What is remote work?

Once viewed as a way of the future, it seems that remote working is nowhere to stay. The COVID-19 pandemic has been something that companies could not have predicted or planned for, leaving many business owners searching for a quick backup plan to keep their company both productive and afloat.

With business closures and social distancing measures in place, the necessary step is to transition your business to a virtual setting. But how will this affect the day-to-day running of your company, not to mention your employees?

The solution?

Working remotely, and thankfully, it’s not as difficult or scary as you may think.

We’ve created this highly practical guide to give you all the knowledge you need to make remote work become a viable solution for your business. You’ll understand what does working remotely mean and we’ll also provide you with invaluable advice about the tools and software your remote business should be using, the ground rules you can lay for remote working employees, and how you and your staff can stay productive when working from home.

1. What does working remotely mean?

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Remote working which is also known among others as telecommuting, remote job, telework, teleworking, or mobile work means there’s no need to commute to work (this is why it’s also called telecommuting) but instead to work from anywhere with the assistance of communication and collaboration tools allowing them to get things done without compromising their work quality and productivity. It’s a work arrangement between a company and the employees which allows them to don’t work from an office or within the same physical working location.

Working remotely still means working full-time hours, and in most cases, the need to collaborate with others to get your job done.

While working remotely isn’t anything new, studies show a 400% rise in people working remotely on a weekly basis in the last decade alone. An incredible 78% of employees surveyed said they work remotely some of the time, while more than half (58%) said they work remotely at least once per month.

It’s a common misconception that remote work is only suitable to those working within marketing, graphic design, copywriting or other careers of a more creative nature. In fact, here are just some of the other industries reported to be offering the best remote work in 2019:

  • Information Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Financial
  • Education
  • Human resources

Of course, there are some jobs that can’t be performed remotely, such as factory workers, surgeons, firefighters, and more. But as you can see from the list above, many types of businesses can make the switch to remote work, especially when they can utilize technology to perform most, if not all, of the tasks related to their job.

Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device. This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24/7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries, and continents.

The most common types of remote teams

  1. Networked teams. This type of virtual team is comprised of employees belonging to the same team or department and it’s regularly created and dismantled the time to discuss and solve an issue.
  2. Parallel teams. Usually required for a short time of period, parallel teams are made of highly specialized professionals from different areas of activity within the company whose area of expertise complements the knowledge of others.
  3. Project development teams. This type of remote team is generally created with the purpose of implementing a specific problem until completion by increasing project team performance and effectiveness.
  4. Cross-functional teams. This type of team is made up of people with different functional expertise working toward a common goal and responding to a single manager.
  5. Service teams. Assigned to a particular service within the organization, this type of virtual team is composed of individuals generally working from different geographical areas and time zones assuring a 24/7 service.
  6. Offshore ISD outsourcing teams. External to the business, those teams are comprised of independent service providers that a company subcontracts portions of work to.

2. How do people work remotely?

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With no common workplace, you might be wondering how those who work remotely communicate with their co-workers, managers, or clients.

Instead of in-person meetings, remote workers communicate with their co-workers via online methods, such as email, video conferencing, or through team management software.

These remote work tools replace in-office functions, allowing these workplaces to operate just as seamlessly as they would if each employee were in a single location.

Here are some popular examples of remote work tools that replace in-office functions, many of which you may have already used in your workplace previously:

  • Google SuiteCloud-based tools for word documents, spreadsheets, and more
  • SlackInstant messaging tools for communication and collaboration
  • ZoomVideo and audio conferencing software that can connect users all over the world
  • AsanaProject management tool to group tasks by project and assign to team members
  • DropboxCloud-based file storage for sharing and accessing information
  • EvernotePersonal note-taking and organizational tool

For remote workers, these tools are perfect for project management, team communication and collaboration, and remote file sharing. They replace the need for in-person conversations and instead move those daily happenings of an office into an online sphere for easy, remote access. 

3. The benefits of working remotely

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Anyone who currently works remotely will tell you that when it comes to the pros and cons of this method, the good often outweighs the bad.

