10 Practices That Will Ensure You Succeed at Remote Work

Working Remotely

By: Marie Prokopets, co-founder of FYI / Aug 13th, 2019

There’s a torrid love affair afoot. And it’s contagious. Lots of people are catching the love bug. It’s an unlikely love story between everyone…and remote work.

At my company FYI, we recently surveyed 486 people about remote work as part of our Remote Work Report. Since we’re a remote team ourselves, we already knew that remote work has its challenges. But our hunch was that in spite of the challenges, people still love remote work.

We were right, except that we underestimated just how much people love remote work.

It’s a shout from the rooftops kind of love.

We asked people “would you recommend working remotely to a friend?” and “is remote a good fit for you?” The results blew us away:
  • 96% of fully remote workers say that they would recommend remote work to a friend.
  • 91% of fully remote workers say that working remotely is a good fit for them.

Why do people love remote work so much?

Let me count the ways. From the flexibility to create your own schedule. The absence of infuriating commutes to and from work. The quiet work environment away from distractions. The ability to be closer to children and families, plus pets too. The ability to live anywhere, including moving outside of expensive tech hubs. And the increased productivity that can come as a result of working remotely.

But even though most people love working remotely, there are challenges that if left unchecked, can make remote work a nightmare.

We asked people to share their #1 challenge with remote work. The top challenge? Communication. Followed by the lack of social opportunities, and loneliness/isolation.

In addition to the challenges people have with remote, we asked them to share their remote work tips and best practices. We wanted to know the practices that help people thrive as remote workers and leaders of remote teams. From these tips, we compiled a list of 10 practices to help you master remote work.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of each of the 10 practices to ensure remote work success:

1) Learn what makes you happiest and most productive

Remote work isn’t a one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter formula. Every single person works differently.

Some people like working from home all week or part of the week. Others prefer coworking spaces. And some like working later in the day instead of starting the day in the morning.

It takes some experimentation to figure out your personal best way of working and to identify what makes you most productive.

Here is some great advice from Sarah Betts, Kai Gradert, and J.P. VanderLinden on how to identify your best way of working remotely.

2) Comprehensive documentation and clear communication

Without clarifying hallway conversations and in-person meetings where you can read body language and ask questions, it’s easy for things to get lost in translation.

Remote work requires extra attention to detail when it comes to documenting what was discussed and agreed to in meetings, as well as what the tasks are and who owns them.

It also means you’ll need to communicate even more than you normally would to make sure everyone got the same message and understands.

Here’s what Stephane Kasriel, Prashant Sridharan, and Ben Erez had to say about the topic.

3) Practice good remote meeting etiquette

We’ve all been there. We’re on a call, the video is off, and so instead of being fully engaged with the call, we’re checking our phones and working on something totally unrelated to the call.

Another situation that happens often is when everyone is in the same room in an office and then dials into a video call where one or two remote people join in on video. The remote folks immediately start feeling isolated and separated from the rest of the crew.

Good meetings happen when everyone is engaged, dialed in on video, and separately dialed in to the video call if there are remote team members joining.

Everett Harper, Cristina Bravo Olmo, and Stephane Kasriel’s tips will help you master remote meetings.

4) Schedule time to socialize

Remote work can be lonely. You’re sitting at home alone in your house. Or going to a coworking space or coffee shop where you don’t know anyone.

There isn’t an office to save you from the isolation and force you into socialization.

It’s up to you to carve out in-person time to socialize with friends, family, other remote workers, and people in your industry. And it’s vitally important to do as a remote worker.

Shabia S., Vivian M. Chen, and Sibi M. shared their best tips for dealing with the social challenges remote brings.

5) Maintain boundaries between work and life

It’s easy for remote work-life lines to get blurred.

Most people who work remotely do so from home. Living and working in the same place means that there will be less and less separation between work life and regular life.

That is, unless you purposely create separation between the two.

There are a few ways to do this. One is by blocking time on your calendar when you aren’t at work, which is Kevan Lee’s suggestion.

