Having recently moved to Manchester, I have gone from working full time in the Drew London office to remote working from my flat 200 miles away. Thankfully, Drew's flexible working structure allows me to do this and working at the same hours as the office means I never feel too removed from the team.
However, remote working isn't for everyone and there are lots of pitfalls to avoid to make it successful for all parties. This is not my first time working remotely so thankfully along the way I have learned how to navigate these pitfalls.
Here are my top tips to make remote working actually work:
Communication is crucial in any team environment, but it's even more important when you are the only person not in the room. I try to keep on top of my tasks in Trello and to make clear notes so Emily, our project manager can quickly glean what I am working on. Slack, our internal chat app makes questions and file sharing quick and easy and is a vital tool for our team. Not only is it useful for me, it's peace of mind for Drew knowing I can be easily reached - even remotely.
Remember, nobody is a mind reader so communicate clearly and often with questions, blockers, ideas and fears as it will make your days easier and make you feel part of the team even if you aren't physically with the team.
Have a ‘place’ where you work
It's easy for the lines between home and work to become blurred when you don't work from an office so it's important to have a dedicated space where you work. Don't be tempted to work from your sofa!
Unfortunately I don't have room in my flat for office space or even a desk, so I'm currently a kitchen table worker, but I don't recommend this long term. Coffee shops are useful to get a change of scenery (I love Takk in Manchester), but if you know you will be working remotely for a length of time, I'd recommend looking to rent a desk somewhere.
Don't work in your pyjamas
Sometimes it can be incredibly tempting to just roll out of bed, make yourself breakfast, open your laptop and crack on... and I'll admit, I have done it before! But this is one of the most important tips on the list. Psychologically, it makes a huge difference to wake up and get out of the clothes you sleep in, even if it's into something else that is still comfortable. Similar to having a 'work' area, this helps your mind get into work mode and create separation between 'home time' and 'work time'.
Get away from your desk
The home/work blurred lines means I sometimes find myself eating my lunch at my laptop and not giving myself proper breaks. That's the lunch I made in the kitchen I also work from, by the way! Not great, right?
I find I have a weird sense of guilt that if people can't physically see me go outside for lunch but I disappear on slack, people will think I'm skiving at home. This is not the case. Shut the laptop, go outside or do something different! I've joined a gym since working remotely and a quick half an hour in the gym at lunch can work wonders.
Face-to-face where possible
As humans, we don't just respond to words but to the visual and audio cues we get when we interact with someone. It's entirely possible to remote work without ever having a phone call with your agency or your client and communicating solely over Slack, but trust builds much quicker if you can video or voice chat where possible, even if it's just once so you can meet and get a sense of someone's tone and personality that you can't always gauge accurately via text. I was remote for the launch of two of our clients websites, STL Partners and Emmy London. Phone calls in these situations helped with clarity and alleviating fears.
Even with Drew, where I have worked in the office for a long period of time and the team know me, it still helps to show my face where I can. It's also good motivation to get out of your pyjamas if that's something you struggle with!
Prepare as much as you can
If there are meetings or workshops you can prepare for in advance and get written notes ready for, do so! Sometimes internet connections are patchy and delays or drop outs in video calls might effect the clarity of what you're saying, but if you can send over some notes to your team this will help everyone on the call.
Engage with your colleagues
At Drew, we are lovers of Slack which is a great communication tool. When you are remote, it's easy to feel less a part of the team (and I do miss the camaraderie you get in the Drew office) so whether it's a quick question or funny gif, Slack is a quick way to interact with the rest of the team. Little daily chats with people in the office are just nice, inclusive acts that have a positive effect on everyone's attitude to remote working - and workers!