If you and your business are making the switch to telecommuting or considering doing so, these are the benefits you can look forward to:

  • Employees are more productive because they don’t have the distractions of office space, like hearing other co-worker’s conversations or noisy machinery such as photocopiers running non-stop in the background
  • Reduced real estate costs with lower company overhead, as employees can simply work from their own home and there’s no need for a centralized location, shared equipment, and office furniture
  • More environmentally friendly, thanks to reduced fuel usage from having less of a need to commute daily to and from work
  • Improved quality of life for employees, as working remotely encourages greater work-life flexibility and therefore increases an employee’s happiness
  • Decreased recruitment and training costs due to the lower employee turnover rate, as well as the ability to train employees remotely through online methods 
  • Access to a wider pool of applicants should you need to hire additional employees, as your staff don’t need to live within a specific city anymore to work for you, now that everything is done online
  • Eliminates the risk of spreading illness, such as the cold or flu, among employees, which can commonly happen in a shared office environment

Studies of remote workers have also highlighted other, perhaps surprising benefits of remote working, including the following:

  • Remote employees work an extra 1.4 more days per month than in-office employees, which is equal to nearly 17 extra workdays a year 
  • When you don’t take lunch or other breaks into account, remote workers are unproductive for a smaller period of time (just 27 minutes), compared to an office worker’s average of 37 minutes
  • Almost one-quarter (22%) of office-based employees believe their boss distracts them from their work, compared to just 15% of remote employees who feel the same way

4. Top 3 challenges of working remotely

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Although working remotely has many benefits, it still has its challenges, particularly as businesses and their employees make the switch to working virtually.

We’ve outlined the three main concerns which might arise when telecommuting, as well as how you and your employees can successfully overcome these.

#1. Employees need help to stay motivated

Some employees will thrive without a supervisor looking over their shoulder, while others will find it extremely hard to stay self-motivated while working solo from home. Keep your employees productive by lifting their spirits with incentives from time-to-time. This might include surprising them with special gifts delivered to their home to celebrate a special occasion, whether that’s their birthday, an important holiday, or even to mark their anniversary working for the company.

#2. Team communication problems might arise

When communication takes place online, it’s fair to assume that it won’t always be smooth-sailing – or at least, not in the beginning as employees make the transition to working remotely. Not everyone on your team will know how to use virtual tools for handling communication, tasks, or projects, so make sure everyone has received the proper training before you make the switch. You should also invest some extra time in writing and sending regular “how to” emails to your staff, which cover the various software or tools they need to use.

#3. Employees might feel lonely or isolated 

Even the most independent remote worker may suffer from pangs of loneliness every now and then. As their employer, you should do all you can to help alleviate or prevent these feelings, including scheduling routine meetings via video calls and sending weekly company newsletters to keep staff updated with achievements, current and future projects, and more. You can even set up a Slack channel for non-work-related banter, helping to boost morale.

Biggest struggles employees see to working remotely:
20% Difficulties with collaboration and communication
20% Loneliness
18% Not being able to unplug
12% Distractions at home
10% Being in a different timezone than teammates
7% Staying motivated
5% Taking vacation time
3% Finding reliable wifi
5% Other
Ref: 2021 State of Remote Work

5. Is your company ready for remote work? 5 questions to answer

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With the COVID-19 pandemic upon us, businesses are finding themselves with less time than they’d like to prepare for the transition to working remotely.

But don’t worry, we’ve put together a list of five essential questions you can ask yourself to determineif or when you’ll be ready to make the telecommuting switch.

You’ll also find a helpful assortment of software programs that companies can use for remote work. These recommended programs assist with all aspects of operating and working within a remote business, including team management, communication, project management, and more.

So, is your company ready for remote work? Answering these five essential questions will help you find out.

#1. Are your employees ready for remote work?

First and foremost, you’ll want to determine if your employees are ready to make the switch to telecommuting on a number of different levels.

