Setting yourself up for success while working remotely

Whether you are new to working remotely or are a seasoned veteran, here are tips to improve the experience.
193 readers like this
193 readers like this
Woman sitting in front of her computer

Ray Smith

Remote work is not easy. While there are perks to being remote, it is a mind-shift and takes some getting used to. Talk to anybody that works remotely, and they will likely tell you some of the biggest challenges of remote work are feeling disconnected and a loss of regime. Here are my tips gathered from 10 years as a remote worker on how to set yourself and your team up to work remotely successfully.

Environment and regime

  1. "Commute" to and from work. I'm not saying go to the extremes in this Audible commercial, but I suggest leaving your home to go for a walk or a bike ride before you begin working. Do the same at the end of the day. I take my dog, Barley (pictured here), for a walk at the start and end of most days.Here's my dog, Barley, who gets regular walks during my morning "commute"
  2. Get dressed. Don't be tempted to work in your PJs, because this blurs the line between work and home. People sometimes say that being able to work in your pajamas is a perk of remote work, but studies show this isn't great advice. You don't need to put on a suit and tie, but do change out of your pajamas; otherwise, before you know it, you will have gone three days without changing your clothes. For more reasons why check out this article from Fast Company.
  3. Eat lunch away from your desk. This is good advice even if you aren't working remotely.
  4. Stick to a schedule. It's easy to start working as soon as you wake up and continue late into the evening. Set a start time and an end time for your day and stick to it. When I stop work for the day, I try to close my office door. Configure your working hours in every app you use so others know when you are available. Don't use your work computer outside of working hours if you can.
  5. Set up a dedicated work environment, if possible. Try not to work from the kitchen table. This blurs the lines between home and work. My office (picture below) also has space for comfortable seating and desk seating to switch between the two.
  6. Check-in with your team or friends in the morning. Don't mistake this for a daily stand-up; this is more like saying hi when you're getting coffee.
  7. Sign-off at the end of the day. This means both letting your team members know you are leaving and actually walking away from where you are working. Close the laptop. Turn off Slack notifications, etc.
  8. Keep people posted if you are leaving early or unavailable. It helps build trust.
  9. Invest in a headset if you will be doing a lot of calls. If there is more than one person in your household that is working remotely, they will thank you for this. It is no fun listening to somebody else's conference call.
  10. Turn on your video when on a video call to help you feel connected and stay engaged. When your video is disabled, it is easy to wander off and get distracted by Slack (or its open source alternatives), Twitter, or any other number of distractions.
  11. Set up a weekly, casual remote chat. At my company, we meet on Friday mornings via Zoom (or the open source alternative, Jitsi). This chat is open to remote and non-remote staff. It is an open call to talk about whatever is on our minds. Topics have ranged from music preferences to parenting challenges to what people are doing over the weekend.
  12. Set-up chat-roulette if one-on-one interaction is more your thing. There are applications on most chat platforms that randomly pairs two employees to chat and get to know one another.
  13. Ask for help. Chat with your colleagues if you're stuck, need encouragement, or need to vent. You are not alone. You are a member of a team. You can still grab a coffee or go for a walk with a teammate remotely.

Here’s my home office set up

Everybody is different. These tips work for me, I’d love to hear you share your advice below!

What to read next

Remote worker vs distributed team

Not all work-from-home gigs are created equal. There is a vast ocean between being a member of a distributed team and just being a remote worker. The groups of "remote worker"...

Dawn Parzych (@dparzych) is a Manager, Developer Marketing at LaunchDarkly where she uses her storytelling prowess to write and speak about the intersection of technology and psychology. She enjoys helping people be more successful at work and at life. She makes technical information accessible avoiding buzzwords and jargon whenever possible.

14 Comments

A useful article, Dawn, thank you!

I especially appreciate your suggestions as to increasing regular interaction # 6, 7, 11 and 12.

I work mostly remotely from my south-American colleagues, sitting in my home office in Vancouver. Managing time differences is a particular problem and I really like the idea of a regular scheduled meeting in #11.

