Employees' Guide to Working Remotely

Posted by Billy Gray on

Employees' Guide to Working Remotely

Remote work from home jobs are more common now than they have been at any other point in time. With more work taking place exclusively online and technological advancements making conference calling much more effective, many companies are moving towards working remotely. 

It’s just not necessary to group everyone together in the same room anymore. Companies save money by not having to rent out a big office, and employees save time, money, and stress by not being forced to commute during rush hour every day. 

Many industries have been coming around to the idea of working remotely for some time now. Content writers, programmers, web designers, entrepreneurs, graphic designers, and many others frequently work from home, from a coworking space, or even from a cafe in a foreign city. 

remote-coworking-space

Coworking spaces are a common substitute for the traditional office. 

The future is increasingly remote

The coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent global lockdown that has followed have forced millions of people to leave the office and work from home. The shift has forced companies to learn how to manage employees from a distance and there is little doubt that some of these companies will continue to adopt the practice once the lockdown ends. 

Already since 2010 people are four times more likely to work remotely throughout the week, according to a study by GetApp. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4.7 million employees in the US work from home for at least half of the week. This number has now increased considerably thanks to the coronavirus outbreak and the social distancing that has followed in its wake.- although it is too early to see how much of this is only temporary. 

Your guide to remote work from home jobs

This article will introduce you to some of the essential things to consider if you’re seeking to work remotely. It will cover everything from equipment to buy to tips for billing clients, from keeping your mental health in check to making sure your conference calls go smoothly. 

Expectations vs reality

All too often when people imagine working remotely, they imagine sitting on a beach with their laptop resting on their knees - the sounds of the waves breaking in the background. You have a margarita in your hand and the sun is just beginning its descent over the horizon as you finish up for the day and prepare to enjoy your evening in this remote paradise. 

remote-work-on-beachWho doesn’t want to work on a beach...? Your laptop, most likely. 

Let’s dissect this. First of all, working with your laptop on a beach is a terrible idea because the sand will get between the keys and ruin it. Not to mention the fact that it’ll likely be stolen the first time you take a dip in the sea. On top of this comes the more base reality: you’ll most likely be working from home or a co-working space and not in some island paradise. 

Benefits vs drawbacks

A 2019 study of 2,500 workers found that 99% want to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. Working remotely means that you could, in theory, work from anywhere in the world. Many people choose to work from their homes, while others will explore the world and work from cafes, and so on. It depends on your lifestyle, family, and other commitments, as well as the type of work you’re doing and whether you need to physically meet your clients often. 

It’s important that you manage your expectations when working remotely. Sometimes the internet might be rubbish, other times your work environment might be loud. Are you the kind of person who can be productive at home? Or will you just continually go to look in the fridge? 

Some people need an office environment to be productive. Try experimenting with different work environments and find out where you’re most effective. 

Essential toolkit

A tradesman is only as good as his tools. If you’re going to switch to working remotely, then you’ll need to invest some money in your toolkit. Obviously, a good laptop that processes quickly and has enough memory to keep you going is essential. There are some other bits of kit that you should consider buying, as well. 

  • Webcam: Conference calling is essential to remote work. A good webcam will help to make you look professional when chatting with your clients. 
  • Microphone: In much the same spirit, it’s important that your clients and colleagues can hear you clearly. 
  • LED ring-light: Lighting is important when making video calls, so having an LED ring-light to hand will ensure that you’re always in a well-lit environment. And hey, if remote work doesn’t work out for you then you could always use it to become an Instagram model. 
  • Soundproof headphones: These are important during calls, as well as for dimming out the background noise in cafes and other public places. 

conference-call-remoteGood posture and body language are essential when making remote conference calls. 

Communication 

Working remotely is a lot like a long-distance relationship: it’s only as strong as the communication that you put into it. You should have a progress meeting once per week to ensure that you’re on the right track and to keep up to date on the company’s wider aims as they develop. 

  • Plan what you want to say so that you don’t go off-topic. 
  • Keep your writing clear and concise. Make sure to check it for mistakes. 
  • Mind your body language during conference calls. Don’t fiddle with things. Sit upright and look into the camera when talking. 
  • Use communication tools: Slack or Skype for general conversation/queries, email for more direct requests, and project management boards like Trello or Jira for updating your progress on projects. 
  • If you can, then meet your colleagues/clients every now and then in-person to further cement your relationships with them. 

How to negotiate a remote salary 

Negotiating a fair salary is important if you’re going to work remotely. Concise communication is essential when dealing with this. How you negotiate your salary will depend on whether you’re full-time with one company or a freelancer with various clients. You’ll also have to take into account your experience, your industry, past salaries, and what else you can bring to the table. 

