Make the move to the home office easier with these remote working tools
With so much technology available to us these days, remote work is becoming increasingly commonplace. Whether you’re working remotely temporarily or moving to a permanent position outside the office, it’s an adjustment nonetheless. We’ve compiled some tips and tools to make the transition to working remotely as smooth as possible.
How to be productive outside the office
Working from home, in theory, sounds great. No commute, comfortable clothes, being in your own space – they all sound like positives, until they aren’t. Maybe your commute gave you time to decompress after work, or you start to miss chatting with your coworkers at lunch. This can reflect in your productivity as well.
Many work-from-home employees find it difficult to stay focused outside the office. Terillium’s NetSuite Functional Consultant Jenni Higgs worked in an office for more than 25 years before transitioning full time to remote work. She says the biggest issue is distractions. Whether it’s the TV in the living room that’s begging to play your favorite show while you work, the pile of laundry that needs to be washed or the dishes that need to be cleaned, distractions are everywhere. The key is to find ways to block them out – easier said than done, right?
“It’s really hard not to get distracted by household duties,” she says. “In the beginning, it was hard for me. I would think, ‘I can do this chore for 15 minutes,’ then it could easily turn into 30 or 45 minutes. Make sure to set up your workplace somewhere you aren’t looking at your distractions.”
Everyone works a little differently, but there are some things everyone can do to stay productive outside the office, including:
- Have a dedicated workspace: This is easier for some than others, but make sure you have a consistent place your call your “office.” It doesn’t necessarily have to me an actual office – if you live in an apartment, or all the rooms in your house are already spoken for, find a place that when you sit down in front of your computer, you know it’s time to focus on work. Also, don’t forget to make it comfortable – and we don’t mean work from the recliner. If you’re accustomed to two monitors or a wireless mouse in place of your laptop track pad, set them up.
- Block out distractions: Remember the TV and the laundry we mentioned? Ignore it. Make sure it’s not even in your line of sight. If you can shut a door, do so. Maybe looking out the window is a distraction – if so, face toward a wall. It may take a little getting used to, but after a few weeks it will seem normal.
- Use your calendar: While working in an office, your calendar likely filled up with meetings, tasks and other responsibilities. Jenni says her calendar is one of the best tools she uses to schedule her work day and manage her time. There’s no reason to stop doing this outside an office; it might just mean those meetings are now virtual. Additionally, schedule yourself times for short breaks and lunch. Taking periodic breaks and eating are necessary to prevent burning out.
- Dress for work: While you don’t need to put on a suit or dress to work from your house, changing out of your pajamas can do a lot for your motivation. While some can get plenty of work accomplished in sweatpants, putting on an outfit you’d be comfortable leaving the house in can keep you in the appropriate mindset – and prevent any potential video call mishaps.
- Maintain communication with your team: Like the old adage goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” However, letting your team be out of mind can be an issue when it comes to project management and team goals. Keeping lines of communication open with your teammates and coworkers from other departments with whom you collaborate will keep items on task even if you’re not in the same location. Use whatever medium and frequency works best for everyone and keep talking.
- Set goals and rules: While they can be as simple as “finish X task by Friday” or “no kids in the office during work hours,” having a set of guidelines to follow will create structure in your day. You can use whatever means works best for you – whether that’s a paper agenda, an online task manager like Asana or Trello or even a Post-It – to outline your list of responsibilities, office rules, reminders and more.
- Create a routine: We usually hear this around New Year’s when discussing our resolutions, but the general idea is that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit. Identify processes for your standard work day by researching online or asking colleagues or friends who already work from home, then try them on for size. If something doesn’t feel right after a few days, reconsider.
Tech tools to stay focused
You’ve got your workspace set up and your routine established. Maybe the simple phone and email network is sufficient for you and your job. However, many people who work remotely either require more capabilities or want tools that will make collaboration easier. When asked their top challenge for working remotely, 27 percent of people surveyed said that communication was the biggest issue. Fortunately, it’s 2020, and there’s an online tool for almost anything.
- Communication: Working remotely can take a toll on communication. Try virtual stand-up meetings that are 15 minutes or less in which each person on the team gives a quick update, and also schedule longer, more in-depth calls or video conferences. Instant message can be most effective to prevent quick questions or comments from turning into long waits. Some effective tools for these communications are:
- Microsoft Teams
- File sharing: Sometimes, sending a large document through email is just not an option. But when you have to get a slide deck to your boss or a quarterly report to a client, you need to know that when you send it, your recipient will get it. Mike Mahannah, NetSuite practice leader at Terillium, says one of the more effective tools Terillium uses on all its projects is Microsoft SharePoint. As each project begins, a SharePoint environment is set up and everyone involved is given access. It’s the central project repository – the project calendar and status, data files, issues list, testing, results and anything else related. Other useful tools are:
- Google Drive
- Project and task management: There are numerous online tools to stay on task with your individual responsibilities as well as keeping informed of your team’s progress. You can try:
Benefits of remote work
Both businesses and employees experience benefits of working remotely. We’ve explored many of the advantages for remote workers, but on the business side, a big plus is cost savings. Small businesses can cut costs in several ways by employing remote workers, such as parking, office space and other overhead expenses. For customers, such as Terillium’s clients, travel costs may be involved. However, when employees can complete work off-site, clients save project costs in travel expenses.
Additionally, jobs that require a lot of collaboration can complete work quicker using virtual tools. In Terillium’s case, a remote project eliminates a lot of scheduling issues. Instead of needing to plan in advance for work that would be done on site during a specified period of time, consultants can quickly schedule calls to address project next steps or issues that arise.
How younger workers are modeling the advantages of remote work
For younger workers who grew up with the internet, having technology integrated with more traditional tools is second nature. While employees who have been in the workforce longer might rely more heavily on phone calls, emails and face-to-face meetings, younger workers are showing us that many jobs can be done from almost anywhere.
Stuart Seltman, a NetSuite consultant for Terillium, relies on multifunctional tools such as Microsoft Teams to work remotely. When working with a client off-site, he says being able to schedule a quick call to ask questions or resolve issues or set up a video conference with the client team to work out scheduling, perform testing and training and more makes it so that being face-to-face isn’t necessary.
“The ability to share my screen, talk online and set up calls quickly is no different than going on-site,” he says. “There’s no in-person, face-to-face meetings, but video conferences allow me to see the person I’m talking to, so other than any tech hiccups, there’s no downside to it.”
Previously, teams might meet in person several times a week. However, with remote working on the rise, collaboration is being done virtually. Colleagues, clients, teams and whole departments are meeting more frequently through conferencing services such as Teams, JoinMe, Skype, Zoom, WebEx and GoToMeeting.
Have a quick question in the middle of a project? The default used to be to pick up the phone or shoot a quick email. But apps that use instant messenger, such as Slack, allow workers to quickly communicate through an interruption with the smallest impact.
Before the rise of apps and programs making remote work more accessible, work needed to be planned ahead and scheduled for travel and meetings. Now, project meetings can occur as they’re needed with ease.
“During a remote project, we can have a lot more touch points with the client, which seems to work well and keep the project running smoothly,” Mike says. “As demands change, we can meet with them easily to accommodate those changes.”