Over the past ten years, remote working has moved further and further into the public consciousness.
For better or worse, technology has made business portable. Got a phone, laptop or tablet and a Wifi or 3G connection? Step into your office.
Modern tech combined with a growing focus on work-life balance has seen companies make moves to offer more flexible working opportunities for their employees. This can range from work from home Friday to company-wide remote working.
The general consensus is that, when it’s done well, it works.
Coronavirus containment measures will mean many companies will have to make the move to remote working, whether they like it or not.
Whilst it’s vital to prevent further spread of COVID-19, it will bring new challenges for employees and businesses around the globe.
At FutureLearn, we’ve been benefitting from remote working for a while now.
Read on to find out our top tips for maintaining productivity and working together whilst at home.
Create a designated workspace
Whether you’re in the office or at home, having a desk set up that works for you is key.
Try to create a small area at home that’s a dedicated space for work. This will not only help you stay in the right frame of mind but will also create a clearer separation between your work and home life.
Creating boundaries will make it easier for you to switch off from work and ‘leave the office’ at the end of the day.
Devise your own routine
You know how you get your best work done. Now that you’re not in the office, you may have to adapt your routine.
For example, if you’re used to working with background noise, you may want to create a playlist you can work to or listen to white noise. Or perhaps a café may be a good choice for you to spend some of your working day.
It’s also important to stick to your usual productivity times. It may be that working remotely you find getting up and working earlier works better for you, with a longer break during the day. Or, you may prefer to work later into the evening.
Depending on your organisation’s core hours, remote working can be a great way to maximise your own personal productivity without the constraints of office hours.
If you’re struggling to focus, it could be time to try a new work technique. The Pomodoro technique is a favourite at FutureLearn and allows you to break down your work time into intervals.
Give yourself a break
Contrary to popular belief, working from home with no distractions can make it harder to remember to breathe.
Though you may not notice it, the many distractions of a busy office give the relief you need in between working towards your deadlines.
When working from home, plan breaks into your day and don’t take lunch at your desk. If you can, a midday change of scenery and stretch of the legs can do wonders for your afternoon happiness levels.
Be sure to give yourself a time that you’ll log off each day too, and turn off any work-related notifications outside of those hours.
Be extra communicative
Communication is the key to any professional role and this is never more true than when working remotely.
Since you’re not sitting within metres of your immediate team, you’ll need to organise online check-ins where you can catch up on targets, projects and goals.
Whether these are daily or weekly, they’ll be critical for showing your progress on tasks and discussing any collaborative projects or challenges.
Video conferencing is ideal for this but even sharing your priority list with your team at the beginning of each day can help with visibility.
Using online project management tools like Trello and Slack will also help you and your manager keep track of progress and upcoming work.
A good general rule is to use the tool that most resembles how you would interact in real life, e.g. running a workshop using an online whiteboard.
Keep communication timely and valuable, and make sure everyone on the team is on the same page regarding availability, eg if you’re heading for lunch, let your team know when you’ll likely be back.
Make time for virtual socialising
You may be home alone with only your succulents for company, but don’t forget to make time for non-work chats with colleagues. Strong work relationships are key for an effective team and these can suffer when people aren’t in the same place.
Try starting an online thread that’s solely for non-work related discussions. Whether you’re discussing the latest news headlines or sharing pet photos, it’s a great way to bond and connect away from your respective work agendas.
You can also allow some chat to happen at the beginning or end of meeting calls if appropriate–just like you’d do in the office.
Plus, if in-person team coffees and lunches aren’t on the cards, organise a coffee catch up on a video call or even share a lunch break with a colleague virtually.
Embrace the benefits of remote working
Although it may be the first time for many, and this can be daunting at first, the perks of working at home rather than in an office are undeniable.
There are the things that make your work-life balance more manageable: you may find it easier to fit in an exercise break in the middle of the day, you won’t need to spend your evenings doing the washing, and you can cook your own lunch at home.
And then there are the wins for your productivity: with zero distractions (so long as you’re home alone) no one can pester you with questions or drag you into mini-meetings at your desk. And you don’t waste precious time, money, and emissions on a long morning and afternoon commute.
The potential benefits of online working can mean great things for the environment, your wallet, your health, and your work productivity.
With the right training and consideration, businesses and employees alike can enjoy the very real benefits of a workforce who are able to work from home.
If you’d like a more in-depth guide to remote working, join the Institute of Coding and University of Leeds’ program on Collaboration, Communication and Remote Working. You’ll discover practical online project planning and collaboration tools and learn how to effectively communicate with your colleagues, no matter where you are in the world.