Whether its increasing commuting costs, the ability to control one’s time, or the freedom to pursue their passion, more people now than ever are creating opportunities for working remotely. And it’s certainly a good time for this movement, as it’s supported by technological advances like cloud computing, collaboration, and improved communication tools.
As of 2016, about 25% of the US workforce has worked remotely in some capacity, and this number has more than doubled since 2005. You can almost guarantee this is a trend that isn’t going to slow down any time soon. For many, the cubicle lifestyle is something of the past.
Creating physical separation from a micromanaging boss is just one of many benefits that go hand-in-hand with working remotely.
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Here are a few others worth mentioning:
Every rose has its thorn. 🌹 Working remotely seems like a dream come true but it comes with a few gotchas:
Whether you’re working for yourself or want to work remotely on behalf of another organization, the following websites can help connect you with remote work opportunities:
Working remotely means balancing a lot of different things. The following tips will help you to find this balance and with designing your ideal (productive) situation:
Flexible working conditions may mean excuses and distractions when it comes to actually getting work done, so it’s important to establish some semblance of a routine, as soon as possible. Without this, you’ll constantly be tempted to do other things, and before you know it, your whole day will be gone!
You don’t necessarily need a home office to be successful when it comes to working remotely. An area or room where your roommates or family members know not to disturb you (and ideally, where there’s a door you can shut!) is sufficient. Many remote workers find that having a dedicated workspace is helpful in making a distinction that when you’re in this area, you mean business—and when you’re out of it, you’re not working!
If working from home isn’t an option, try to find the best place to work outside of your home: be it a coffee shop, library, or coworking space (to name just a few options).
If you like working in peace, working in the library would be a great choice. But it wouldn’t be a good match for someone that constantly has to make calls. Consider the nature of your out-of-home workspace and aim to find a fit in terms of your “normal” daily routine.
Distractions are the biggest hindrance to productivity, especially for remote workers. Although dated, a 2006 Salary.com survey found that the average employee wastes about two hours per day due to distractions and these productivity losses cost companies $544 billion a year. It’s probably fair to assume that these numbers have steadily risen since then, as more and more distractions are constantly introduced into our daily lives.
The first step to overcoming your distractions is to do a time audit to understand where you might be wasting your time. You can use a time tracking tool like RescueTime to track time spent on certain websites and categories.
After you’ve identified how you spend your time, you can proactively take it back by scheduling tasks that you must complete on a daily basis, in time blocks—like checking emails. Speaking of emails, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, people spend 13 hours on email each week on average, which equates to 28% of their entire work week!
When you’re scheduling time blocks, be realistic about how much time you allot to different tasks. Aim to overestimate your involvement in various tasks and projects, to make room for delays and unexpected occurrences. If you finish in less time than scheduled, then you have extra time to do chores, errands, or rest!
During the workday, it’s easy to get distracted by small, non-urgent things that come up. If it really isn’t urgent, resist the temptation to deal with it now.
Why? It takes most people 25 minutes to refocus after being distracted. If something comes up, you can acknowledge it right away if necessary, along with an expected date of completion. This “trains” your contacts to understand that you’re a busy person, can’t drop everything immediately, and that they should respect your time.
Besides issues with focusing, you’ll also want to physically remove distractions and distracting circumstances from your work environment.
If you find that you frequently check emails or social media updates, you can use apps like StayFocusd to block your access to certain websites. If you’re the type who’s frequently checking your phone, you’ll want to temper yourself to turn it off and keep it somewhere far away while focusing on work. And if Facebook is a big problem for you, try the Facebook News Feed Eradicator Chrome extension.
On a final note, strive to keep a clean workspace so you won’t be tempted to clean up as a way of procrastinating.
When you start out working for yourself in a remote environment, you’ll likely try to do everything on your own. But when you’re diligent in getting clients and these happy clients recommend your service to others, you will inevitably become swamped and will need help staying above water.
Thanks to the hyperconnected world we live in, it can be easy to find fellow virtual workers to help your cause—at any price point. If you’re trying to keep costs low, you might consider virtual workers from countries with a lower cost of living—the tradeoff is that you may have to deal with cultural and communication barriers, as well as different time zones. When you deal with people accepting low rates, understand that sometimes, the quality of work is also sacrificed.
While there are many virtual assistant horror stories, there are also people that are happy with their remote team. No matter how you find contractors, hiring the right people for your team is crucial. The wrong people can do more harm than doing everything yourself because when you hire employees, you’ll be managing them in addition to your own workload. This can be tricky, especially for people that are control freaks and who aren’t so good at dealing with people.
Toggl recommends hiring employees who meet these three criteria:
It might be helpful to also read about Kinsta’s genesis story, bootstrapping the brand into the company you know it as today!
To establish an organized workflow, it is important to have systems in place. This is especially important when working with remote teams. When onboarding new team members, make sure that this includes an introduction to your systems and how they work.
Systems serve as a basic framework to guide your team and make your workflow more efficient.
