5 Tips for Successful Remote WorkOctober 12, 2020 | By Nafeesah Allen
Who would have expected that a global pandemic would have affected the way we work? In fact, the need for social distancing and the expansion of remote work policies has truly shifted office culture around the globe. The gig economy is more prevalent and the “work from anywhere” concept has enveloped more than just digital nomads. The geographic freedom of this moment is exciting, but before you ride off into the sunset with your laptop there are some foundational things to consider in order to make the most of remote work. Here are five tips and tricks to tackle work/life balance on the road:
Make sense of time zone madness
Consistency and reliability are still in demand even if you’re on the go. This usually means that standing meetings, regular phone calls, and predictable deadlines are the same for employees in Toronto or Thailand. Trouble is, they’re almost 12 hours apart. Remember to use calendars that automatically sync time zones. Ensure that your phone already has World Clock set up for the cities where team members reside, as well as where your friends and family live. Share your calendar with others to avoid scheduling nightmares. And if you must have early mornings and late nights, alternate days and times so that everyone carries a fair share of the burden. And, block off the times you are not available. This minimizes work spillage into your quality time with friends, family, and new sightseeing activities.
Establish DIY tech support
Today’s employment mobility relies on technology. Any glitch or unforeseen tech virus could stop you in your tracks. With most offices closed, gone are the days of walking down the hall to ask I.T. to swap out a monitor or to reset a password. First things first, don’t assume that your company’s work from home policy is a work from anywhere policy. Ask if your job tracks your ISP to see where you are working from – some do and some don’t. Learn the policy and play within the rules. Second, know that you are your own tech support. Track passwords to reduce lockouts. Know where to buy accessories like a compatible charger or new headphones before you need them. Ask about your company’s policy to reimburse for these expenses or if you can use an office-issued device. Keep systems administrators numbers on hand to work through the inevitable program problem. And, consider having a backup computer when yours is on the fritz. If you’re moving to an unfamiliar city, join online groups or search for tech support (Geek Squad equivalent) that can help you with issues beyond your scope
Have a phone that works…everywhere
Your phone is your new work wife. You’ll need it to authenticate passwords, to hop on conference calls, and to schedule appointments. There’s nothing worse than needing to get into an account and getting a request to text you a code to a number you can’t reach. When you work remotely abroad, you’ll need to establish how you’ll manage roaming and international calls. If feasible, consider a global phone plan and get a local phone number. Some people swap out sim cards or have phones that can take more than one. Consider all your options. Also, figure out reliable cellular data service in your new destination, and be sure to have a few tricks up your sleeve. If your local phone can’t receive U.S. calls, consider getting WhatsApp for daily communication with colleagues all over the world. Or sign up for GoogleVoice or Vonage, which will allow you to have a U.S. phone number no matter where you roam.
Plan out who’s watching the kids
One of the blessings of working from anywhere is that you can spend more time with the ones you love, but it is hard to make deadlines sync with toddler nap times. Families must consider the full menu of childcare options wherever they go. Many places around the world boast affordable childminders or live-in au pairs at prices that are reasonable for U.S. salaries. Not only could you have an extra set of hands to help you stay fast and loose for surprise work needs, but it will ensure that kids establish a routine of their own. Distance and homeschooling demand adult supervision, so don’t go it alone. Co-parenting, family help, and in-person schools might also fit the bill. Wherever you go, prepare to build the village that will help raise your child.
Don’t forget to socialize… virtually
Who doesn’t miss those chats with colleagues around the water cooler or banter in the break room? It was a time to learn what people did over the weekend and to see how families were doing. Mobile teams now mean that you may never meet your colleagues in person, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding ways to build these relationships. Be intentional and create virtual opportunities to build personal trust. Choose video over phone calls, so colleagues can see each other’s working conditions – standing desks, kids in the background, cramped apartment, or beachside. Seeing a person’s face and where they work can increase empathy and understanding. Periodically set up virtual happy hours and share wellness activities, like online workouts and meditation sessions, with workplace besties. Casual face-to-face communication (even if through a screen) allows for a better understanding of tone and personality, making short emails or differing points of view more palatable across remote teams.