Always try to get your rate in writing and collect invoices for your work. This will be essential when it comes to filing your taxes. 

remote-work-negotiate-salaryAlways know your red line when negotiating a remote or freelance salary. 

Freelance rates

  • It’s essential to have a bottom line. Consider what your work is worth and don’t ever go under that amount. It can be tempting to offer discounts, but this tells your client that your work is worth less than someone else’s. 
  • Use a salary calculator to determine how you might break a salary into smaller chunks. You can scale this method to figure out rates for larger projects. 
  • Do plenty of research and ask around in forums and elsewhere to determine what the standard rates are in your industry.  
  • Don’t give in too easily during negotiations, but do also consider the context of the company. Are they scaling up? Are they a startup with a limited budget? 
  • Remember that you can always go somewhere else if someone isn’t willing to pay your desired rate. 

Remote full-time

In general, you should expect the same salary that you would get in an office if you’re working remotely full-time. You’re doing the same work and you’re bringing the same value. 

Productivity 

This is often the major pitfall of working remotely. Many people struggle to maintain productivity when they’re working from home - there are just too many distractions. You can, of course, set up your day to ensure more productivity. Here are a few tips: 

  • Set working hours so that you’re less prone to procrastination. Designating yourself one hour to actually work is much more effective than eight hours where you spend 70% of your time procrastinating. 
  • Make a workspace that is separated from your personal home life. It should have good lighting, an open window, and plenty of house plants. 
  • Plan your day out in the morning or the night before - but don’t be too rigid and make sure you pencil in some leisure time. 
  • Keep the blood flowing by doing regular bouts of exercise and go outside frequently. 
  • Use the Forest app to keep yourself off social media. 
  • Fill in a logbook at the end of the day so you can better track your progress. 

remote-work-productivity

A purpose-built workspace is ideal for ensuring more productivity when working remotely.

Discipline vs motivation 

People tend to point out that they struggle to maintain motivation. Motivation is an emotional state that we experience in a similar way to joy or sadness. It’s not permanent and you don’t have much control over it. Discipline, on the other hand, is the rational act of doing something even when you don’t want to do it. If you want to be productive, then work on improving your discipline, not your motivation. The book Discipline Equals Freedom by former Navy Seal commander Jocko Willink is a great place to start. 

Mental health 

Working remotely tends to involve a lot of isolation and if you don’t keep yourself in check then mental health can become an issue. A staggering 82% of Americans working remotely in the tech industry said in a 2019 survey by Digital Ocean that they felt burnt out, while a further 40% said that they felt they had to contribute more than their colleagues in the office. 

Such pressure can lead to mental health issues, and this is on top of the depression and loneliness that remote workers can develop due to a lack of interaction.

Make sure that you’re penciling in some time to meet people. Also, if you have a persistent problem, then do tell someone - possibly a professional who can help you get through your problems. 

mental-health-remote-work

Managing stress and looking after your mental health is more important than ever when working remotely. 

Keep work and play separate

It’s incredibly important to keep your work and personal lives separate. This can be done by making a dedicated office and making a point to mentally switch off whenever you leave this space. It’s also important to not try and overwork yourself. Many remote workers feel that they have to prove their worth more - don’t fall into this trap. 

Useful software for remote workers

Having the right software will help you to organize your work more effectively and show accountability to your clients. Here are some that we’ve found useful over the years. 

  • Hubstaff: The main purpose of Hubspot is to keep track of the hours you’ve spent working. It helps to build trust between remote teams. The software tracks the apps you have open and allows you to easily manage your time effectively. 
  • Google Drive: Google Drive allows you to keep all your projects in one place that can be accessed by designated team members. You can create docs, spreadsheets, and slides, as well as make live notes and suggestions. 
  • Slack: Seeing as communication is more difficult when you’re not in an office, it’s essential to have software like Slack to make sure you and your team are on the same page. Slack is a chat platform that allows you to make threads for different projects and easily share Google Drive folders. 
  • HelloSign: Working remotely makes it difficult to secure your documents and signatures. HelloSign was created to solve this problem. It’s incredibly useful for remote managers. 
  • Jira: This is a project management software that allows you to designate tasks and update your progress, as well as fill in roadmaps and upload files. 
  • Trello: Another project management app, Trello is essentially a simpler version of Jira with fewer features. This makes Trello better for simpler remote work and personal to-do lists.
  • 1Password: This software allows you to securely keep all your passwords in one place. From the list above, you can see that working remotely might mean using a lot of passwords. 1Password is incredibly convenient for managing this. 

