With the rise in tools that bring work and communication online, many people have opted to ditch traditional office environments in favour of working from home, a co-working space, or anywhere with a strong Wi-Fi signal. Setting your own schedule gives you tremendous freedom, but you also need a lot of discipline when working remotely to remain productive. Implementing some basics can help you succeed in remote work settings.
Set a Realistic Budget
Working remotely saves on some expenses, such as commuting and work clothes. But it comes with a new set of expenses you should consider, so it’s a good idea to do your research beforehand. Do you need to increase your internet speed at home or rent a desk at a co-working space? If you work for a company remotely, talk to your employer about how to account for any increased expenses. Keep in mind that entrepreneurs and freelancers are personally responsible for these expenses, so budgeting accordingly helps you prepare for them.
Create a Productive Environment
Your environment has a huge impact on your work and productivity, so it’s a good idea to weigh the options when you choose to work remotely. Are you more suited to work out of a coffee shop, co-working space, library, or home office? Testing out a few locations until you find something that suits your style can help. Consider noise levels, the type of people you want to around you while you work (if anyone at all), and potential distractions.
You have the ultimate flexibility on your work space when you work remotely from home, and this means you can customize your space to your preferences. For example, you can work from a standing desk, treadmill desk, or yoga ball chair, depending on which one makes you feel the most comfortable and productive. Brainstorming what you may need in your ideal environment, from office supplies to healthy snacks, helps you plan and create a space conducive to creativity, wellness, and productivity.
Stay in Contact
Collaboration tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts help you keep in touch with your co-workers, team, or clients. If you use a mobile phone internationally, apps such as WhatsApp and Viber let you send free text messages and make free calls to others who also use those apps. Also, Google Voice allows you to make free phone calls to North America from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection. Project management tools, including Basecamp, and Trello, support communication between remote team members. Consider using these software options to collaborate on group projects, track progress, and share updates on individual responsibilities within your work group.
Use Powerful Tools
Online tools and apps can support working remotely. QuickBooks Online cloud-based accounting software allows multiple people to work on an account from a variety of devices. With Boomerang, you can schedule sending emails at a later time. This can be especially helpful if you’re in a different time zone than the people you email or if you like working late into the night and don’t want clients or coworkers to see that you send emails at 2 a.m. Dropbox and Google Docs work great for organizing and sharing files virtually, and also simplify document backups, helping you to avoid loss of important contacts, photos, and files.
Connect with Your Community
Working remotely can make you feel like you’re on your own. To counteract that, try connecting with like-minded people. One option is to check out a Meetup group in your area to expand your network, stay active, practice your hobbies, or learn new ones. You can also use social media networks such as Twitter and Instagram to connect with others. Participating in online discussion boards or tapping into online communities can help you connect with other remote workers or digital nomads in your area.
Set Specific Hours
Designating certain hours of your day as work time can help you mentally get into work mode. Try to reserve those blocks of time strictly for working and not going for a walk, playing with the kids, or reorganizing your bedroom closet. When you decide on a start time, try to stick to it. Designating 8:00 a.m. as the start of your workday, for example, can help you to avoid morning procrastination, such as hitting the snooze button too many times. A clear end time, such as 5:00 p.m., provides a deadline for wrapping up work. It also helps to separate your work and private life responsibilities.
Set a Schedule for the Day
Setting specific hours is just the start — you need to maximize the time you blocked out for work. Creating a to-do list first thing in the morning that lists all of your tasks for the day helps you stay on track. You can take it a step further by prioritizing the tasks according to urgency, importance, and your natural efficiency levels. For example, if you’re on a deadline for an article and you concentrate better in the morning, you might tackle any writing work first thing.
Tracking your time helps you determine how you spend your time and how you can improve your time management skills. Often, you may not realize where you lose steam in your productivity. Diligently documenting your time and tasks for one week, either manually by using pen and paper or with time-tracking software, can give you a good picture of where your time goes. Try to record everything you do during your workday and the time spent on each particular activity. Once you see patterns of how you spend your time, you can change your habits and routines to improve your efficiency.
Limit Online Social Interaction
Even if you start to work on time every day and have a rock-solid to-do list, you can easily fall off course with social media. A quick check of Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, for example, can rapidly turn into an hour or two of wasted time. Consider designating certain times during the day for social media breaks, such as while you eat lunch or after dinner. You an also check and respond to your personal email during these same times. Separating these professional and personal tasks can help you stay on track.
Choose Effective Technology
If you work from home and want to maximize your efficiency or reduce your stress levels, the right technology can go a long way. Most at-home workers use one primary computer or computer substitute. For example, freelance workers tend to prefer laptops or tablets because of their portability. If you have a dedicated home office, you may favour an actual workstation with multiple monitors. Try to find desktop options you can move from room-to-room with ease in case you decide to rearrange your home office.
Use Your Smartphone
Most people invest lots of time customizing their smartphones for their personal lives. But when you work remotely, it helps to choose a business-friendly smartphone strategy. In some cases, you may find it optimal to operate with a second phone dedicated entirely to work. If you find yourself struggling to turn off your work when you want to relax or spend time with your family, you can shut off your business phone without potentially missing important personal calls.
The decision between iOS or Android operating systems comes down to your own preferences. Regardless of the operating system you pick, you should make sure your smartphone offers compatibility with your other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, as well as your home computer, tablet, or laptop.
Master a Co-Working Environment
For many small businesses, especially startups, the need for office space often leads to co-working spaces. These open-plan spaces typically feature several desks or workstations in one shared area. The perk is the dedicated space in a commercial building without the higher costs of renting an entire office. But you may find it’s easy to get distracted due to the open nature of the work space. Learning how to deal with those distractions can help you increase your productivity when you opt for a co-working space.
Make Use of Headphones
Much like with a “”do not disturb”” sign on your hotel room door, putting on headphones ensures most co-workers understand it means you want to be left alone. The benefit of headphones is twofold. When reviewing an important presentation, for example, headphones amplify what you hear. In addition, headphones help to drown out sounds around you, even if you don’t listen to anything on them. In any case, most co-workers leave you alone when you wear headphone, allowing you to keep your train of thought on track. If you become easily distracted by even the slightest noises, consider using options such as white noise apps to help keep you focused on work.
While headphones are a good option, not everyone understands them as a universal signal to leave you alone. Some co-workers may not require the same quiet working conditions as you. You spend more time and energy focusing on your noisy co-workers than on your actual work if you remain silent, allowing their behaviour to continually deter you from your work. Try to let your co-workers know you need your own quiet space to accomplish certain tasks as politely and respectfully as possible. Most fellow business people do their best to respect your space once you explain the situation. If they don’t or they can’t stop the noise, go to a more private area to get your work done. This prevents unnecessarily hurt feelings if you suddenly get up and move, and it also lets your co-workers know not to bother you in your new working area.
Dress the Part
When you work from home in your own business, you set the dress code. Most people find they feel more productive when they wear comfortable clothes. If you spend most of the day on your feet, consider taking extra time to find a pair of shoes that fit great. This helps you stay productive. Also, comfortable attire still needs to be workplace-appropriate. If you would wear it to the gym, it’s probably not the best outfit for work.
Working remotely requires more focus and tools to help you get work done fast and well. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app to improve the way you work from home.”