Best practices | October 26, 2023

The ultimate guide to effective remote work: unlock the secret of productivity

In this complete guide to effective remote work, we will unveil the secrets of productivity that will help you succeed as a remote worker.

Discover the tools and strategies that will enable you to effectively manage your time, communicate with your team and ensure work-life balance

The ultimate guide to effective remote work: unlock the secret of productivity

Over the last decade, remote work has been one of the most significant changes in the world of work. With the development of technology and social changes, many companies have begun to offer their employees the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. This innovative approach to work has revolutionized the way we function as a society, and has had a big impact on our efficiency and quality of life.

In this complete guide to effective remote work, we will unveil the secrets of productivity that will help you succeed as a remote worker. We will analyze the tools and strategies that will enable you to effectively manage your time, communicate with your team and ensure work-life balance. We will also consider issues related to self-discipline, mental health and techniques for dealing with isolation, which are indispensable when it comes to remote work.

The current state of remote work – what does remote work mean?

Nowadays, people are increasingly striving to gain the skills to work remotely more effectively, seeking work-life balance, eliminating the need for a time-consuming commute to the office, and reaping the benefits of a flexible work schedule. But what actually is remote work?

Remote work, also called teleworking, involves performing professional duties outside of a traditional office or workplace. This type of work can be carried out in many forms, depending on the type of work and the needs of the employer. Below are a few examples.

  1. Fully remote work: The employee works entirely remotely, without having to visit the office or another workplace. They communicate with the team and manager via phone, email, chat, and online collaboration tools.
  2. Hybrid work: The employee works both remotely and at the office. Depending on their schedule or individual preferences, they may be at the office for part of the week or only from time to time.

Remote work has become widespread in recent years due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic, which has forced major changes in the approach to employees’ duties. According to Forbes magazine, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, and 28.2% in a hybrid model, which goes to prove the standardization of remote work environments.

What is the difference between remote work and working from home?

The terms “remote work” and “working from home” are often used as synonyms, but actually there is a slight difference between them.

  • Remote work refers to work that can be performed from anywhere outside the traditional workplace (the office). Apart from home, it can be carried out from many different locations, such as cafes, coworking spaces, hotels, libraries etc.
  • Working from home refers only to situations when work is performed at the employee’s home. This type of remote work is limited only to the home environment.

In practice, however, the above terms are often used interchangeably, but it is worthwhile understanding these subtle differences.

Why do people work remotely?

The decision to work remotely may depend on individual preferences, professional needs, or one’s personal situation. Specialists deciding to work remotely usually take into account aspects such as:

  • Time flexibility: Working remotely often gives employees more control over their working time. They can adjust the schedule to their preferences, which can be particularly beneficial for parents, students, people with various commitments, or employees who prefer specific working hours.
  • Location challenges: Working remotely eliminates the need to commute to the office, allowing employees to save time and money on travel, parking, and lunchtimes in the city. This argument is decisive for people who live far away from the city or region where their office is located, or even in another country altogether.
  • The need for focus and productivity: Some people believe that working remotely helps them to focus and be more productive, since they avoid distractions related to office noise and contact with other employees.
  • Unusual situations: Remote work can be a useful alternative in situations when employees cannot visit the office (e.g. when feeling unwell, during business trips, or in case of an emergency).

Read also: Remote team management in Scrum

Remote teamwork – the challenges of remote working

Although remote work brings with it several opportunities and can be extremely profitable and satisfying, it is worth bearing in mind it is not for everyone. It calls for self-discipline, time management skills, and the ability to work regardless of the conditions.

Apart from the advantages of this form of work, employees encounter challenges such as:

  • Time management: Self-discipline and time management skills are the key to remote work. Remote workers often have to organize their work themselves, which might be difficult for some people.
  • Communication: Effective communication is the key to successful remote work. Remote teams often use online tools like email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and collaboration platforms. However, the lack of face to face contact can result in vague messages, misunderstandings, and a lack of context. It is important to be clear and specific in your messages and keep your team notified of any important changes.
  • Cultural and time differences: If team members work on different continents or in different time zones, difficulties with work schedules and cultural differences may arise. It is worth being aware of those differences and planning collaboration carefully.
  • Social isolation: Working remotely can lead to social isolation because employees do not have the opportunity to interact with colleagues on a daily basis. This can negatively affect motivation and well-being. It’s important to interact regularly through team chats and online meetings, and take advantage of other forms of communication.

Despite the abovementioned challenges, many people eagerly opt for this solution. How do they deal with them and what is worth remembering?

