Succeed at Remote WorkingWe’re always talking about the benefits of hiring remote workers for your business. Employees are certainly in agreement with the advantages of working from home, as they have better control over their activities. A Stanford University study found that attrition rates amongst home workers dropped by 50%, while Harvard Business Review published an article on the results of a similar study, which found that home workers completed 13.5% more calls than office staff. It is thought that the flexibility of being at home if you have kids and other commitments outside of work, makes life easier for remote workers, and those very commitments inspire them to do more, quicker. Another contributing factor to the increased productivity, could be the quieter environment in which to make calls and do work that demands silence.

Results from various studies clearly indicate that both companies and their employees benefit from the arrangement:

  • 52% of employees said that they were less likely to take time off.
  • The Harvard Business Review post above mentioned how Chinese travel company, Ctrip, estimated a saving of $1,900 per employee over a 9-month period of remote working.
  • Employees are happier, since they get more sleep, eat healthier, and get more exercise.
  • Happy employees are productive employees, which benefits the company.

Technology and the Remote Worker

It’s no secret that technology plays a crucial role in increasing flexibility of communications and working logistics between the employer and the remote worker.

According to surveys by the Department of Business (UK), 59% of companies now have remote workers. According to Andy Lake, editor and managing director of Flexibility, the reason this figure is not higher, is because employers still make the mistake of comparing remote work with traditional office-based work, and the fact that employees are readily available at the office. However, that assumption is void in light of modern communication tools that make employees as available as ever. Additionally, tools such as screen sharing and instant messaging make people more accessible and make meetings shorter and more productive.

Today, we look at some tips on how remote workers can make the most of their fortunate position.

1. Separate Home from Office

While this is the oldest suggestion in ‘Working From Home 101’, we’re taking it a step further. Instead of just closing the door to distractions, we recommend that you do that on your PC too. In a previous post, we spoke about the fact that employees use their own technology to perform work-related tasks. While this benefits the employer and, in most cases, increases productivity, it can be a distraction for employees who are distracted with their personal apps, etc.

We recommend that you sign out of personal applications when working e.g. sign out of your personal email account, any personal IM programs, etc. It’s also best to keep your work email separate from your personal email. How can you expect to not get distracted when your friends are emailing you with plans for the weekend? If you have a lot of personal distractions on your computer, one suggestion is to create two local user accounts on your PC, one for work, and one for your personal computing needs. Select work-related logos, images and banners for your desktop display on the work account. When you’re working, only use the work account, and block your personal social media usage during work hours.

Some remote workers even use two completely different PCs.

Key to Success

2. Work Off-Site With the On-Site Team

Distraction-free as it is, some remote workers do miss the office. One good way for you to stay in the loop is to do a daily online meeting. Using Mikogo, everyone can log in and share a screen to discuss the day’s tasks or achievements and generally discuss projects. Showing each other what you’re working on or discussing work tasks for the day enables you to feel like a part of the team.

3. Get Your IT Department to Divert Internal Calls

Between instant messaging and online meetings, there really isn’t any need for phone calls, but if your office phone system uses short internal extensions, ask the IT department to set one up that diverts to your cell phone. This enables coworkers to get in touch with you without having to hunt for your number every time, and you will seem more readily available. Alternatively, if you’re a true online worker who is familiar with concurrently using multiple different web applications, utilize VoIP calls so your colleagues can reach you at your remote desk.

4. Put Pants On

In a world where some employers still fear the professional decline of the company’s image when they allow employees to work remotely, it is important to set their minds at ease. Take the responsibility of work-at-home arrangements seriously and dress the part – no sitting around in your boxers or pyjamas.

While working from home comes with certain privileges that should empower you, some of them may be counter-intuitive and working in your pyjamas is one of them. Why? Because your actions affect your subconscious, which affects your productivity. Therefore, when you need a productive, creative and successful day, you should dress for success, rather than like a slob.

If you want to succeed at remote working, you need to make holistic decisions that will affect your psyche positively. Working from home means that you have to be self-motivated and driven, because if you’re lucky, your boss won’t be micromanaging you and you will be able to improve your work-life balance.

Discussion: Do you have more tips for remote worker success? We’d love to read about your experiences in comments below.