Ah, remote work. Do you think of lying in a beach chair while sending out emails? Joining a conference call from bed? Picking up your kids from school between client calls?
Working remotely is a broad term that looks different depending on the situation. Gangsters have even concocted remote-control diggers to rob ATMs from home. Talk about innovation.
Criminals aside, some key remote work best practices can be applied across the board, and I’m here to share them with you.
What do you really know, Laura?
Before I reveal my top remote work best practices, let me give you a quick background of my own remote experience.
I’m a full-time travel consultant and part-time travel blogger. In other words, the spitting image of the term “digital nomad.”
I LOVE working remotely. With over three years of remote work under my belt, the thought of going back to an office has me feeling like Punxsutawney Phil when he sees his shadow.
Given the quickly changing world we’re living in, you’ve likely stumbled upon this post either by choice or force. Regardless of what led you here, I’m glad it did. You’re in good digital hands. 😊
10 Remote Work Best Practices
Now, let’s dive into my recommendations for remote work best practices. Regardless of the kind of remote work you do, you’ll likely be able to find a way to incorporate these tips to help you set the foundation for remote work and improve productivity.
1. Have WiFi (and make sure it’s good)
Can you say, “Duh, Laura?”
For some of you, this will be an easy step to check off your list of remote work best practices. However, particularly for those who are digital nomads, having good WiFi is not always a given—especially if you’re doing van life and camping at national parks.
If you travel while working remotely, I recommend downloading a WiFi speed tester such as Fast. This will give you a quick indication of just how good (…or bad…) your WiFi is.
There are plenty of WiFi speed testers out there other than Fast. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which one you use. The key is to use the same program so that you have a reliable history to compare the numbers with.
When I first started working remotely, I kept a list of WiFi speeds at coworking spaces, Airbnbs, hostels, etc. Looking at the list, I could quickly remember which had great WiFi and which places had cringeworthy internet speeds (those were, unfortunately, the hardest ones to forget).
Gradually, I became comfortable using Fast without needing my cheat sheet.
As a bare minimum, I find that I can squeak by on 10mbps of WiFi. This is fast enough to send emails without large attachments, and passable (but barely) to make voice calls through programs like Skype and Vonage.
That being said, for my field of work, I prefer 20mbps or higher.
Every person has different minimum internet speed needs. Test around to find what yours is so that you…ahem…don’t find yourself begging a camel owner in Morocco to use his WiFi.
And on that note, let’s move on!
Tip: Staying at an Airbnb? Write your host in advance asking the WiFi speed and letting them know you’ll be working remotely. This sets the expectation that they’re responsible for offering good WiFi and declining your request if they don’t.
2. Have a backup WiFi option (and make sure it’s good, too)
Even if you work permanently from home with your fancy ultra-high-speed WiFi, don’t assume that you’ll never be in a position where you’ll need to go running to the proverbial Moroccan camel owner.
Stuff does, and will, happen.
Make sure you know of a cafe or coworking space that you can easily get to if your internet goes kaput. And, of course, make sure that the internet is the good kind.
A lesson I’ve learned from internet hopping on tough internet days is that it isn’t only the internet that’s important for a good remote work experience.
One of the top remote work best practices I recommend is that your backup WiFi spot has a conducive working environment.
For me, that means a quiet (or as quiet as possible) space, as I’m oftentimes on the phone with clients. It’s not fun to be in a cafe and have to explain away the reggaeton blaring and blender grinding, at the same time, to a client.
Oh, my dear backup cafe option in Panama City…
3. Set expectations at the beginning (and stick with them)
If only one of these remote work best practices resonates with you, let it be this one.
Set your expectations BEFORE you begin your remote job AND stick with them.
Setting expectations will look different for everyone, but let’s assume that you work remotely for a company. Before you type that first letter on your keyboard for your new job, speak with your company about their expectations for you and your expectations from them.
Do they expect you to respond to an email within a certain amount of time? Do you have to be present on a messenger service like GChat at specific hours?
