The digital age has brought technology that enables us to leave the confines of the office building and work remotely from “home” or where ever we choose to locate our work space. Perhaps a beach in Bali, a tree house in Thailand or our own backyard becomes our working environment? Many organizations have become remote-friendly and are seeing the immense benefits this option affords them.
The talent net can be cast wider- far across the globe, to attract the best candidate to execute the job. Professionals are embracing this work method which allows for more flexibility. Employees with child care challenges can work from home at hours that are conducive to meeting both family and work needs while those who travel extensively, as part of their work commitments, can complete deadlines on the move. Whatever the situation, having a remote working solution can enhance your life considerably both personally and professionally.
Do You Have the Self Discipline to Work from Home?
Before you raise your hand wildly in the air to sign up for working remotely you need to ask yourself a few questions. Is your “home” environment able to support your work responsibilities? What do you need for your “home” office to operate effectively? Are there any distractions that might threaten your work delivery? Do you have the necessary self-discipline to stay on point?
Let’s take a look at a few of the best practices that will enable a remote worker to reap the benefits of this solution while delivering a high standard of professionalism. In some instances, you may need to acquire a new skill set and a revised work ethic to get the job done. We can learn a vast amount from successful remote workers who manage to tackle their jobs quickly, efficiently and energetically. Here is a handy list of what you need to consider before choosing this option for yourself.
What do you need to be a successful remote employee?
When setting up your remote office you are going to need both hardware and software solutions to make your transition smoother. These vital accessories will allow for optimum execution of your work demands.
- Installing remote access software for accessing and sharing data:
Most importantly you are going to need to be able to access your company’s work files as well as being able to view shared files with your colleagues. For data access and sharing, companies are using virtual private networks (VPNs) which are cost effective and secure. This is a direct connection between the office network and your offsite router. They are not easy to set up but once configured it will seem as if you are right there in the main office. Warning: There can be a security risk as you are allowing hardware not under enterprise control to act as if its part of your network. Some VPN options include OpenVPN (completely free), SonicWALL VPN (Firewall-based industry favorite, easy configuration) and Windows Routing and Remote Access (Comes with built-in Windows Server, easy set up for IT admin)
There is also the option of an enterprise remote desktop which is difficult to set up but very easy to use. These ensure that a company can administer every facet of what their remote workers can access on the network. It also provides a seamless user experience for use on any device that you connect from –iPad, home PC, a hotel media PC or a library PC. This technology is used in Desktop as a service (DaaS) solutions which can be used by paying a monthly fee. In this way you don’t have to cover the upfront costs of installing and maintaining the hosting infrastructure. Examples of this technology include Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) and Citrix XenApp/ XenDesktop
There are also simpler versions designed for access to a single PC. They are easy to set up by the end user but the centralized control might be limited. Some options include GoToMyPC, LogMeIN, Splashtop and Google Chrome. Other organizations also use cloud based sharing software like Dropbox.
- Maintaining Effective Communication:
Your Supervisors and colleagues need to be able to be in constant contact with you. Your communication tools need to deliver reliable connections consistently. You will need make use of beneficial IP telephony, video conferencing or cloud based email hosting. IP Telephony networks allow you to make and receive calls via an internet connection. You are no longer going to be using an analogue telephone system but a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) network. It does of course mean that your internet connection needs to be strong and reliable. It will seem like you are making calls to clients or colleagues directly from the work office. When you use cloud based email hosting it allows you to share calendars and access messages from any location. With Skype for Business you can utilize video conferencing while accessing great features like desktop sharing when you are on the call.
- Ensure the Security of your Remote Office:
There are of course security implications for working remotely but you can take precautions to banish security risks. You can use a two factor authentication process when you access your company’s network and its sensitive data. You would need to encrypt your own hard drive if you plan to store any business file on your computer. Your anti-virus software must always be up to date on all your devices used to access the company’s network.
- Invest in a comfortable headset:
It will be worth your while to invest in a good headset that will eliminate echo when you are on conference calls. You can opt for a wireless headset with a battery or USB capability allowing you to work all day without it powering down in the middle of a crucial client call.
What is the Most Ideal Remote Worker Conduct?
- Stay Top of Mind
You’re working from home but you don’t want it to be a case of “out of sight out of mind.” You need to ensure that you don’t become invisible to your co-workers. You’re no longer able to saunter past their desks and wave a cheery hello so you are going to have to make your presence felt from afar. No one is going to know that you are actually working hard unless you tell them. So at the start of every day connect with the team and have a quick chat about how they are doing and what they have been up to on their weekends etc. It’s essential to let people know you are around by building relationships. Stay in “touch.”
- Practice Frequent Communication
You want to aim for clear communication with your employer, colleagues and clients. Be upfront about what they can expect from you and if there are any limitations around your current home office. It is very important that you truly understand what your superior expects of you so you can deliver on their expectations. Keep connected and over communicate. You can schedule check-ins and find time for one-on-ones with key people you are working with on a project. At the beginning, working remotely can seem lonely –so keep chatting to your co-workers to stay focused and engaged. You also want to make sure that your communication is effective. Don’t send vague, unclear, arbitrary messages. Be clear about what you are saying, what you are asking and aim to always be a reliable communicator. Keep vigilant around the tone of your colleague’s emails and if something doesn’t feel right, set up a video call with them immediately. You also want to follow your colleague’s social media posts and stay in touch with their “human” sides so it doesn’t only feel like you are talking to a computer. Create a chatroom for you and the team for easy, immediate communication.
