There’s a lot of upside to working remotely. No daily commute. No worries about organizing outfits to wear to the office. No coworkers nearby to interrupt your workflow with chit-chat. No need to spend hours in meetings in a stuffy conference room.
Most remote workers are indeed enjoying the ability to have a more flexible work arrangement, according to a recent Robert Half survey of U.S. workers. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they don’t miss working in an office. And more than half (57%) said that working remotely has allowed them to make a lifestyle change without negatively impacting their career.
Still, many professionals find the transition to remote work challenging — at least initially. And the truth is, excelling at remote work does take work.
“Ask a seasoned remote worker to share the keys to their success, and they’ll no doubt list commitment, discipline and organization top among them,” says Trisha Plovie, senior vice president, Future of Work, at Robert Half. “They’ll also likely say they’ve learned to use a range of best practices to make sure they stay motivated, productive and well-connected to their manager, coworkers and anyone else they interact with for work.”
To help you set a similar course for remote work success, we’ve compiled a list of best practices into a “do’s and don’ts” list provided below. We’ve also created an infographic, which you can view here, that includes the core recommendations for remote work success.
So, first up, let’s take a look at some of the “do’s” of remote work:
DO have a fast, reliable and secure internet connection
When you’re collaborating with teammates virtually all day long, and using bandwidth-intensive tools like videoconferencing, you can’t risk having an internet connection that’s slow or prone to cutting out. It will undermine productivity — and annoy others.
Your internet connection should also be secure. In fact, cybersecurity should be a top priority when working remotely. Measures include using a virtual private network (VPN) to connect to employer resources, keeping your antivirus and internet security software up to date on your devices, and using strong passwords, including for your home Wi-Fi network.
If you’re not sure how best to bolster your cybersecurity for remote work, look to your employer’s IT team for guidance. You’ll likely receive security tips and training during the onboarding process, too.
DO use a computer with a camera and headset
As a remote worker, you can expect to be video conferencing often during the workweek. So, consider investing in a high-quality webcam that has HD resolution, so you can always look sharp. Also, be sure to set up good lighting in your workspace and use a quality microphone. A headset can also be helpful for communicating during a videoconference — both for hearing and speaking.
See this post for 14 virtual meeting etiquette tips to help you master the art of videoconferencing.
DO make the effort to look your best
You’ll likely dress more casually to work at home than you would if you were in your employer’s office. However, that doesn’t mean anything goes. You’re still at work, so you need to look the part, especially if you plan to be on video throughout the day.
Dressing in casual but business-suitable attire will help you maintain a professional appearance. It can also help put you into a “work mode” mindset, which will help you to focus and be more productive.
DO schedule breaks during the workday
It’s easy to lose track of time when working remotely — and overlook the need to take a break. But it’s critical for your overall wellness to get up from your desk occasionally throughout the workday to stretch your legs and recharge your mind.
Consider setting aside at least 15 minutes every few hours to “unplug.” You could use that time to meditate, take the dog for a quick walk around the block, or sit outside on your patio to grab a few rays of sunshine. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it isn’t work.
DO set office hours and communicate your availability
This “do” is quite simple: Keep structure in your workday, just as you would if you worked in your company’s office. Start and stop work around the same time each day. Schedule time for a couple of quick breaks to recharge (see above!) and take a lunch hour. Also, make good use of your company’s calendar and scheduling apps so your boss and coworkers always know when you’re available.
Many professionals who work from home find that “windowed working” — breaking up their day into distinct chunks of business and personal time — helps them create the structure they need to balance various daily demands while also making time for their well-being. Consider trying it for yourself.
Employers across industries are hiring remote workers. Check out this post for suggestions on how to refine your search for remote jobs.
DO connect and keep in touch with coworkers
One aspect of virtual work that many people struggle with is the lack of in-person interaction with their work colleagues. And there’s no question you’ll need to make an extra effort to forge strong working relationships with your cohorts (including your boss) when working remotely.
For example, you may want to consider setting up a short, monthly “coffee chat” by video with various teammates just to catch up on work and personal news. Using company-approved business communication platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams can also help you stay connected with your colleagues, celebrate achievements, share project updates and schedule availability, and more.
DO have a quiet place to work that’s free of distractions
Home isn’t always the quietest place, especially if others in your household also work virtually, or if you have young children or pets (or all of the above). Also, there are countless things that can distract you from the business of work during the day — the TV, social media apps or that closet you’ve been meaning to clean for months, for instance.
Do your best to find a quiet spot in your home that’s designated for work, and away from potential distractions. Request that others in your household not disturb you while you’re on the clock. Turning off social media alerts while working can also help you stay focused.
Next, we have a short list of “don’ts” that can help guide you toward work-from-anywhere success:
DON’T take personal calls during scheduled work hours
You may be tempted to talk on the phone more often with friends and family when you’re working at home. However, unless the matter is urgent, it’s best to avoid taking personal calls during work hours because it can waste time and derail your productivity.
Also, on the flip side, you may need to set boundaries with your friends and family who think that because you’re working from home, they can call you anytime. Let them know you’re only available to chat during nonwork hours, especially if they want to have a lengthy conversation.
DON’T use a workspace that’s noisy and poorly lit
This “don’t” isn’t just about avoiding a space that isn’t videoconference-friendly. You need to make sure you can concentrate on your work, and that means finding a workspace that isn’t noisy and which has good lighting. If possible, find a space that offers some natural light during the workday, which can help to elevate your mood.
DON’T procrastinate when powering up your tech
When you’re working from home, or anywhere else, your first order of the day should be checking your technology. Don’t wait until five minutes before your Zoom call with the boss or an important client to figure out if your internet connection is stable. Also, make sure you can access all the critical apps and tools you’ll need to accomplish that day’s tasks. If not, move fast to contact technical support.
DON’T be late for virtual or in-office meetings
Working from home may give you more time in your schedule, but it doesn’t change the time on the clock. Always be on time for meetings — including if you’re asked to come into the office for one.
DON’T post gripes in a meeting chat
The tools you use to communicate and collaborate with teammates virtually are meant for work, and sometimes, for fun activities like team celebrations. They’re not channels for airing complaints about people or policies at work. If a work-related issue is upsetting you, take the matter up privately with your manager or with human resources, if needed.
DON’T forget to move, get fresh air, and eat and drink!
This “don’t” echoes some of the advice from our “do’s” list above. Remember not to get so caught up in work that your health and well-being suffer. Take breaks, get exercise, grab some fresh air, stay hydrated and eat healthy foods during your workday.
“Succeeding at remote work, just as with in-office work, includes finding the right balance between the professional and personal sides of your life while always putting your best foot forward in your job and career,” says Plovie. “That said, transition to remote work can be a challenging journey. So, give yourself time to adapt and learn what works best for you while using these do’s and don’ts to guide you.”
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