Tips to have success as a remote worker

I still remember when I first had the opportunity to work remotely, it took some convincing but my employer at the time understood and agreed to give it a try, it was 2002. Nowadays is very common to find professionals, especially developers and designers doing some of their work remotely. There are even some successful companies where not only some employees work remotely but almost their entire work force is remote, in these companies working remotely is just part of the culture.

Tips to have success as a remote workerBelow are some of my own experiences as a remote worker, and although I have never been a 100% remote worker, still think some of the following tips might help some of you, and if you have additional tips please feel free to share it with us in the comment’s section.

Have a schedule and let co-workers know about it

Unless you work remotely 100% of the time, you should let people know in advance about the days and hours you are working remotely, that way no in-person meetings are scheduled and no expectations of you being physically at the office are set. Your company and co-workers will appreciate this.

This also helps you plan for personal things such as running errands, doctor appointments, walking the dog, going to the gym, or whatever it is that you do when you are not attached to specific working hours during the day. The real benefit and very productive thing about working remotely is having the ability to work when you are the most productive, not necessarily from 9-5PM.

Work when you are the most productive, avoid the 9-5

Most people benefit from working remotely because if done correctly, it truly gives you a chance to balance your busy life with your work. Unfortunately many employers and professionals do not understand this and instead request that people working remotely work the same hours as if they were at the office, and while this might be seemed as a good idea it isn’t. Working the same hours while working remotely does not let you realize the full potential of working remotely, and it also brings the same problems you tried to avoid by working remotely such as constant distractions by coworkers pinging you, and the pressure of not being able to work when you are the most productive which in many cases is not from 9-5PM.

Make yourself unreachable

That is right, be unreachable. The whole point about working remotely is so you can be more productive and you can only achieve this by eliminating distractions. If you are in a position where you can work remotely, then you can certainly make yourself unreachable for a day or two. If you or your employer feel uncomfortable with this, then none of you are ready to work remotely or to have a remote workforce. Here are some tips to make yourself unreachable and to train people around you to understand that you are not openly available while working from home, a coffee shop or anywhere you decide to work from:

  • Only read and reply to very important emails that truly require your input.
  • Do not answer the phone if the caller is unknown.
  • Do not engage in online discussions in IM, Twitter, etc…
  • Avoid phone conferences while working remotely.
  • Disable email, IM and other automatic notifications.

Give yourself permission to decline interruptions, and set expectations with your team about this.

Use the right equipment

A good laptop, good internet connection and plenty of electrical power is absolutely needed to succeed as a remote worker. Having two computers such as one sitting at work and another one at home won’t cut it, trust me I tried and failed miserably. Also, remember that working remotely doesn’t mean working only from home, there are going to be days when you decide or need to work from another location such as a coffee shop, a hotel or a co-working space, and you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the above… laptop, fast internet connection and a source of power. Caffeine is in my list of must-have as well.

If possible, have an extra battery (charged) for your laptop, a cell phone and all of the cables you need to power up your devices, never leave home without them.

Use the right software

This advice really varies depending on what you do and who you work for. For example, if your company provides remote access to network shares, and other resources within the company’s network then make sure you have access to it as well as the security software and knowledge to connect to it. For example, most companies will require you to first connect to a virtual private network (VPN) before you can access your email, network folders, databases, etc… Another good idea is to know how to access your company’s email using a browser (webmail) since there are going to be times when your VPN connection might not work when you need to read or sent an important email message. It will happen, trust me on this one.

Here are some other applications that can prove to be very useful while working remotely:

In summary, make sure you test all of your software while at home and confirm that you have everything to do your job remotely.

The above list is what comes to mind based on my experience as the basics for successfully working remotely, and I am sure that depending on your company and the type of work you do there might be the need for other software or equipment to make this happen. If you have other tips or suggestions please add them in the comment’s section below.

2 Thoughts

  1. I have never worked in an office, either because I was doing something on my own, or had a job which required lots of traveling and I skipped the office time in between, or I was consulting, or all together 😉

    Making yourself unavailable never worked – at least for me. People are expecting that you are extra responsive, just because you are not in an office. You only get away when you can rightfully claim to be on a flight – the time many people sherries. In many large companies, people get away with only answering after you send them three emails and one to their boss, and another to their boss-boss-boss, as a remote worker, however, people expect you to react to an email within minutes, or an hour, and if you do not, they call you frantically. I usually react within the same workday, and order responsive s after the time it takes to answer them and priorities. Longer responses last.

    Setting time away and letting people know, also does not tend to work. My schedule has been often a CA schedule, from 11am to 7pm of my Austin time, however, this tends to bleed from 9am into 9pm. There are gaps in between you can use for your own things, but often I had worked this 10-12 hours timeframe.

    On the other hand, freedom of location has been working very well for me. Nobody cares where I am as long as I get work done. I have been at coffee shops, traveling across the country, or even internationally. Your customers just need to understand what your reaction time is, if they want you do visit. It takes longer to fly from Berlin to New York, than from San Jose to LA.

    The right equipment is absolutely essential. But as a geek, you know this already. Mine is an iPhone unlocked, an iPad unlocked, and an MBP. Before I had an unlocked iPhone, I used a cheap unlocked travel phone. I always buy prepaid cards locally, but do roam on voice more often than not so that people know how to reach me, just by dialing my SF 415 number.

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    1. What you describe is just your experience with one or few companies. Making yourself unavailable is doable and accepted by many companies since the amount and quality of work done can be measured, and most remote workers are measured by the number of goals they achieve and the timeliness.

      It really depends in the type of work you do, as a software engineer most companies understand and accept you need to avoid interruptions to be more productive, if you are a sales person, marketing, etc… then your company probably expects you to be “online” and “on top of things” all the time 😉

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