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From Rookie to Guru: 20 Tips to Master Remote Working
May 4, 2020
Remote Working Boot Camp
Welcome to the Remote Working Boot Camp! Your one-stop crash course in all things remote working.
By the end of this experience you’ll be the Rocky Balboa of remote working. You’ll have forgotten what an office is and think that a “commute” is a fruit you’ve never tried. Your time here will be spent progressing through the 5 stages of becoming the master of working from home. Each step along the way is filled with tasks, challenges and tips to power-up your skills.
Not everyone will start as a Rookie, so if you find that you’re already practicing a suggestion, then keep on scrolling!
Finally, don’t think that you must go from Rookie to Guru in one day – it takes time to master any skill (10,000 hours apparently – don’t worry this post isn’t that long)! Keep this page handy and try and level-up your skills gradually for maximum success.
So, let’s stop intro-ing and get to work!
Rookie – Level 1
“Cover me. I’m going in!”
Alright Rookie listen up! You’re new to this remote working business, but that’s OK. If you’re used to an office environment, things are going to work a bit differently around here (no pun intended). You might find that daunting, exciting or both. Either way, our first step in getting you trained up is making sure the fundamentals are in place – and that means putting some structure in your working day.
Stay within the linesNow your home is officially your place of work, it’s easier for work and home life to blur. Set yourself a start and end time for the day and try to stay within it. I’m not saying to ignore Gary’s urgent email because it arrived at 6.02pm… but start getting that work / personal life separation in place now.
Wake up (early) and smell the coffeeYou may not be traveling to work today, but you still need to start your day properly. This means no waking up and rolling onto your laptop. Get up early enough to make a coffee, get dressed and wipe the sleep from your eyes.
Reaching breaking pointOffices can be full of distractions. Colleagues to chat to, meetings to interrupt, coffee runs to attempt. Without realising it, your day is full of natural breaks from your work. Take all those distractions away and you realise you’ve been sitting looking at your screen for far too long. Schedule short breaks to give your brain a rest and let your legs do some of the work.
Lunch Ado About Nothing (Much… Lunch…. Close enough)Speaking of taking breaks, let’s talk about the break to end all breaks – lunchtime. Lunch should be a sacred time of day where you can recharge, allowing you to keep killing it for the rest of the day. So, take lunch seriously and don’t look at your work until you’re finished.
Good job Rookie! You’ve made it through the first stage in one piece. You now have your day organised and you’re ready to take things up a notch.
This means it is officially time for a promotion (not a real one, I don’t have that authority) to the second level of remote working mastery.
Apprentice – Level 2
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Welcome my Apprentice. You’ve begun to realise your potential in the power of remote working. But don’t get complacent, you still have a way to go yet. It’s my task to guide you during this part of your journey and stop you from falling to the dark side of the force…. you know, the workforce – I can sense them procrastinating as we speak.
To maximise your potential and become the master of remote working you need an environment that allows you to do so.
Location ScoutAs with all important things in life, it comes down to location, location, credit score, location. When you’re used to an office, you’re normally used to having a desk. A place that you associate with getting things done! Why should remote working be any different? Find places at home that you can dedicate to getting work done, and don’t be afraid to mix it up until you get the ones that work best!
I like to move it, move it!Work life isn’t static. We all crave uninterrupted time at our desks, but life (and meetings) ensures that doesn’t happen. We get used to working wherever, and whenever, we can (cue Shakira music). The point is don’t feel bad about working from multiple locations in your home. If you find yourself struggling to be productive, try moving to another designated work area in your home.
Off with his bed!Your home isn’t just your new work environment, it’s the place where you unwind after a tough day at the office… which becomes a lot harder when they are one and the same. To help create the divide, keep your bedroom as a safe place where no work is allowed! That means no emailing in bed… now get up there and relax!
(Not so) Great ExpectationsThis one’s for anyone who lives with other people, so if you live alone keep it scrolling! For the rest of you, no matter if you live with family, friends, partners or strangers, it’s important to set boundaries. Let people know when you can’t be interrupted, when you need to concentrate and when the noise is too much. It’s a great way to avoid dips in productivity and reduce underlying resentment.
Silence to KillOffices can be noisy places, and when you start working remotely it can be quiet… really quiet… and the silence can be jarring. Secretly recording your colleagues to simulate the office at home can seem like a good idea until HR gets involved. So instead, have some music playing in the background to replace the silence. Start the day with something relaxing to ease yourself in, then turn up the tempo when its time to be productive!
Congratulations Apprentice. You’ve come far in a short amount of time, and you have now set up an effective remote working environment in your very own home.
There is nothing further for you to be taught as an Apprentice, so remove your robe (metaphorically) and continue to the next level.
Hotshot – Level 3
“Let’s turn and burn!”
Well, well, well… look what we have here. You think you’re something special, don’t you? Well let me tell you something, you may be talented, maybe even one of the best I’ve seen, but you’re not going to succeed alone! You have a whole team out there that is counting on you, and that’s what you need to learn next. Communication! Just when you think you’ve communicated enough… communicate some more!
So, let’s get you working with your team, because I don’t need another loose cannon!
A little less separation, a little more conversation pleaseYou may no longer have your colleagues sitting next to you (unless you also live with them, in which case, brave choice), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t communicate with them like they are! Keep in close contact with your team throughout the day. People won’t know the milestones you’re hitting, the availability you have, or what you had for lunch unless you tell them!
