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August 18, 2021

A Beginner’s Guide to Working Remotely

Training for a career in tech comes with one great advantage: it's becoming more and more common that you will be allowed to work fully or partially from a remote work environment. This could be your home, a coffee shop, shared workspace, or anywhere else you prefer. Working remotely comes with many advantages and flexibility, but it also requires discipline, organization, and self-motivation. Keep reading to learn the key skills you need in order to effectively work from a remote work environment.

 The Balance of Working from Home

At first glance, the idea of working from home in your sweats and having a flexible schedule that you control seems like a dream come true. And it can be. However, just because you’re not in a traditional work environment where you’re easily seen and accessed by your employer and fellow employees, this doesn’t mean you can shirk responsibilities or fall behind on your workload. Successfully working from home still requires you to maintain a schedule, manage a task list, and be responsive to your team. This will look different person-to-person, but the key is to find what works best for you and to stick to it. Here are a few quick tips to make remote working a joy for you and your employer.

Create a routine.

The key for being successful at home is to have an “I’m at work” attitude. Create a daily routine that resembles an employee that commutes to an office. You will have a shorter commute that may only require you to move from your living space to your workspace, but take that transition seriously. Try this…

  • Get dressed for work. Casual is okay, if approved by your employer, but choose attire that is different from what you’d wear on the weekend or when lounging around. You never know when an impromptu video call could pop up!
  • Have a set start and end time. This may be established by your employer or be left to your own choosing. Having a set work time makes you reliable to your team and helps to keep boundaries between work and personal life.
  • Create a getting started ritual. What do you enjoy doing in the morning before you begin work? For some this is exercise, showering, putting on your work attire, making breakfast, or having your favorite morning beverage. Whatever you need to do to feel settled should be part of your morning routine that you accomplish before you virtually “clock in.”
  • Take a scheduled lunch break. It may be tempting to grab a quick bite while finishing up a task, but this small break in your day is essential for finishing strong. Avoid burnout by giving yourself a proper lunch break to clear your mind, eat away from your desk, or go outside the home.
  • Build in time to stretch and exercise! This is an important one because it can really set the tone for your day while making you mentally alert and more effective. How you define “exercise” is up to you and it should fit your fitness level. Start small and focus on just 20 minutes of movement per day. Your mood and body will thank you!

Set communication expectations and boundaries.

It’s easy to feel disconnected from coworkers that are in the office or working remotely with their own schedule. To be successful and to feel like a team player, you will want to make sure you and your coworkers are clear about communications. Setting boundaries and expectations builds trust and gives you peace of mind. It also takes the guesswork out of how someone wants to feel included and respected. Here are some tips for setting communication expectations and boundaries with various levels of coworkers.  

 Management

  • Ask how they would like to work with you.
  • Ask how accessible they want you to be throughout the day.
  • How soon do you need to respond to an email or missed call?
  • When in doubt, ask. Don’t assume!

 Coworkers

  • Let coworkers know when it's okay for social interactions during the work day.
  • Share your schedule and keep it up to date.
  • Be clear about deadlines and what you’re working on.
  • Choose your communication method wisely (phone, email, text) and respect that others may have their own preferences.

 General

  • Tame your notifications! Choose to be alerted in real time only with notifications that are urgent and important. All others should be silenced.
  • Use “Do Not Disturb” when you need to focus and don’t feel guilty, especially when it helps keep you on task.
  • Schedule set times for when you will check in on email or take phone calls. Outside of these hours, you can still be responsive but on your own terms.

Create a productive work environment.

Set up your workspace in a way that makes you comfortable. Ensure that it is as separate from your living space as much as possible. This will set you up for successfully maintaining your work-life balance. 

Invest in good WiFi and phone service. These are your primary access to your coworkers and managers. When your communication tools let you down it will not only frustrate you but those who are trying to work with you. Always have a backup plan if service is disrupted.

Centralize shared documents. When you work from home you will not have the ability to walk to a coworker’s space to get documents or ask a question. Having a clear system for maintaining and sharing files will save you a lot of time in the long run. 

And finally, use tools to make remote life easier. A public calendar, chat software, to-do lists, cloud storage are all tools that can help make your remote working environment more productive.

The Key Takeaways 

The tips covered in this article will set you up with a strong foundation for transitioning to a work-from-home environment. However, there is much you’ll still need to figure out as you gain more experience, and it will depend upon your work style, your manager’s work style, and the tasks that you are expected to be completed in a given day or week. For even more tips, watch this short video on remote work mistakes that you should actively avoid.

Most importantly, keep in mind that there are no hard, fast rules and what works for one person may not work for another. Even your own coworkers may have different styles that vary from your preferences. Be open minded, quick to adjust, and willing to learn when it comes to embracing a virtual working relationship with your team. Keep your shared goals at the focus of all you do, and allow them to guide your own best practices as a team and individual.

Train for tech job roles with remote work opportunities by enrolling in an upcoming NuPaths program.  Learn more about the programs in the Core IT and Business Technology pathways at https://nupaths.org/our-programs/.

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