If you are your own boss and you work with clients, make sure you set expectations for both yourself and your clients right from the start.
Are you willing to take a call in the middle of the night from a client halfway around the world?
Then don’t do it “just this one time.” That can spiral into more times and leave you dreaming of your former cubicle.
That being said, it’s okay for expectations to evolve.
In fact, if this is your first time working remotely, they most likely will evolve as you figure out what does and doesn’t work. Just make sure to communicate any changes you would like to implement with your boss and/or clients.
Setting expectations should be all about you.
If you can’t work under the expectations that you’ve discussed with your employer and/or implemented with your own clients, don’t be surprised if you find yourself loathing remote work.
4. Design a routine (that includes your personal life)
Some people were born with the self-discipline required for remote work. Others find themselves avoiding work by willingly doing chores around the house that they used to loathe.
Regardless of where you fall on the procrastination spectrum, one of the best remote work best practices you can implement is to build a routine.
I’m not here to tell you what kind of routine you should have. Just that you should have one.
Want to get up in the morning and play video games before checking your inbox? Go for it.
Run five miles and eat raw eggs between client calls? Cool.
Whatever you choose to do, set a schedule and do it consistently.
Developing a personal routine around your remote work will help you work quicker and more productively on the job.
The same applies to your remote work; design a routine that you follow each day.
For example, maybe you want to read and respond to emails the first hour, have a client call the next hour, have a scheduled lunch break at “x” time for “x” length of time, etc.
5. Dress how you want (even if that means in your birthday suit)
Is it just me, or do you find it odd how many people care about what remote workers wear?
Articles on the importance of remote workers getting dressed in the morning are plenty, as if this is the end-all-be-all of remote work best practices.
To be fair, I get where they’re coming from.
When I have a meeting with my boss, there’s no doubt about it- I feel more confident dressed in daytime clothes than kicking it in my SpongeBob SquarePants PJs.
But let’s face it, part of the beauty of working remotely is not having to get dressed (or, at least, dressed up).
If you want to get dolled up to start your day, go for it.
If your idea of getting dressed is changing into a clean pair of pjs or nothing at all, go for it too.
Because here’s the thing- as long as you’re not going to be video calling anyone, in my opinion, it’s not about what you wear but the routine you design.
Did I just see you run to the fridge to grab those raw eggs?
6. Invest in proper equipment (but don’t spend a fortune)
One of the best remote work best practices I can give you is to set yourself up from the start with proper equipment.
Equipment for remote work will vary greatly from person to person. For example, “equipment” can also include software, depending on the nature of your job.
In most cases, start-up costs for the basic essentials of remote equipment are pretty low after taking into account the must-have laptop or desktop.
Nonetheless, if you’re working remotely for a company, check to see if they have a budget for getting you proper remote equipment.
In either case, whether you work for a company or you are your own boss, below is a list of remote equipment that has personally made a world of difference for me. Best of all, these are affordable for most, with the possible exception of noise-canceling headphones.
- Laptop lift stand to help with posture and neckaches
- Wireless keyboard to accompany the lift stand
- Mousepad with wrist support
- Noise-canceling headset
- VPN to protect your information if you’ll be using public WiFi networks
As a digital nomad, these pieces of equipment offer a combination of usefulness to comfortably work from my laptop without being too bulky to carry.
7. Don’t overwork (burnout happens outside of cubicles, too)
Knowing that home is where you are, it can be easy to adopt the “I’ll just do this one more task” habit. I’m guilty of this myself, especially during our high season.
I’m not about to tell you to drop everything when your eight-hour shift is over. Let’s face it- there are plenty of days in an office environment that requires overtime.
However, it’s extra easy to let those overtime hours add up when you have a remote job.
Thoughts such as, “I’ll respond to a couple of emails before I get out of bed,” “work through my lunch break,” and “respond to a few more emails before I fall asleep” are extra easy habits to get into when you work remotely.
