How To

The key to successful remote working

Successful remote learning is more than just maintaining a stable internet connection throughout your working day – although that does help – it’s much more than that. Successful remote working is making sure that you get the most out of your remote working situation.

Successful remote working is defined as being able to accurately carry out your normal day to day job without having to be in the office. The pandemic has forced us to change the way we work and the need for successful remote working has become more important than ever.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can achieve this…

Equipment

Perhaps the most crucial part of remote working is having the right equipment. “You need the right tools to do the job!” And we’re not just talking about a laptop to actually do your work on, you’ve got to think about ergonomics too. This means introducing pieces of equipment such as a laptop stand so you can have your laptop at eye level, which prevents neck and back strain.

Of course, a laptop is important, and it’s key to make sure you’ve got one with a powerful enough processor to carry out the work you need to do. For example, if you mostly work with work docs or spreadsheets then something like an i3 processor would be sufficient, but if you’re a designer and are working with demanding editing and creative software you’ll need to be looking at an i7.

Using a laptop and its built-in keyboard and mouse is another thing you need to be wary of. Using a trackpad and keyboard on a laptop can actually cause problems in terms of ergonomics. Using an additional keyboard and an external mouse will allow you to carry out the same tasks but with much better posture and without straining your wrists or shoulders.

Once you’ve got your laptop on its stand and your peripherals all set up, next is the seat. This is arguably the most important component, especially given how easy it is to sink into the sofa and click away. Making sure your chair has suitable lower and upper back support as well as adjustable headrest is essential. Height adjustment is also crucial, and it will allow you to change your seat height so that your eyeline matches the top of your screen. Your knees also need to be at a 90-degree angle as to not strain your lower back. Nothing kills productivity like back or joint pain!

Time management

It’s all about having a plan in place and a schedule to work to, whether it’s hour by hour, day by day or even week by week. Doing this helps you to lay out your work priorities and identify the most important tasks.

Tasks which are time-sensitive should also get special consideration when organising your priorities. You should also consider which tasks need be done in order for your workmates to effectively do their jobs.

When working remotely, perhaps in your kitchen or home office, it can be easy for your productivity to take a dip, it’s natural. This is why it’s important to keep a schedule and list your tasks so you know how much work needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

Tools/software

Remote working can be aided by specific software and tools which have been designed to help communication whilst workers are out of the classroom or office. Now, there are so many that we could do a complete separate article on each one in order to shed a little more light on them, in fact we’ve done this for Microsoft Teams, which you can read here.

These handy tools will you give you the ability to communicate and share work effectively with each other whilst working. Microsoft Teams is a great example of this as it allows you to video call, chat and even create channels to collaborate on different pieces of work.

Photo: Natee Meepian / Shutterstock.com

Another popular tool which you may have heard of is Zoom, the free video calling app. Zoom is primarily video-call based and doesn’t offer a lot of the features which Teams does, but it does a good job at making video calling easy. However, unless you want to splash the cash, you’ll be limited to only 40 minutes of call time, which can make it difficult if you’ve got a lot to say.

Slack is popular option for both workplaces and students and again offers some of the features of teams but not all. Slack is primarily chat-based, so you can have quick one-on-one chats or create an entire group of people and even send documents to each other. Extremely user friendly!

Environment

Having a set workspace which breeds productivity and focus is key to success when working remotely. A workspace should be a separate area of your home and be free from distractions. All work should be done in this one space, rather than bouncing around different spots in the home.

Working in front of the TV one day, then at the kitchen table another confuses the schedule and the mind. It can also cause a drop in your productivity because of the constant changes in work scenery. When you work in the same space over and over, the brain will learn that the space is intended for work and will help you to focus much better. It can take time to train your mind to best use the new space when working from home, but as long as you stick at it, you’ll adjust.

If you don’t have a designated home office area, it may be a little difficult finding a place you want to settle in for the day. Experimenting with different corners or rooms in the home and seeing which places feel the most positive and motivating for work will help encourage sticking to a remote work schedule in the long run.

Some may like a nice bright space while others may prefer a more man-cave type setting. Some may need a space that is completely closed-off from the rest of the home, while others perform well in a roomier, open-concept area. Explore the different spots within your living space and determine which is the most inspiring.

Work to your strengths

Everyone is different when it comes to how best work is performed. To improve your productivity when remote working, understanding which times of day and which period of the week you work most prolifically can be the key when it comes to devising a personal work schedule.

Some people are more energetic and focused in the mornings, while others perform best later in the afternoon. By keeping track of when you feel your best and worst, your most productive and least motivated, you can use that to identify the best times to work and study at your most effective. Once you’ve identified your prime time for working, prioritise your more in-depth and complicated tasks during that time frame and save the simpler tasks for times of the day when fatigue may set in.

Another factor that may play a part in this is distractions to your work time. If you have children at home for example, you will have to juggle their work schedule too, so it’s best to do your most important tasks when they are occupied with their own school work. This can be complicated!

Know when to stop

Working at home can upset the balance between doing work and enjoying your personal life. It can be tempting to stay at the computer hours after your designated work time has finished. It can be easy to start working again later in the evening when feeling bored or even worried about certain tasks you need to complete. But, whatever your reasons, it’s important to take distance and downtime to avoid burnout.

Knowing when to step away is just as important as knowing when to get focused, which is another reason why creating a schedule and sticking to it is important. There is always going to be more work to do and always more problems to solve, but trying to do everything nonstop will lead to exhaustion and loss of motivation.

Everyone works differently, whether it’s a set work time of several hours and then downtime until the next day or a combination of worktime and downtime throughout the day, it’s important that you have this downtime. Studies have shown that the average person needs to take short and regular breaks to help keep up the momentum when working or studying. Choose whichever pattern works for you as long as you give yourself time to rest and recharge.

Remote working

There is a lot more to remote working than you may think, with factors such as equipment, schedule planning and even online classrooms to think about, it can get quite hectic. Hopefully our guide to getting the most out of yourself whilst working remotely has helped.

With remote working set to continue for the foreseeable future, we’ve put together a selection of other useful guides to talk you through it, including everything from which tech to buy, to in-depth breakdowns of specific tools and software.

Head over to our Media Hub for our latest blogs on remote working or explore our Knowledge Hub for some more in-depth help whilst working remotely.

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