Let’s start with their mindset, for example:

  • Are they mentally prepared to suddenly spend their time working from an independent location without being surrounded by co-workers?
  • Can they work well as an individual and maintain the motivation and productivity needed, even when a boss isn’t looking over their shoulder?
  • Can they easily create a distinction between when they should and shouldn’t be working, or will they find it difficult to “switch off” once their home environment also becomes their working environment?

Many employees shouldn’t find it too hard to embrace these aspects of remote work, particularly over time, but another area you’ll want to focus on includes their online access.

It’s easy to assume in this day and age that every employee will have a reliable and fast internet connection, but for some households, this simply might not be the case.

Having an internet connection that can handle tasks such as video conferencing, for example, is very important to telecommuting, so it is certainly the first criteria to address.

Biggest benefits employees see to working remotely:
32% Ability to have a flexible schedule
26% Flexibility to work from any location
21% Not having to commute
11% Ability to spend time with family
7% Ability to work from home
3% Other
Ref: 2021 State of Remote Work

#2. Do all employees have access to the necessary hardware to keep connected? 

We mentioned an internet connection in the previous section, but how about the other necessary hardware an employee will need on-hand at home to perform their job?

Again, don’t assume everyone has access to a computer or laptop at home. Furthermore, some employees might not want to use their personal devices for their work.

Before making the transition to telecommuting, determine if you will need to provide your employees with the necessary hardware or devices, or if you will be encouraging them to use their own. 

Of course, it’s best practice to provide your remote workers with the equipment they need, and this will be much easier if you’re transitioning from an office setting where the required equipment is already available and being used by your employees.

Just keep in mind that while employees using their own devices may help you to save the cost of buying and replacing technology, it does come with some disadvantages too. These include:

  • IT support service issues surrounding different device models and operating systems
  • Higher security risks
  • Less control over company data or other private information
Tip: Employee’s computers will also need to be set up in advance with the office software applications your company chooses to use, such as email, anti-virus protection, and other commonly used applications.

Before making the switch to working remotely, you will need to decide which option isn’t just the most practical for you and your business’ operations, but your employees too.

#3. If you rely on cloud-based services do you have enough licenses for employees to access these services?

Cloud-based services (Office 365, Quickbooks, Salesforce, DropBox, etc.)allow you and your employees to send and store data on a server remotely, which all of you can then have access to. This makes collaborating on tasks, projects, and other work-related documents easier, rather than having to email things back and forth.

Many of these cloud-based services require paid subscriptions and licenses, which then allow a specific number of people to access them. These subscriptions are usually tiered, so the more employees you need to grant access to, the higher the monthly cost.

This is a business cost that can’t be avoided, however, as it’s important that every employee is given access to the files they need to carry out their required work, particularly when working remotely. 

Keep in mind that if you’re moving your business to a completely virtual setting, you’ll be saving on other expensive overhead costs, such as rent, so it’ll still be cheaper in the long run.

#4. If instead, you have on-premises servers with business applications and data, are your employees able to securely access these via RDS or VPN?

VPNstands for Virtual Private Network, which is a technology that allows an employee’s laptop (PC or Mac) to securely connect via the internet to a corporate network from their remote location, such as their own home. This is a popular way for employees to gain remote access to network resources such as shared folders and printers, all while doing so via a secured connection.

On the other hand, RDS, or Remote Desktop Services, works by allowing employees to log in from almost any of their devices via the Internet to a central server. They are then presented with the same virtual desktop as all other employees, helping to streamline their work and create a unified experience.

Whichever on-premises server you choose to use for your business (if you use one at all), it’s important to confirm with each of your employees that they have no problems accessing it for their work.

#5. Do you have the right remote work software and management tools?

While many believe working remotely increases productivity, this is only true if employees are using the right software and online tools to streamline the process.

