Insights | March 18, 2020

How to Succeed When Working Remotely

Every day, more companies are making the decision to close their doors and have their employees tackle their workload from home. Apple, Amazon, Google, and Nike are all navigating the challenges of supporting their staff as a remote workforce. Even our Prime Minister is learning how to execute his responsibilities in isolation.

By Sujina Unger

Working from home for a fast-paced, demanding business takes skill, capacity and relational savvy. Succeeding in that environment remotely requires the ability to adapt those traits to your team and work responsibilities. Though moving to the home-front can seem like a break from the usual hustle and bustle, it takes real effort to keep your productivity and morale up over a lengthy period of time.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in my role at CREW half time from our Surrey, BC office and half time from my home in Portland for just over two years as I waited for my Green Card. In the beginning, I saw it as a barrier to job growth, but I’ve gradually learned that it can, in fact, provide new avenues to success. This led me to create a system that has expanded my position during that time. Business is all about turning challenges into opportunities and working from home is an excellent example of that. Now that I’m working in my role full-time from Portland, I know that when approached with the right tools and discipline, working remotely can only limit your success if you let it.

In light of the shifting work challenges we are facing with COVID-19, I thought this would be a good time to provide tips for those who are tackling working remotely for the first time:

  • Accessibility – Make sure you’re accessible to your team, manager and clients as much as possible. Leverage your company’s chosen communication platform to check in with your team throughout the day. For CREW, MS Teams has been our go-to for coordinating on projects in real-time without skipping a beat. Respond to emails as promptly as possible and answer calls when not in meetings. This helps affirm the sense that you are on task and still able to catch a ball and run with it.
  • Socialize – Go out of your way to add informal communication to your day. Conversation helps maintain and even build relationships while working remotely. Take a minute at the beginning of your meetings to connect on how everyone’s day is going and try to facilitate a sense of community out-of-office. This can go a long way in helping your team feel less isolated and out of sync with one another.
  • Video Meetings – Conduct all meetings through video when possible. It adds another layer of connection to your discussion and can help coworkers feel like you are more accessible. At CREW, we use Zoom for all meetings and with its Outlook integration, it provides us with an easy way to jump on and off video calls throughout the day. Frequent video meetings can also help break up your work schedule, so you don’t feel so isolated or weary of one pace.
  • Pro-tip: Set-up collaborative, real-time video meetings when working on projects with other team members. Even if you are working quietly together, it can provide a sense of urgency to stay on task and allows for instant feedback which can minimize revisions and improve the result. Distance can improve the working session as it reduces distraction and places more intentionality on talking points.
  • Accountability – If you feel disconnected from your coworkers or manager, take a minute to run through what you’ve been working on in your next meeting. Keep it brief but offer some insight into where you are investing your time. It also helps to add points of struggle and little wins, so they can provide support and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. This can go a long way to institute a reputation for productivity no matter what your location may be.
  • Build a Routine – Depending on your responsibilities and location, achieving a healthy work-life balance can take even more effort when you work from home. I’ve found that creating a routine makes it easier for myself and my family.
    • Build a schedule for your day before it starts. By knowing ahead of time when to take breaks and when to focus on specific projects, it will make the day more manageable while providing clear guidelines for when to focus and when to walk away.
    • Build activity into your routine. I’ve found that my best days are when I’ve scheduled a run in before work or a bike ride over lunch. You need to feel refreshed and at ease if you want to focus for long periods of time. Activity can help calm you down, reduce work anxiety and provide a sense of balance.
    • Pro tip: Schedule breaks to read. For me, any other type of break generally turns into a longer distraction and doesn’t keep my brain humming the way I’d like. Every three hours, I tend to take a 15-minute reading break to rest and reset. Having that to look forward to makes it easier to lean in when you are climbing a mountain of a project.
  • Work-Life Separation – As much as possible, create a workspace separate from your living space. I’ve learned through personal experience, and peer testimonials, that working where you sleep or eat can lead to bringing that work stress into the rest of your day. If you don’t have private space, then choose an optimal spot for productivity and set time aside for set-up and take-down of that space. When it’s time to end work for the day, turn off your computer, close the door and walk away. Even if it means coming back for a scheduled wrap-up in the evening, take time to intentionally walk away. It also means when you go back to that space your head knows it’s ready to work.
  • Set-up Your Tech – To work seamlessly, you need the proper tools to be effective. Before packing up at the office, make sure you have everything you need to do your job well. Take a minute to connect with your IT department/team to ensure you have server access and you know how to contact them if you have any issues. Collaborating online has never been easier with platforms like Google and Microsoft suites, making it seamless while working with others on shared PPTs and spreadsheets. Now is the time to master virtual collaboration.
  • Final Pro Tip: If you’re an early riser, take a cup of coffee to your workspace and get an hour’s head start on your emails before the rest of the world wakes up. That way when you return to your desk at 8 or 9, ready to start the workday, you’ll have a clear picture of what you need to accomplish and already feel ahead of the game and ready to focus.

Depending on the nature of your job, your schedule and work challenges will look different. At the end of the day, communication and structure are the friends you need right now. When moving to your home workspace, take the time to set yourself up for success and communicate to your family the mutual expectations that are needed to make this work.

Ultimately embrace this challenge as an opportunity to become the employee or entrepreneur who can succeed from any location. Virtual workstations are inevitably the future, and so the sooner we learn to embrace and excel in that environment, the more adaptable we’ll be to the market.

Looking for more ways to help your team succeed?