Let’s be honest, remote working is awesome. There’s no commute, you’ve got more free time and you can design your workplace how you like.
But, take it from us, making a success of home-based working requires real effort. You can’t just wake up at five to nine, prop your laptop on your knees and get your work done as you lounge in bed. If you try this, you won’t be able to focus and your work will be sloppy.
At Mobile Jazz, we strive to earn the freedom remote working gives us. We recognize it’s a privilege, not a right, and we need to replicate all the physical togetherness of a regular office-based company. Since we launched in 2011, we’ve learned pretty much all there is to know about setting up remote workspaces… and we’re happy to share this knowledge.
As ever-more people migrate to remote working, we thought it’d be a good idea to put together a list of what’s worked for us. We hope it’s useful for those who’ve just started out on their own remote journey, those who are preparing to do so, and those who are stuck in an office and wondering how to build a better alternative for them.
Create an ‘Office’
It can be your spare bedroom, your attic, even your garden table. The point is, you need to find a place you can completely dedicate to work. A place you don’t usually use for anything else, which becomes your ‘office’ as time goes on.
By creating a dedicated workspace, you can completely differentiate your work and personal lives – enabling you to park your normal home life when you log on for the day, just as you would in a regular office. Also, it means you get that ‘home-time’ feeling when you finish.
This rule also applies if you’re planning to work externally. Whether you’re planning to rent a coworking space (as many of the MJ team have) or take your laptop to the local park or bookshop, you need find a space you rarely go in your leisure time. If you start mixing up work and social settings, they’ll soon blend into one.
Make Sure Your Connection’s Strong Enough
Whether you’re working at home or in a shared office, you need to have a network connection that can handle your workload. This is particularly important for MJ; as a technology company, downtime is like kryptonite to us.
If you don’t think your internet connection can handle round-the-clock connectivity, get it changed. It’s also good to invest in an ethernet cable, which can be a real life-saver if the wireless connection starts playing up.
If you’re travelling, make sure you have a reliable WiFi connection and plenty of mobile data allowance as backup. Most phone providers sell large data packages relatively cheaply, and it pays to have one of these packages if you pass through a WiFi blackspot.
Remember – if you’re going to work remotely, you’re responsible for being connected.
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Create a Virtual Office
This is probably the most crucial one of them all for us. MJ has always worked on the premise that we owe it to each other to communicate our availability. If we’re going to be successful, our coordination has to be even stronger than that of a conventional office-based team.
We’d strongly advise you and your team install a common chat application and use it as a virtual office. We use Slack, a popular instant messaging tool, but there are plenty of other excellent software applications out there, including Ryver and Rocket.chat.
We’ve created various work-based channels to manage our Slack correspondence, as well as fun channels, which allows us to exchange jokes and gifs and gives us a virtual break area.
Whenever we log in or out, even if it’s just to go for a break, we put a message in Slack to let everyone know. This is absolutely crucial; if an email comes through and we know the relevant person is away, someone else can take responsibility.
We also use Asana to assign tasks to one another. This is equally important, giving us a clear plan of not only our own tasks, but the team’s as well. Not everyone’s working hours will intersect, and you can’t afford the team to be disrupted when someone goes offline. If you keep clear tasks for everything, anyone in a given team can pick up and pitch in if someone is away.
Work Clear Hours
One of the most tempting things about working remotely is the chance to build your working hours around your social life. It’s easy to think you can go out late, then work later hours the next day to compensate.
But, if you want to create an effective home workspace, this is a big no-no. To ensure a clear distinction between work and home life, you need to set your working hours and then follow them religiously. Don’t be seduced by the lie-in!
When deciding your working pattern, think about the rest of your team. Try to overlap with your teammates by around 40-50%. That way you can coordinate your work with them and share tasks if necessary.
Make sure you take plenty of screen breaks during your day – short periods when you’re completely detached from the screen. Otherwise you risk being stuck at your desk all day, which can drain your productivity and lead to long-term physical damage.
A great tip that’s helped various MJ team members is the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method which breaks down the working day into 25-minute intervals, using a timer. You can download plenty of apps to help with this – here’s a short list.
If you’re at home, there’ll likely be plenty of potential diversions around the house for you to escape from work. Notice we didn’t use the word ‘distractions’ there. There’s a difference; you should be looking for tasks and pursuits that can allow you to recharge your batteries in between work tasks, not scramble your focus during them.
Just going to the grocery store can enable you to tick a task off your list, and replenish your energy at the same time.
Keep Everything Separate
Everything about your work and home lives needs to be distinct.
One thing most of us do is to use separate email client apps for work and fun, so we have the two totally separate – and we don’t get stuck reading work emails when we check our phone after hours.
It’s also great to have separate clothes for work – even if it’s just a company t-shirt. You might even want to get a special mug for the coffee you drink during work time. The more distinct your working routine, the stronger that ‘work feeling’ will be.
Keep Things Neat and Tidy
This might seem obvious to a lot of people but it’s really important. No-one’s watching over us and our workspace when we’re at home or in a shared office, but if we don’t keep our space today it won’t feel like a proper place of work.
It might be a good idea to get a cleaner if you’re working at home and can afford one, but the most important thing is to get into a good cleaning routine. Make sure you tidy up your things at the end of each working day.
Remember – cluttered surroundings lead to a cluttered mind!
When You Finish, Finish
Try to keep a routine that ensures you properly disconnect when you finish work. Don’t simply close all your work tabs and stay in front of your computer; make sure you make a complete break.
Head outside, meet up with a friend or go off for some exercise. Whatever you do, it needs to take you away from the screen and, ideally, into the outside world.
If It’s Not Working, Change It
Remote working can be a case of trial and error. You might try to work somewhere, or work to a certain routine, and it doesn’t work.
If this happens, then don’t wait. Make the change and start again, with a new workplace situation or pattern.