To help you along, we’ve listed some recommended software programs that companies can use for remote work, covering 5 important categories:

  • To stay connected with your team in real-time:
  1. Slack offers key features such as organized conversations, searchable history, the ability to connect services or tools you’re already using, and the option to make voice or video calls
  2. Fleepis designed for internal communication, combining team chat with email, lightweight task management, and video calling
  3. Workplace from Facebookallows you to set up a private version of Facebook for your employees and includes features such as groups, instant messaging, and a custom News Feed
  • For task management and note sharing:
  1. Todoisthelps individuals and teams to organize, plan, and collaborate on tasks and projects by presenting these in list form
  2. Evernoteis very practical when it comes to taking screenshots and adding text, arrows, and other shapes to highlight important points
  • For video calls:
  1. Google Meet allows you to hold meetings on the go, virtual training classes, remote interviews, and more. Anyone with a Google Account can create an online meeting with up to 100 participants and meet for up to an hour per meeting
  2. Zoom is a cloud-based service designed for video and audio chat, conferences, webinars, and more. The free plan holds up to 100 participants with a 40-minute limit on group meetings
  3. Join.meis an application designed for screen-sharing and online meetings, allowing you to connect and collaborate virtually
  • For project management:
  1. Asanais a team-based project management tool that helps teams easily organize, track, and manage their workflow in the one place
  2. Monday.comsoftware gives teams the ability to build custom workflows, view their projects or tasks within one glance, communicate with each other, and more
  3. Trello is a collaboration tool that lets employees organize their projects onto boards. It can be likened to a digital whiteboard
  • For Cloud storage:
  1. Google Driveaccess comes with any Google account, which allows users to store files on their servers, synchronize files across devices, and share files easily. It’s particularly useful for collaborating on files
  2. OneDriveis an Internet-based storage platform offered for free by Microsoft to anyone with a Microsoft account. It’s useful for file sharing and synchronization
  3. Dropboxis a similar service, Dropbox offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software features
  • For team management:
  1. Time Doctoroffers helpful features including time-tracking and employee monitoring, online timesheets and payroll, productivity measuring, distraction alerts, and more.
  2. iDoneThisis unique in that it allows users to divide complete and pending tasks into “Goals” and “Dones.” It prompts everyone to reply to an email at the end of each day stating what they accomplished and then shares the responses with the team

A further word of advice make sure everyone knows the preferred tools to avoid confusion caused by employees using different apps. When employees are working across several different tools, it makes it more difficult to track their work, collaborate by sending files, and communicate with one another.

Additionally, if your business has IT services or technical support, it will make their job a lot easier to provide assistance for specific, selected software that every employee is using.

6. Drafting a remote work policy

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A final step in ensuring your business is ready to work remotely is to have a remote policy in place that has been shared and agreed upon by all of your employees.

A remote work policy is an agreement that outlines a set of terms and conditions to allow employees to work from home without causing any disruption to the aims of the company or how it operates.

These policies should cover things such as:

  • Who can work remotely
  • How they should go about telecommuting
  • What is expected of them
  • How their work will be measured
  • What support is available to them
  • Their legal rights as remote work employees

To help you set out your remote work policy, here are some beneficial questions to ask yourself:

  • Will your compensation for employees change now that they work remotely? For example, will you be paying a portion of their internet or electricity bills?
  • How will you make sure remote workers don’t do too much overtime?
  • What KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will you use to measure an employee’s performance? 
  • What about insurance and liability? How do these change now that your employees are telecommuting?

Thankfully, you can even hire the help of a freelance legal consultant to help you get it perfect.

7. Eleven rules found in every good remote work policy

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While a remote work policy operates more like a contract between you and your employees, outlining required terms and conditions, guidelines are less “official.”

Instead, these guidelines will act as helpful reminders for your employees to act accordingly and achieve as much as they can in each workday.

This set of 11 rules will be particularly helpful during the early transition period of working remotely, as employees grow accustomed to their new telecommuting work method and learn how to overcome obstacles that arise.

With that in mind, all employees should adhere to the following:

#1. Have a dedicated workspace

Whether it’s a desk in the corner of their living room or a whole room set aside as a home office, it’s important for employees to have a dedicated workspace so they can separate their work from the rest of their home. Additionally, it helps them get into a work mentality as soon as they enter that dedicated space while encouraging them to “switch off” in other areas of the home.