Remote working best practices

Due to the ever-increasing popularity of remote work, we present a list of 12 best practices that help employees and employers alike achieve satisfactory results:

  1. A stable Internet connection: Nothing is as demotivating as spending ages waiting for a file to load or opening a work tool. Ensuring a fast and stable internet connection is crucial. This is the foundation of effective remote work.
  2. Organization of the workplace: Set up a separate space at home, which will become your office. This helps to separate work from your private life and increase productivity. This approach has been proven to positively affect well-being.
  3. Day planning, self-discipline: Working remotely calls for self-discipline. Establish a work routine, define the hours in which you are available, and stick to them. Creating a daily plan or to-do list helps you organize work and focus on priorities. This is especially important if there is no manager supervising your progress.
  4. Regular breaks: It is worth planning regular but short breaks to take a breath and relax. Spending too long in front of the screen can have a detrimental effect on your health. Give both your eyes and your mind a break.
  5. Communication: Keep in touch with your team using communication tools. Good contact and clear communication are crucial to the development of the project and the people working on it.
  6. Remote work tools: Use online collaboration tools like Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Trello. There are a number of them to choose from! They facilitate project management and make communication in a team easier.
  7. Information security: Cybersecurity has also become a major concern for companies. 73% of managers perceive remote workers as an element of risk to the company’s security. To minimize the risk of attacks, keep company data and information safe by following the security policies of your organization. Remember to run your VPN every time you log in to your computer.
  8. Flexibility: Be flexible with scheduling changes and bear in mind the needs of other team members.
  9. Physical activities and overall well-being: Take care of your physical and mental health. It is worth exercising, going out regularly and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Working remotely/from home may translate to reduced activity. Physical effort before or after work will not only help you stay healthy and in good shape, but will also improve your efficiency and ability to focus.
  10. Training and skills development: While working remotely, make sure to develop your skills and gain new knowledge.
  11. Feedback: Be open to feedback from managers and colleagues. This helps you grow and adapt to your team’s needs.
  12. Troubleshooting: Understand the basics of fixing technical issues so you don’t waste time on unnecessary downtime caused by breakdowns.

When it comes to best practices, with the increasing popularity of remote work, the demand for remote working tools or communication has also increased.

Applications supporting remote work

Currently, there is a full range of tools and applications available on the market that facilitate project management, communication with the team, work organization and many other aspects of remote work.

  1. Communication and videoconferencing tools:
    • Zoom: A tool for organizing video conferences, video chats, and webinars.
    • Microsoft Teams: Provides real-time communication and collaboration features, including video conferencing.
  2. Online collaboration tools:
    • Slack: Enables real-time communication in the form of chats and allows integration with other applications.
    • Trello: Helps you manage projects with a Kanban board.
    • Asana: A tool for managing projects and tasks.
    • Jira: Designed primarily for software development teams, it helps with task tracking and project management.
  3. Document management tools:
    • Google Workspace (formerly G Suite): Provides access to documents, spreadsheets, and online collaboration tools.
    • Microsoft 365: Offers similar tools for creating and collaborating on documents.
  4. Time and task management tools:
    • Remember The Milk: A to-do list management app.
    • Todoist: Helps organize tasks and projects. ·
    • Toggl: Used to keep track of working time on projects.
  5. Work organization tools:
    • Notion: Allows you to create personalized workspaces for project organization and documentation.
    • Evernote: Allows you to create and store notes and manage information.
  6. Project management tools:
    • Basecamp: Helps manage projects, communication, and tasks.
    • A project and task management tool that allows you to adjust your work to your team’s needs.
  7. Cybersecurity tools: *The above tools will work for both employees and companies.
    • LastPass: Helps manage passwords and make online accounts more secure.
    • 1Password:: An alternative tool for managing passwords and credentials.
  8. Work monitoring tools:
    • RescueTime: Helps track and analyze time spent on different apps and websites.
    • Time Doctor: Allows you to manage your working time and track your productivity.

The abovementioned tools are just a few examples of applications that support remote work. Choosing specific tools depends on the individual needs of the team and the nature of work.

Organizational culture fostering remote work

In fact, a key element of effective remote work is not only tools and giving employees an option to work from home, but also creating an open and flexible organizational culture.

According to the Deloitte report “The state of hybrid work in Poland”, more than 70% of organizations have implemented clear rules regarding remote / hybrid work. Wherever no such policies have been put in place, this is considered a “lack of ideas” for organizing work, leading to generally less positive employee experiences.

Employers who want to manage remote workers effectively need to understand that working remotely needs a different organizational culture than working in an office, in the context of communication, management, and building trust, supporting employees and allowing them to rest assured that their work is appreciated, regardless of where they work. Moreover, openness to change and adaptation to work trends give organizations a competitive advantage, and thereby attract qualified employees. All this is beneficial not only to people working remotely but also to the enterprise itself, allowing them to reduce costs and increase flexibility.

Effective remote work – summary

Effective remote work is a challenge, but also a real opportunity if you take the right steps and use best practices. It requires a combination of organizational skills, technology, and self-discipline. By working on these aspects, high performance and greater job satisfaction are within reach.

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