Make sure you’re conscious of how much time you’re really putting into work each day.
This all circles back to building a routine.
If the time you’re putting into work doesn’t allow you time to have a personal life, have a one-on-one chat with yourself about making changes.
8. Don’t underwork (beware of social media)
What’s this, Laura? We just got through talking about how I shouldn’t overwork, and now you’re telling me not to underwork?
Yes and no.
These overworking and underworking remote work best practices are dependent on a combination of who you are as a person and how much time your job requires.
By saying “don’t underwork,” I’m not implying that you should put in an eight-hour day if your job only requires five.
Instead, I’m referring to removing distractions that would otherwise allow you to get your tasks done more efficiently. In other words, a five-hour day could turn into an eight-hour day if you let it.
Contrary to what that little nag in your brain tells you, you don’t need to check Twitter every five minutes. Nor do you need confirmation from Facebook that your friends brushed their teeth or see what they ate for lunch on Instagram.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to check social media during your remote workday. However, if you’re the impulsive type and/or you find yourself losing lots of time scrolling through newsfeeds, try blocking out short, scheduled periods of time to check your social media.
The same can be said for checking up on the news, the stock market, etc.
By setting a schedule for items that distract you from work, you’ll be a far more efficient remote worker.
9. Level up your communication skills (the world is interconnected, after all)
Working remotely is all about communication. Therefore, one of the best remote work practices you can implement is learning how to communicate.
Communication, of course, looks different according to your job and whether or not you have a boss.
But for starters, you should figure out how you prefer people to communicate with you and how you prefer to communicate with them.
Do you prefer GChats or text messages for quick questions needing an answer ASAP? Emails for more detailed information? A phone or group conference call to hash out ideas?
Beyond strictly work-related communication, if you work for a company, you should also know how to communicate with your company for more personal matters.
For example, what’s the best way to communicate with your company if a personal emergency comes up and you need to leave for the day? If you have flexible lunch breaks, do you need to notify anyone when you’ve stepped away from your computer and when you expect to be back?
If you get a job working remotely for a company, you may be surprised by just how much oversight they want to have about your whereabouts. So, make sure you ask about their communication expectations during your interview to ensure they align with what you’re comfortable with.
10. Take sick days (and don’t feel guilty about it)
Disclaimer: I need to take my own advice on this particular remote work best practice.
It’s incredibly easy to have the temptation of working through a cold or fever in the comfort of your bed.
After all, why use a sick day when you won’t be doing anything but wallowing in your achy body anyway?
Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a genuine day(s) off when you’re sick, just like you would have taken if you were in the office.
The concept of taking a sick day is perhaps the hardest of all for self-employed remote workers. It’s your business, your baby, it feels like you could open your inbox the next day to find out that everything you worked for collapsed in the 24 hours that you were away.
Everyone’s situation is different, but the data doesn’t lie; taking time off- genuine time off- when you’re sick is important.
Now, I just need to remind myself to read this remote work best practice the next time I’m sick!
11. Get social (if you want to)
There are so many advantages to working remotely. However, many people find that a downside is the lack of face-to-face interaction.
Thankfully, nowadays, remote work has become so popular that coworking spaces are popping up around the globe.
So, what exactly is a coworking space?
A coworking space is a place where remote individuals or small businesses pay to work in an office-like setting. Oftentimes, you can either pay for a “hot desk” where you sit anywhere in an open-style room or rent a private room.
Coworking spaces- or at least, the good ones- also come with a few soundproof phone booths for making calls.
Free water, coffee, tea, snacks, printing, and social activities are among some of the perks that many coworking spaces offer.
The downside to coworking?
So, if your budget is tight, consider visiting a coworking space once or twice per week to get you out of the house and socializing with fellow remote workers.
Conclusion: Remote work best practices
Whether you were looking to brush up on your remote skills or are a remote wannabe, I hope this post has equipped you with remote work best practices that you can implement.
If you already have experience working remotely, share your remote work best practices in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!