#2. Establish “office” hours

Not only does this allow your employee to create a specific window of time for their workday, meaning they’re less likely to procrastinate or put tasks off, but it also assists with team communication, as you and your co-workers will come to learn when employees are “on the clock” and accessible.

#3. Get ready for work

While it might be tempting to spend the entire day working in pajamas, this can decrease productivity and levels of professionalism. Instead, employees should be encouraged to get ready each morning by dressing in what would be their usual office attire. Taking pride in their appearance, especially if they’ll be video conferencing throughout the day, can also boost their mood and confidence.

#4. Separate work life from home life

When employees telecommute from home, it can be easy to blur the distinction between their work and home-related tasks. Employees should minimize the distractions of kids and family members by having a “do not disturb” policy during business hours. Additionally, they shouldn’t allow themselves to do housework during their workday, but instead, save it for after-hours or weekends.

#5. Communicate with your manager

No employer likes to feel out of the loop when it comes to the progress of their employees, as well as the important tasks they’re in charge of. Ensure your staff is keeping in regular contact with you or their managers/supervisors by checking-in with each other regularly, even if it’s just a quick exchange of messages via Slack or a standing meeting via Zoom every Tuesday afternoon. 

#6. Divide up your day

Remote working employees should also be advised to divide up their workday, so they’re not continuously tied to their desk losing motivation or energy. It’s also a good idea to work in “blocks” and fit these around healthy habits or commitments, such as gym sessions, going for walks, or picking their children up from school.

#7. Set up a proper environment

No matter where employees choose to work remotely from, they need to make this space as professional as possible. Ensure they have the right equipment on-hand and that they’re always working from a location with a strong WiFi signal. Additionally, they’ll need a suitable backdrop for video calls in your workspace, whether it’s a blank wall, a bookshelf, or a simple piece of art. 

#8. Keep the lines of communication open

We recommend setting up multiple methods of communication so clients and coworkers can always reach your team via their preferred method when they need to. For example, you might encourage your clients to contact your team via email or phone, while your employees can message you and each other on Slack or through Basecamp. With a remote workforce, it’s vital to have several lines of communication to ensure you and your team are never out of the loop.

#9. Don’t constantly monitor your cell phone or social networks

When an employer isn’t able to look over the shoulder of an employee, they can be tempted to scroll through their social media feeds or message friends, rather than tend to their work. Unless it’s part of their job, employees should be told to minimize these distractions by putting their phone on silent, in airplane mode, or in another room entirely.

#10. Don’t force it

Sometimes, ideas and motivation simply aren’t flowing. If an employee is finding it difficult to get started or complete a task, they shouldn’t sit there and force it, as this will only lead to frustration and giving up altogether. Instead, encourage them to have a tea break, go for a walk, or move onto an easier task before they come back to it. It’s also a wonderful idea to help staff get into the habit of measuring their remote work success by outcomes, rather than the hours they worked if the job allows for it.

#11. Reward yourself

All work and no play creates tired, overworked, and uninspired employees. Boost morale among your staff by encouraging them to reward themselves for a job well done, whether it’s a successfully completed project, ticking a hard task off their list, or having a very productive week. Potential rewards might include clocking-off earlier in the evening to spend time with their family or enjoying Friday night virtual drinks with their co-workers via Zoom. 

8. Working from home: productivity tips

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Productivity is like fuel for all businesses. If you want to learn how you and your employees can get more done while working from home but without sacrificing quality, here are some exclusive tips:

#1. Focus on one thing at a time

Here’s the thing about multi-tasking: when you spread yourself thinly across too many tasks at once, you don’t perform at the high standard needed for each. Instead, dedicate yourself to just one task at a time, giving it the careful attention, time, and energy it needs to be executed well. Then, once you’ve completed what you needed to, simply move on to your next task.

#2. Get into a routine

When working by yourself from home, it can be easy to forget the usual 9-5 routine you once had working in an office, as your workday is no longer framed by routines such as commuting to and from work. This is actually a benefit, as you can create your own remote working routine instead.