Networking 

If you’re a freelancer, then networking is essential for finding new clients. That being said, not everyone is a social butterfly and there are some unwritten rules that you should follow when attending networking events. 

Note: You can use the Meetup app to find networking events in your area - or search ‘your city’ + networking one Facebook and see what comes up. 

networking-event-remote-workers


Networking events are a great way to meet new potential clients. Don’t have one in your area? Organise it yourself! 

  1. Plan what you want from the event. Do you want to meet 5 new people? Or do you want to learn about seven different organizations? Are you there to introduce yourself and hand out business cards - if so, then to how many people? 
  2. Introduce yourself to the host ASAP. The host will usually know who is new and introduce you to some people, but in the event that they don’t, ask someone else to introduce you. Even by doing this, you’re striking up a conversation with someone in the process. 
  3. Don’t just throw your card out. If someone asks for your card then give it to them, but don’t just keep handing them out uninvited. 
  4. Be yourself. You’re at the event to build relationships, so it’s important that you don’t put on a front. 
  5. Stick to the bar if you can’t talk to anyone. People tend to go to the bar alone, which makes it a great place to strike up conversations with people. 
  6. Don’t spread yourself too thin. You can always come to the next event to meet new people. Try to limit the number of people that you talk to so that you actually have engaging conversations with them. 

Knowledge is power

Someone once said “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” but let’s be honest, if you don’t actually have a solid craft then you’re not going anywhere in this life. Some people were born with a natural talent, but there’s a lot to learn in the world of work and you probably don’t have all the skills that you need. The more you learn, the better you’ll be at your job. 

Here are some great places to learn new skills that will make you stand out in the remote workforce - especially if you’re a freelancer. 

learn-remote-skills-onlineIn today’s world it’s easier than ever before to learn new skills from home. 

Google Fundamentals of Digital Marketing 

This is a free course offered by Google that comes with certification. It teaches you the basics of digital marketing, including how to make and target ads on Google, how to use SEO to your advantage, and how to build a website to showcase your work. It’s a great course to do if you’re switching to remote work. 

LinkedIn Learning 

LinkedIn is by far the world’s largest online professional networking platform. LinkedIn Learning was originally Lynda.com until it was acquired by LinkedIn in 2015. It has courses in everything from writing to coding to communication. If you’re looking to improve a particular skill, then this is a great place to do it. 

Skillshare 

With a focus on creative pursuits, Skillshare has courses taught by industry leaders that will give you a competitive edge. Whether it’s social media being taught by Gary Vaynerchuk or how to share ideas with Simon Sinek - you’ll find plenty of courses worth your time on Skillshare.  

Shopify Partner Academy

The Shopify Partner Academy offers a variety of free courses on everything from marketing to SEO and is a useful way to get your foot in the door with the Shopify Partners community. 

If you’re a freelancer, then becoming a Shopify Partner could open up a whole new market to you. It’s free to become a Shopify Partner and you can offer your services to stores on the platform, whether it be web design, coding, or even content creation. 

Future trends

The global economy is always changing and we can expect the way that we work to change with it as we go into the future. The current situation with the coronavirus outbreak may have actually made remote work more attractive to many employers - although it could have a double-edged sword effect. Some companies would not have been prepared to switch to remote so quickly and, as such, would have found the switch difficult to manage, making remote work seem like a less attractive option. 

In general, we can expect remote work to continue on its upward trajectory. A report by Zapier found that 57% of people would quit their job in favor of one that allows them to work remotely. 

Remote/office hybrid

We can expect to see a lot more companies doing a hybrid of remote and in-office work, meaning that employees would work from home a few days a week or month and gradually increase or decrease this based on productivity and wellbeing. 

A rise in gen-Z remote workers 

Generation Z is roughly people who were born in the late-90’s and early 2000s. This group is expected to take on significantly more remote work than previous generations, even in the face of growing challenges to working remotely. 

More tools for remote workers

We can expect to see more tools like Jira, PukkaTeam, and Trello arising to meet the specific needs of remote workers. This will include everything from time management, battling distractions, and improving your mental health. 

Conclusion 

Remote work is on the rise, and with generation Z actively prioritizing remote work over traditional in-office roles, we’ll likely see more employers catering to the changing demands of the workforce. If you’re looking to make the switch to remote work, then the tools, resources, and advice given throughout this guide are certainly worth exploring. 

If you’re currently locked down in isolation due to the coronavirus outbreak, then it’s possible you’re already experiencing remote work, perhaps for the first time. If you’re not able to work from home right now, then, by all means, take some online courses and make yourself more employable, or start searching for your own clients. Good luck!