Writing is on the callWhen you work in your office, do people only communicate over email or messenger? No, because that wouldn’t be efficient, and the constant pinging would drive you (more) mad. When you need to ask a question or discuss a problem, don’t default to messaging your colleagues, give them a video call instead, even if it only lasts 5 minutes. Verbalising something out loud can be a great way to work through a problem.
Mute ‘Em Up!Ever been on a conference call and there’s one person not on mute, who apparently holds the world record for “noisiest home”? It’s rhetorical, we all have. If you’ve learnt nothing else today, then please remember default yourself to mute in conference calls and unmute only when it’s time to contribute. Or if you’re the meeting organiser you can force people to be muted when they join! You’ll spare people a lot of frustration. Remember, Lord Tennyson once wrote “It’s better to have muted and forgot, than never to have been muted at all”.
Quality is the best policySpeaking of conference calls, if you’re going to be remote working for the foreseeable future, consider investing in a good quality headset. People will appreciate the crystal-clear sound of your voice, even when you’re disputing their point. (Just don’t reference this post if you try and put it through as an expense)
All work and no play…It’s hard to find time to socialise with colleagues when you’re not in the same building as them, let alone sharing a desk. Try to find time to interact with your team on a social level outside of working hours. This could be a virtual lunch break, a weekly quiz after work or a meeting room that is left open for people to jump in and chat. Create channels for different topics that people are passionate about! Activities like these will do wonders for morale and team building. Hereee’s Johnny!
Looks like I was wrong about you Hotshot. Seems you can be a team player. If you keep things up at this pace, you’ll be top dog in no time.
Now get out of here and keep up the good work.
Gladiator – Level 4
“Imagine where you will be, and it will be so”
My name is Maximus Remoteus Workimus, Commander of the internet bandwidth, General of the living room, loyal servant to the Trello board…. And I will get my work done, in this day or the next.
Can you hear the crowd chanting your name Gladiator? No? Well, that’s because you’re a remote worker not Spartacus. But just because you’re not fighting to the death in the arena doesn’t mean you’re not a Gladiator. If you’ve truly been working through this intensive crash course, then you’ve been giving your remote working muscles a hardcore workout. So now you’ve got yourself into Gladiator shape, we need to make sure you can flex your remote working muscles over a longer period of time, otherwise you’ll burn out or pull something!
It’s time to learn techniques on how to keep yourself, and your work, in peak condition for longer durations of remote working.
You’re tasking for it!Remote working makes you the manager of your own time, more than ever. And time is the worst employee you’ll ever have, it’s relentless, makes you feel (and look) older and disappears when you need it the most. So, organise your daily tasks to get the most out of your time. Try things like the pomodoro technique to stay productive, or the Eisenhower matrix to prioritise work. And make sure to check out our blog post on this exact topic, just finish this one first! (How’s that for a plug?)
Step away from the phone!!Procrastination is any remote worker’s worst enemy. That and your neighbour’s builders. It’s good to take breaks during the day, but it can be easy to get lost scrolling through the feed on your phone. Don’t fall into the “one more” mindset, where you always do one more thing that prevents you from being productive. Time your breaks so you know when to get back to business… This course doesn’t count by the way … You still there?
If you stay ready… you ain’t gotta get readyWill Smith, Ru Paul, Suga Free. All of these great poets have used this phrase as a mantra. And now it’s your turn. Take the hassle out of your working day by preparing things the evening before. I’m not suggesting doing more work, rather, do things which will support your working day tomorrow. Need to clean your workspace? Prepare lunch for tomorrow? Nothing feels better than when lunch is ready and waiting for you – so you can maximise your downtime.
Looking out for numero Uno… Uno!This really is Uno! (you know the card game…) as we’ve reached the last recommendation in this crash course (but make sure you check out the final stage before closing the tab!). And this one is important. Look after yourself. Working for long periods as a remote worker can be difficult, especially if you’re new to it. Look after your body and mind – do some exercise, get a good night’s sleep and do things which make you happy. Otherwise, no matter how much you follow the advice in this post, you won’t enjoy the fantastic opportunity that is remote working
Like a true Gladiator you have fought your way to the end of this stage… and now you are nearing the end of this post. So, put down your sword and pick up your laptop (they’re much better at sending emails) and get ready for the final challenge.
Guru – Level 5
“One does not become a guru by accident”
Ah, can you feel that? The sense of enlightenment. When your mind, body and laptop all fuse into one. You’ve reached the highest point that this course can take you, and when it comes to remote working, you are officially a Guru. But don’t let this be the end of your journey. There is no such thing as not being able to improve. So, keep looking to learn new skills to make your remote working experience even better. And like all good gurus, it is now your turn to pass on the wisdom you have learnt to others.
Don’t stop… Improving. (by Journey)I’m not going to pretend that this crash course covers every possible piece of advice… I did try, but apparently its “unethical”. If it did then you might actually be here for 10,000 hours (people who read the intro will get it). So, keep striving to better your remote working experience, research & learn more techniques, and try multiple ways of working. People work in different ways and it’s important to recognise what works best for you.
Sharing is caringI genuinely hope you have enjoyed your time reading this post and have found it useful. And if that is the case, share what you’ve learnt with your colleagues, or even better send them here! It’s your job as a Guru to make sure that everyone in your team can get the most out of remote working.
If you have any further tasks, challenges or tips on remote working, or just want to give feedback on this post (positive or negative… but mainly positive) then feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and good luck out there… in your homes.