There are several ways to prioritize tasks but we’ll focus on a few of the most popular frameworks:
The ABC method is a simple priority setting technique where you assign tasks on your to-do list in terms of:
If you have more than one task for A, B, or C, number them 1, 2, 3 (and so on) in order of their priorities. Think of this as a strict system, where you start the A-1 task immediately and don’t move on to another task unless you’re finished.
A less-complicated version of the ABC method, this method encourages you to do the thing you are least excited to do (usually the most important and heaviest task of the day). It’s hard but strict adherence to this method that will help you get through the hard stuff!
Popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, this method divides all tasks on your to-do list into four quadrants:
Put another way, the tasks in the first quadrant are the tasks you DO, the tasks in the second quadrant are tasks you DECIDE when to do, the tasks in the third quadrant are the ones you DELEGATE, and the tasks in the fourth quadrant are those you DELETE (or think about in the future at another time).
If the above three task management systems aren’t the best fit for your work style, consider these additional prioritization methods you can look into.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT MULTITASK.
People think that multitasking is useful but according to findings by a neuroscientist from MIT, multitasking makes it more likely that you’ll make mistakes, it ruins productivity, and it impedes creative thinking. Multitasking makes your brain expend extra energy as it shifts from task to task. In contrast, innovative thinking comes from prolonged periods of concentration.
If you’re constantly shifting between different thoughts, your brain has to backtrack to remember all the details of the different tasks you’re working on. Do yourself a favor and work on just one task at a time!
Time is money, as well as your most powerful resource as a remote worker. Try these time-saving tips to be more effective:
Make sure to also check out these genius productivity hacks.
Zapier says that the three ingredients of a successful remote work setup are: team, tools, and process. Since you can’t really control other people, focus on controlling your tools and process.
Another productivity hack when it comes to working remotely is to use the best tools available to you. With so many different tools for remote workers currently available in the market, it’s hard to not find something that suits your needs.
Here are some of the most popular tools for working remotely:
QuickBooks connects with your bank accounts so you can easily keep track of your business expenses. You can also use Quickbooks to send invoices and pay employees using the Payroll feature.
Many of those working remotely for companies overseas are seen as independent contractors. In these situations, it can be wise to hire a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Firms such as IC Tax Advisors work solely with workers in these situations. Letting them handle payroll and all relevant tax paperwork can help reduce your stress come tax time.
With almost everyone having access to a free Google account, it makes the most sense to use this cloud solution to store your files and access them wherever you go. Google Drive comes with 15GB of free storage with the option to purchase more if needed. The Google Office Suite (G Suite), which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation maker (not unlike Microsoft Office’s suite of software tools), allows you to share files and collaborate with others in real time.
Costs can quickly add up when you need to make frequent local or international calls. The remote worker’s answer to this potential problem is Skype, which allows you to make unlimited audio or video calls (and even conference calls)—as long as you have a stable internet connection.
Jan Hofen, founder and CEO of Planio, recommends text-based tools for communication, especially if you work with team members living in other countries. You can’t keep calling them every time problems arise! Using text-based communication tools helps make things clearer because you have the opportunity to think through everything you need to say, then read over and edit your messages for clarity.
Helping to securely process payments in over 200 countries, Paypal has made it easier to receive and collect payments, especially for those with overseas clients. Bank transfers can take days but with Paypal, you can receive payments in minutes. The only downside? Steep payment processing fees. However, that’s the cost of doing business (and a deduction to take on your taxes!).
Though there are several project management tools available in the market, depending on your needs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something that has features as robust as Asana’s. Asana is perfect for those working with clients; you might opt to choose another tool to keep track of your own projects.
If you need something simpler, Trello is a great alternative. In fact, Kinsta’s marketing team uses Trello exclusively to keep track of and manage all of the content you see here on this blog.
Harvest is a complete administrative solution that allows you to track time and invoice clients. It also integrates with tools like Asana and Quickbooks. If you have a remote team and feel like you need to check in on them from time to time, you can use Hubstaff, which takes random screenshots of their screens to ensure that they’re on track.
Speaking of time, working remotely usually entails juggling different timezones with colleagues, bloggers, and developers. Instead of trying to wrap your head around all the time zone differences, bookmark a tool that does the time zone conversion for you such as everytimezone.com. Or, go one step further and use a tool that lets you input the timezones of people you frequently work with for easy reference, such as there.pm.
Interested in learning more about tools that can empower your remote work situation? Check out our article about the best tools for freelancers.
If you’re passionate about what you’re doing or are chasing a major deadline, you’ll find yourself constantly busy with work. Neglecting to care for yourself is the quickest way to burn out.
Here are some necessary tips for practicing self-care and creating a sustainable remote work situation:
There are a lot of benefits to working remotely but it’s not without its challenges. If you’re able to manage your time properly, like a boss, you can leverage this opportunity to its full potential.
What are your top tips for working remotely? Let us know in the comments!
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