In our Santiago office, we try to have a regular informal lunch get-together in the board room on Fridays. Key for remote people to join in to this kind of thing is a really solid audio connection accompanying the video chat. There is a marked difference between the conversation quality of varying platforms, especially over long distances that aren't well-connected and with modest room-level AV equipment and ESPECIALLY with group chats. I don't have a specific solution to offer, except to say that Jitsi has seemed pretty good to the limited extent I've tried it. I'm not super impressed with appear.in as it seems to allow quite a few drop-outs; conversely, bluejeans seems to deal with network delays well by delivering the audio clearly with a bit of a "fast-forward" approach to the accompanying video.

For organizations serious about this, one recommendation I can make is that ambient room noise is a conversation killer. People attending really need to mute when listening, avoid banging pencils, cutlery, plates, keyboards... in some cultures it is very customary for all to sit down to tea or coffee at the beginning of a meeting and the resulting clatter of cups and saucers makes it very hard for remote participants to engage.

Another recommendation, similarly about etiquette, is try hard to avoid having multiple conversations going at the same time. AV equipment typically makes the combined result almost unintelligible to remote participants - especially the pity comments coming from the dude who always sits in the far corner. Try to open up space for the remote participants to interject - ask them questions, etc.

Thanks again for the great article!

Great article, and very timely.

As an addition, if you are living with a partner or spouse who doesn't remote work, I found a few simple rules helps keep some domestic harmony as you are always home, and they are not.

When spouse/partner leaves for work they get a kiss/hug/affectionate greeting.

By the time spouse/partner returns home:
1. The bed is made
2. The washing up is done (or dishwasher loaded)

You can substitute or add other chores as necessary. In a sense, it does take away from the "I'm at Work" mindset you want to cultivate, on the other hand, recognise that you save a lot of your commute time and can channel that time into other important things, and nobody wants to come home from a hard day at work to an unmade bed and a pile of washing up.

Good tips, I also try to do at least some of my work during the week in the local public library... they have free wifi, a maker space, where I get to meet interesting people doing interesting things and my foot fall helps the library in their funding battles.

With respect to your 'change out of pyjamas' routine, I find it helps to simply walk around the block before starting.

This harks back to my old work routine of driving to work. It solved a multifold useful function in that it broke the day, got me into a work mindset and gave me time to think through the upcoming day.

Nice tips and suggestions, I will start work from home this week as my city has reported two confirms cases.

Stay home and be safe.

The topic on wearing the appropriate dress for working even if it’s a work from home setup is very enlightening. Not only did it signify to our family at home that we are working but also sets a psychological impression to our self that we are on work mode.

Great points on how to do work at home systematically and productively.

I like Cues and am excited to learn.

Enjoyed the helpful tips of working remotely.

Thanks for the tips. I usually work from home once a week but in this environment, I find it difficult to break away from my laptop until I start experiencing some kind of discomfort from sitting in one place too long. Got to get better at moving around the house and using different locations. Sitting in my office for days on end makes me feel too isolated.

I know people who set timers to remind them to get up and move on an hourly basis to help with this.

In reply to by Rose Miller (not verified)

Thank you for the wonderful tips, Dawn!
Had a hard time doing remote work for a while, took me some time to get things back on track.
The biggest problem I encountered was that I kept getting caught in trifles I had at homes, such as chores and such. They're normally what I do after work, but ever since the pandemic, I've been home for 24 hours every day and all I want to do is finish the chores during work time.
Decided to use time management softwares such as TickTick, Quire, and Asana. They remind me what to do and when to do it. Quire also can set priorities on my tasks so that I can keep in mind on which ones are more important.
Greatly improved my efficiency.

Working remotely requires discipline and focus, i Had a hard time doing remote work for a while, took me some time to get things back on track.
The biggest problem I encountered was that I kept getting caught in trifles I had at homes, such as chores and such. They're normally what I do after work, but ever since the pandemic, I've been home for 24 hours every day and all I want to do is finish the chores during work time.

Paula Fernandes, what an interesting comment! I have exactly the opposite problem - I need some discipline to get the chores done. Much easier to stay at work and then poof another chore-free day gone by.

In reply to by PAULA FERNANDES (not verified)

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.