- Establish Your Office Hours
It’s a great idea to check in with colleagues in the morning or when you come into the “office.” If you go on a lunch break or are off seeing a client be sure to leave messages like – “Lunchtime –back in one hour.” There is nothing more infuriating for employees and colleagues than not being able to connect with a remote worker. They will think you have vanished with no idea of when you will return. Be clear when your work day starts and finishes and when you are away from your desk and the estimated time of your return.
- Encourage weekly standup meetings
These morning or weekly status meetings can be held remotely to ensure continued communication on the various projects in the pipeline. You can check in with what you worked on the day before, what you’re working on today and your plans for the rest of the week. You can highlight any obstacles and look for solutions. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your weekly targets.
- Deliver work consistently and on time
You will need to get your work done that is clearly visible to others in your company. There will be pressure for you to deliver results every day. Sometimes in an office people get away with not conveying daily progress- they get away with just being visible. This is not a luxury for the remote employee. You need to deliver visibly on a daily basis.
What are Some of the Tips and Tricks to Keep you on Track?
- Create a daily routine:
You want to stick to a daily schedule that becomes a strong habit. If you usually went to the office at 8 then start your remote work day at the same time. You must take your lunch break at the same time and in the afternoon give yourself a ten-minute afternoon walk to re-energize yourself. Your work day should finish at the same time it would have ended at the work office.
- Try to keep consistent hours
Consistent hours helps your company get used to your “presence,” knowing when you are available to communicate and when you are ready for work. If your schedule is going to change for some reason, make it abundantly clear to all concerned.
- Take stock of your own productivity
Divide your day into tasks that facilitates your productivity. If checking emails first thing in the morning leads you into a million directions, tackle them in the afternoon. You want to limit distractions and create a schedule that suits what you need to deliver in a day.
- Make sure you have a dedicated work Area
You will need a dedicated office area that is separate from your home life. Your door must be able to close and give you the quiet you require to execute your tasks. Your home office needs to be a positive and inspiring space. Your friends and family will have to learn to leave you alone –you are at work and they might need to show some restraint. Just because you are working form home doesn’t mean you are available to them during office hours.
- Keep Active
You really don’t want to be in your pajamas all day. Get dressed for “work” –it will put you in the right mind frame. Keep up with a great exercise regime to boost your mental and physical health. You are not going to be around people so find ways to make yourself laugh.
- Make a realistic to do list
When you map out a list of tasks it helps you to avoid procrastination and stay focused. If you are prone to procrastination schedule your tasks by the hour so you stay on target.
- Optimize your work space
It’s a healthy idea to keep a green plant at your desk as they detoxify the air around them and in the process reduce your stress levels and improve your concentration. Also try to avoid clutter and aim for a clean work area. Apparently studies show that over a period of time, a neglected desk area can collect 400 times the bacteria than on a toilet seat!
- Take a screen break
People are spending more than five hours every day at their desks staring at a screen. Make sure you schedule time for screen breaks so as to give your eyes and mind a rest. Move your body, take a walk, a power nap or smell the roses. Just be sure to let your colleagues know that you’re on a screen break.
- Make human contact
Try to maintain human contact. If you can’t have a face to face, pick up the phone and engage in a real conversation. Sometimes take yourself out of your house to a library or coffee shop to invigorate yourself with people’s energy in your vicinity. That’s if you can work with distractions all around you.
- Time to go home
At the end of your work day switch off your computer and go “home.” You want to make sure that you have a great work-life balance. Beware of being on call 24/7. You’re at home all the time but that doesn’t mean you have to work all the time.
Are you up for the Remote Work Opportunity?
Do you think you have the temperament for working from “home?” Are you already scouring job sites for remote-friendly listings? Working from home can be a massive adjustment but if you go into it with your eyes open, with all of your resources set up properly and a healthy dose of self discipline you can be a highly successful remote worker.
On the part of the employer they would also need to have very clear guidelines in place to be able to lay out their expectations and deliverables. They also need to ask themselves hard questions about how they envision the communication working and the best solutions for executing the work load.
When you decide to become a remote worker and you are looking for effective solutions for setting up your home office, talk to us – Mustard IT. We’re the UK’s fastest growing IT consultancy and the go-to service for small businesses in the London area. Our expert technicians will be able to set up all of the software you might need for working remotely. From VPN’s to VoIP systems we will ensure easy communication between your home office and the head office. We will also make sure your hard drive has the correct safety measures in place so all data sharing is protected.
If you are taking your first steps towards working remotely or need to upgrade your existing home office, we are there to help you navigate a seamless process. Call to speak to one of our technicians and find out how easy it is to get started with Mustard IT today.