#3. Stay on task by working in solid sessions

No one can work for 8 hours straight without taking a break (nor should you have to), but you can make your workdays more productive by working in uninterrupted sessions of up to an hour, followed by a short 10-20 minute break to rest and refocus. Use your cell phone’s stopwatch tool to track this, or alternatively, there are many timer apps you can download which focus on this productivity technique.

#4. Don’t just avoid, but eliminate distractions

If your video gaming console, T.V, or freshly purchased magazine is sitting in front of you as you work, you may be tempted to procrastinate or stop working altogether. Rather than spending your workday avoiding distractions in every direction, try removing them from your space or working in a distraction-free room. You’ll be more productive than ever!

#5. Plan your day around your productivity 

Determine what portions of the day you will work on various things to ensure your day flows smoothly and your productivity remains at an all-time high. For example, are you more focused in the morning or straight after you’ve eaten lunch?

#6. Get rid of things that slow your productivity

Whether it’s a laptop that keeps crashing or a filing system you just can’t get the hang of, there are some things you might use in your day-to-day work that do nothing but hinder, rather than help, your productivity. Instead of soldiering on, we recommend getting rid of these things and replacing them with items that are effective and easy to use.

#7. Commit fully to either working or resting

While it might seem productive to type away while eating Sunday brunch or watching TV on a Friday night, it’s actually anything but. As someone who telecommutes, it’s important you separate your work and rest time by only committing fully to either one, but not blurring the two together. After all, it’s vital you maintain a good work-life balance and don’t burn out.

#8. Write your thoughts down on paper

Throughout the workday, it’s easy for any worker to have thoughts that slow down their productivity or press pause on their work. Rather than storing reminders, ideas, and everything else within your mind while you work, you will instead benefit from jotting them down on paper, before focusing back on the task at hand. That way, they’ll be there for you to act on once you take a break or finish your workday.

#9. Overcome stress with a positive attitude

It’s easy for any worker to get stressed, but when you’re working remotely from home, you can no longer simply leave your stress at the office. Instead of letting your stress get in the way of your productivity or time spent with family at home, try to focus on having a positive mindset that focuses on what you achieved, rather than didn’t achieve, during your workday.

#10. If it seems impossible, reset the deadline

While it’s not ideal, there may be times when you simply cannot meet a deadline, no matter how hard you work. Rather than allowing this to derail your entire workday, politely explain the situation to your manager or client and ask if an extension is possible. Alternatively, you may be able to reshuffle other commitments that then allow you to meet this deadline.

#11. Make your hardest task the first thing you do

When you tackle the most complex task on your to-do list, you’ll not only feel relieved but also more motivated to cross off the remaining, easier tasks you have left. This is a great way to set yourself up for success each day and means you won’t be as frazzled or stressed once it’s time to clock out.

#12. Learn to stop and refocus

What happens when you simply lose focus after working on a task for some time? While some will persevere for hours until they’ve completed it, it’s actually more effective to stop, put the task aside, and move onto something else on your to-do list. After a short break, you will likely regain the focus needed to get it done successfully.

Make a successful transition to telecommuting 

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Whether you’ve been thinking about transitioning your business to remote work for a while or not, there’s no denying that now is the perfect time to do so. The global pandemic has taught all of us a hard lesson, which is that we must be prepared to adapt and evolve with unprecedented changes, no matter how big or small.

Making the switch to telecommuting may take some time for you and your employees to adjust to, but thanks to this step-by-step guide, the process is now a whole lot less daunting. As you just learned, transitioning to remote working requires an understanding of what it is and how it works, as well as the benefits and drawbacks associated with it.

Once your business has satisfied all the requirements of being ready to work remotely, you can take comfort in the fact that there are many useful productivity tips and tricks to help you and your staff prosper, including those offered by our experienced Fiverr freelancers. Here’s to joining the telecommuting club!

Join the discussion on connect.samcx.com



Contributor @samcx.com. Passionate about everything Sales, Marketing and Account Management.

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