Whether you’re working remotely one day per week (or more) or full-time—by choice or because of a health situation or weather event—it’s important to ensure that you are set up to be productive. This includes having a designated workspace with the right technology; ways of dealing with kids, pets, and other potential disruptions; and a schedule that allows for the social contact and stimulation that ordinarily comes from being in a workplace with others. Here are strategies and tips to be successful as a remote worker.
Know the ground rules
Does your employer require a nine-to-five schedule, or is there flexibility? Are you allowed to work on public Wi-Fi? Which tech tools might you need, such as Zoom for video conferencing, Slack or Microsoft Teams for group chats, or Trello for project management? If you work for someone else, it’s important that your employer spells out the ground rules and ensures you have the appropriate equipment, such as a laptop, as well as network access, passcodes, and instructions for remote login, including two-factor authentication. Be sure to do trial runs and work out any problems that might impede your work. If you work for yourself, you may need many of the same tools.
Set up a functional workspace
Not everyone has a designated home office, but it’s critical to have a private, quiet space for your work. If you can, separate your work area from your personal spaces and use it just for work, not for other activities.
Get the internet speed you need
If you have kids, their FaceTiming and Xbox habits may slow your connection and download speeds. Moving as close as you can to your Wi-Fi router can help (devices that are distant tend to draw on bandwidth), or you can consider switching to Ethernet. You’ll likely need a dongle since laptops don’t have Ethernet ports these days, plus an Ethernet cable to connect your computer to your router. Wondering if your most-used website is down? Check isitdownrightnow.com, which monitors key websites and services to see if they’re working.
Use phone apps
If your job involves making long distance and/or international calls, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Skype all let you call over the Internet across the globe on the cheap. And if you and the person you’re calling are on the same service, the call will be free.
If you have a barking dog or a jack-hammering worker outside your windows, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones, such as Apple’s AirPod Pros. And if the kids are home and you’re without childcare (say, during the summer or a natural emergency), see if you and your spouse (or a neighbor in a similar situation) can take turns with care—which may mean you have to talk to your manager about working evening hours.
Plan extra social interactions
Some folks love the thought of working in solitude, but even the most introverted among us can start feeling a little claustrophobic after a few weeks at home, alone, staring at the same project for long hours. It can get lonely. Be ready for that, and try to schedule some connect-with-the-outside-world time, like a lunch date (even if you take it at 3 PM), a videochat with a friend, or an exercise class.