply outside of their own working day. This way, everyone is clear about what is expected of them.
One way of doing this is to put the hours that you’re available on your status if you use a workplace messenger, or use your calendar to set your working hours. Google Calendar, for example, notifies someone if they try to invite you to a meeting outside the hours that you’ve set.
Communication is key
When you’re not in the office, it can be difficult to see if someone is free, or if they are engrossed in a task. Additionally, with a range of messaging apps, email and shared documents, it can be a little overwhelming to nearly always have something flashing up on your screen, distracting you from work.
Make it clear to your team how they can reach you if it’s an urgent query, and try to set times that you check your messages so that you are communicating effectively. Working out of the office can mean that you feel you need to respond to all messages instantly so that everyone knows you’re there, but the truth is that as long as you respond in a timely manner, agreed by everyone, and it’s appropriate for your role, then you don’t need to be available at all times during your working day.
If you really need to focus, then let your team know, and consider putting a short status message on your instant messenger channels, saying that you’re concentrating, and how they can reach you if it is urgent. If you have a shared queue or inbox, consider scheduling quiet times on a rota, so that everyone has a chance to get some solid work done, without distractions or feeling guilty.
Get the right equipment
Back in the office, it’s likely that you had access to a desk, computer monitor, and maybe also an external keyboard and mouse. Unless you have these things already or can take them from the office, it can be an expensive outgoing cost for a remote employee.
If your company offers a work from home budget, then use it. As long as you’re not expensing high-end products when you don’t need them to do your job, then you should take the opportunity to create an effective home set-up to help you be more productive. If they don’t offer a specific budget, perhaps talk to your manager about any equipment that may be available to take from the office. Ultimately, if the cost does fall to you, it’s a good investment. Perhaps think about it as using the money that you have saved by not commuting, for a different work related purpose.
If you’re travelling around and want to keep things light, it’s still a good idea to assess whether the equipment you’re using is fit for purpose, or whether you may need additional items such as a wireless mouse or keyboard. Although these can seem like a luxury, good posture when working is vital in order to maintain physical health.
To sum up
Working remotely can be a great opportunity to get a good work/life balance, and to live in places that you’d never have been able to visit otherwise. By setting some simple rules and being prepared, you can be just as productive as in the office, and claim back some of those commuting hours at the same time.