Devan Sabaratnam suggests having a different space for your work, like an office you can make your “work zone.”

And Hailley Griffis suggests keeping your work electronics silenced and out of reach when you aren’t working.

6) Be visible at work

It’s easy to be seen by your manager when you sit a few feet away from them. Or have the CEO remember your contributions because every now and then you bump into them in the hall and let them know what you’re up to.

As a remote worker, you need to make yourself seen, otherwise, you’ll be invisible.

Tell people what you’re working on and what you’ve accomplished. Let your manager know what you are doing and the things you’re learning. And if you manage a team, make sure to check in with them at least once a week, if not daily.

Here are a few tips from Brandon Minnick, Alexa Scordato and Nolan Fitzgerald to help you have remote work visibility superpowers.

7) Connect with your teammates beyond work

Your teammates won’t naturally tell you about themselves in a remote team unless you make the time for it.

That’s because facetime with the team is typically limited to one-on-ones, team meetings, and project calls, all of which aren’t the most conducive to getting to know someone beyond the work they do

Schedule time to get to know people on the team on a personal level, either as part of existing meetings or during special dedicated meetings.

Here are some tips from Anthony Maggio, Mark Backman, and Jeff Whitlock to get you started.

8) Define responsibilities

Remember how communication was the #1 challenge of remote work? That’s why this tip is so important. Who is responsible for what can easily get lost in translation on remote teams. Two people can end up doing the same work, or worse yet, no one does it.

I often notice on my own teams that simply dropping instructions into Slack might not be enough. Oftentimes the instructions and tasks need to be talked through on a video call as well.

Here are a few hacks for defining who is responsible for what from Ryan Hoover, Tiffany Heimpel, and David Fernández.

9) Be accountable

You’re home. Or in a coworking space. There’s no one who might walk up behind you and catch you on social media. No one to be mad that you’re watching Netflix instead of working. No one to tell you that you should stop reading the news. Or stop chatting with your colleagues on Slack for hours on end.

If you don’t hold yourself accountable, you could end up in hot water, unproductive and behind on your work.

One thing we do at FYI to help with accountability and transparency is to have each team member send out daily updates which list what they are going to do for the day and what they accomplished yesterday. This helps people plan their work and get it done too.

There are lots of other hacks people have thought of. Like setting a timer, which Emily Kinzig recommends. Or making a list of your to-dos for the day and checking them off, which Heather-Mae Pusztai does to keep herself accountable. And a genius idea from Joel Falconer is to share what you are planning to complete for the week in Slack or Trello.

10) Make time for your health

One version of remote work ends up looking like this: Someone sitting on their office chair at home all day, their only physical breaks consisting of when they walk over to the kitchen to get food. Or perhaps a quick brisk walk downstairs to open the door for the delivery person. The contents of that brown bag are more than likely something quite unhealthy.

I personally fall into this trap all the time. There’s no walk to work, no walk around the office, no walk to the cafeteria or a nearby restaurant. And this can end up eroding your health even more than an office job.

Take control of your health, and by extension, your happiness at work, by carving out time for your physical and mental health.

Exercise, take walks, meditate, hydrate, eat healthy and moderate your caffeine intake. Nurture your body and mind with healthy activities during the day.

Here’s what Ryan Collins, Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré, and Claire Atkin suggest.

With so much love for remote work, it’s hard to argue about the future of work. Remote work is here to stay, and it will continue to grow. And since remote is still in its infancy, we’re just starting to figure out how best to get work done in a remote environment. These 10 practices will help you stay sane and productive while working, regardless of what role you have in a company.

To learn more about the challenges of remote work, why people love it in spite of those challenges, everything we learned about remote meetings, adorable remote dog photos, and see more remote work tips (we have over 175 and counting), make sure you read the full report here.

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Marie Prokopets is the co-founder of FYI. She also has an email newsletter called Product Habits where she and her co-founder Hiten teach people how to do customer-centric product development.

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