Working from home? Effective ways to work remotely

Amara Lennon

Suddenly working from home? Struggling with the transition? After eight years of primarily working remotely, the Social Edge team shares their tips and tricks to create an environment that enables you to successfully work remotely.

1. Set up a dedicated home workspace.

If you already have a home office, leverage that area in your home as your primary workspace while you're working remotely. For those that don't, we recommend creating a dedicated work area so you can avoid having to set up your work area each morning. This can also be used as a signal to your family that you are "at work" while you are using it. For example, if possible, avoid using non-dedicated spaces, like the kitchen counter or table.

Find the best chair and table or desk in your house to work. Hunching over your laptop at the counter will eventually make your evenings miserable for your eyes, neck and back. Our team recommends connecting your laptop to a separate monitor (if possible) and making sure that the monitor is at eye level when sitting straight. Both of these actions will reduce eye and neck/back strain throughout the day.

2. Get dressed!

As tempting as it might be to roll out of bed and head over to your work area in your pajamas, we highly recommend getting dressed for work every day. This doesn't mean putting on a suit or your typical business attire (unless you feel inclined to do so!), but changing out of your pajamas or sweats will set the tone for the workday and make you feel more productive.

3. Set your working hours and stick to them.  

Make sure that everyone at work knows your working hours, and ensure you are available during those times. When someone calls, IMs, or emails you, your response should be as quick as when you are in the office.

Make sure your family knows what your working hours are, and that they are respectful of them. Set a cutoff time and give yourself a window of time to disconnect from work and home responsibilities. Talk to your kids about times you can be interrupted and times that you can't. Create a sign or symbol that lets them know what your current status is.

Be professional on phone meetings. That means finding a workplace free of barking dogs and crying babies. Replace office sounds with something - whether it is music, news on the radio, atmospheric sounds, white noise... just as long as it isn't distracting.

4. Know your communication channels and collaboration tools.

We have a lot of options in our digital workplace on how we can communicate - from chat tools, social intranets, digital workplaces, texts, web conferencing, emails, etc. Decide as a team how you want to work together and collaborate, and ensure you have the appropriate channels set up and everyone has access.

It seems simple, but if your team is suddenly remote, you want to ensure that everyone knows which Teams site or Slack channel is the place to go to chat with the project team, or ask IT questions, or even to just to check in with your colleagues or share the latest news.

5. Use video-conferencing tools.

Embrace and take advantage of video conferencing tools, like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, etc. to connect with your colleagues while you are working remotely.

We also recommend utilizing the web-cam option to make it feel like you are actually in the meetings together. Video conferencing enables you to read facial expressions - confusion, agreement, when someone wants to add something to the conversation, etc. - and helps the overall flow of your meetings.

6. Determine the technology you have or need to successfully work remotely.

If you are suddenly remote, you may not always have adequate tech resources that you need to work long term at home. You might have a slow, old work laptop, or spotty wifi or you're not allowed to access company files from home, or your company's internal network can't handle having everyone online at once from home. Your smartphone might actually be faster than your computer, and easier to communicate with.

So, figure out if you're able to increase your modem speed easily. Determine with your colleagues if video chat, while great, may not be the right choice if you all have network issues. Figure out the best way to communicate, to collaborate, and reassess as needed.

7. Plan for outages.

What will you do when the Internet stops working?  What if the power goes out?  At the very least be sure that you have a way to alert co-workers when a power event occurs and try to store your presentations, documents, and other work in the cloud where others can access it.  Your pre-planning will be rewarded when your power goes out five minutes before an important presentation and you can quickly alert a co-worker to step in and use your presentation stored in the cloud within that time.

8. Tips for managers to acclimate to employees working remotely.

As a manager, you are responsible for dictating the standard forms of communication (email, Slack, etc.), and ensuring that everyone is set up to use them. Develop new skills to be able to sense the productivity of your workings. Use things like the time it takes them to respond to an IM or the background sounds you hear when on a phone meeting with them to help gauge their productivity.

Understand that it is hard for some people to work from home. Act as their counselor to understand their issues, and try to help them find solutions. Have occasional one-on-one meetings with your staff, ask them if they feel productive.  If you ask in a non-threatening way and share how you have been able to keep up your productivity you may find that they will be more willing to share their productivity issues.

Give leeway to workers that you know are being productive. For example, if they enjoy starting later in the day try to be accommodating as long as it doesn't disrupt the coordination of work with other team members.

Hold a weekly team meeting with nothing on the agenda. Use this time to share work ideas that anyone has, and when you run out of ideas talk about sports, TV, or whatever. Use this time to replace office banter and to keep up team unity.

9. Get a good office assistant!

The furry ones help you to get outside for fresh air,  can be really good listeners and will work for treats!

Gili hard at work at Erin's desk!

Check out more pictures of some of the Social Edge team's home office setups!