Remote work is becoming an increasingly popular option for modern American workers. It is not only a convenient option for employees but also may save on business operations costs, such as upkeep on a physical location. Telecommuting, as it is also called, can even provide an alternative measure for business continuity in the case of emergencies, such as in the notable case of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. In this way, the argument could also be made that remote work can be helpful for the United States economy as a whole since it provides a means of support during a large-scale crisis.
Some surveys estimate that, globally, up to 70% of workers telecommute at least once per week. The increase in remote work is largely facilitated by developing computer technology and digital transformation in the workplace. Factors such as the move to digital storage options and the growth of communication software play a significant role in these changes.
Considering this evolution in the workforce, work culture must adjust accordingly. Much of this necessary adjustment involves the challenges of creating a home workspace and routine.
The first step for beginning remote work will be to set up your workspace. While for many people this will be a home office, it is still valuable to set up a work area even if you do not have a spare room.
A good place to start when preparing your work area at home is to make sure that you have a designated workspace. In fact, it is often a good idea to go so far as to set up your workspace in an area that is separate from the rest of your home, such as a specific room if possible. This way, you can reduce outside distractions, and prevent damage to work materials from children and pets. Furthermore, having a physical separation between your workspace and the rest of your home can help you transition into a work mindset.
It is important to make sure that your home office is stocked with items essential to your work well in advance; it is very frustrating to begin a project only to find that you don’t have all the tools you need. These essentials will vary based on your job but can include anything from pens to documents to software. While finding the right laptop computer for your home office is a given, there are a few additional items that are highly useful in most home office environments, such as:
A reliable internet connection;
An extra monitor;
Backup storage (USBs, external hard drives, cloud storage, etc.);
Physical storage (shelving, totes, drawers, etc.);
Audio output and input;
The adjustment to remote work can be difficult for a variety of reasons. In addition to setting up a comfortable, designated workspace, it will also be useful to develop good home work habits.
Like having a designated workspace, the use of a consistent routine for your workday can help put you in a work mindset. Consistent habits and distinct routines for your workday can actually be beneficial to you off the clock as well. Taking these steps can prevent your workday from invading your home life, allowing you to properly wind down during personal time. It will be important to establish good work habits early because it will be difficult to break bad habits if they become ingrained. There are a few good rules of thumb for developing an at-home work routine, such as
Get up at the same time every day;
Shower and dress for work;
Avoid household concerns;
Set concrete goals throughout the day;
Set a concrete stopping point.
As stated, it’s important to keep a healthy separation between work and your personal life. Maintaining a good work/life balance is not only good for your personal wellbeing, but also for your work performance. Not giving yourself time to recharge can exhaust you and consequently reduce your performance.
Remote work can help give you greater work/life balance due to greater flexibility, and the option to work from a comfortable place. However, if handled incorrectly, it is also possible for remote work to negatively impact your work/life balance due to the literal closer proximity of the two.
To a degree, the task of maintaining a good work/life balance depends on the individual person and their unique circumstances. However, there are some measures almost anyone can take to improve their work/life balance, including:
Completely separate work time and personal time;
Make a point of taking breaks;
Keep a consistent daily schedule;
Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Many remote workers grapple with feelings of loneliness and isolation. An obvious reason for this is that remote workers feel distant from their coworkers. However, remote work can surprisingly cause people to feel distant from people in their personal lives as well if they do not achieve good work/life balance.
For this reason, it is important for telecommuters to put effort into being socially involved, both at work and at home. Luckily, there are a lot of social tools available to remote workers that can help them keep in touch, such as messaging tools and video call software. These tools are especially useful for staying socially engaged at work. Take some simple steps to reach out, such as:
Scheduling regular video calls;
Utilizing any work-based communication tools available to you;
Engaging coworkers in non-work related conversation (within reason).
As mentioned, it is important to separate work matters from personal matters while you are at work. In order to do this effectively, it will be important to communicate openly about your need for space and quiet while you are on the clock. Additionally, it will be helpful to work consistent hours and provide visual cues that you are at work, such as a closed office door. This will assist others in your home in knowing when you are at work so that they can behave accordingly.
In the case of children or pets, it may also be beneficial to make sure that both they and an alternate caretaker know that you should not be bothered unless it is an emergency. If you have flexible work hours, it may benefit you to adjust your hours so that you are working at times when you are least likely to be bothered.
Maintaining security and protecting sensitive organizational information is crucial for any business, but potentially even more so for companies with remote employees. Therefore, to account for this development in the workforce, companies must adjust their cybersecurity policies accordingly. Some common security risks for remote workers and their employers include:
Lack of data encryption;
Lack of multifactor authentication;
Unsecure wireless connections;
Privacy related to video conferencing;
Sharing electronic devices used for work activities;
Loss, theft, or damage to company hardware.
According to CNBC, cyberattacks cost businesses an average of $200,000, and 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. However, there is no need to succumb to computer anxiety; cyberattacks are absolutely preventable, as long as cybersecurity is a priority early on.
Cybersecurity best practices are often the same whether you are dealing with a work device or a home device. The following steps should always be taken when using an electronic device:
Use antivirus software: Antivirus software is a must for any computer. There are many different types of virus protection; which software is best for you will depend on factors such as your device, your operating system, and your budget.
Keep programs, apps, and operating systems up-to-date: Updates often include cybersecurity patches.
Use protected WiFi networks/WiFi encryption: Home WiFi networks are often more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Measures such as encryption can significantly reduce risk.
Follow password best practices: Weak passwords are another reason home networks are often unsecured. Make sure that passwords are complex and unrelated to your personal information. It may also be worth it to change your password regularly.
Periodically backup computers, company files, and other important work information: It is very important to regularly backup your computer, as well as essential individual files, in order to avoid the loss of important information. It may also be helpful to backup information to an alternate means of storage, such as the cloud or an external hard drive. But keep in mind that, while helpful, cloud backups should supplement — not replace — standard backup options.
Use a VPN, especially if working from a different location or on an unsecured network: While there are many ways you can protect yourself on the internet, VPNs are an especially valuable tool. VPNs encrypt your data and mask your IP address.
Maintain email security: It is important to choose a good password, and be wary of suspicious messages. It may even be worth it to encrypt your messages.
In addition to direct company support, remote workers should also be given the tools needed to attempt to address technical issues on their own within reason. This preparation will ensure the continued good performance of equipment and help the company respond to unexpected problems like a computer crash. However, company tech support is vital, and in the event that a problem is not a simple fix, remote workers should reach out to the appropriate contact at their company. Some basic maintenance fixes a remote worker may have to deal with include:
Defragmenting Mac and Windows computers;
Responding to an internet or power outage;
Conducting regular virus scans;
Speeding up a slow computer;
Paying attention to and researching error messages that pop up;
Because remote work has become so popular, there are many different tools available to make the process easier. However, there are actually so many options that it can be difficult to decide which remote work tools will be the best to invest in. Taking the following things into consideration can simply the decision:
Assess your goals;
Consider the size of your company;
Get feedback about employee struggles.
Popular collaboration tools for remote workers include the following:
Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDC): This free software provides remote access to available desktops. It also allows you to connect through your phone.
Apple Remote Desktop (ARD): This software costs $80 and provides remote access to other Mac computers in your network. It also provides automation options.
Teamviewer: Depending on your needs, the cost of Teamviewer ranges from free to $50. The software provides remote access to other computers in your network. It also offers remote support.
RemotePC: Depending on your needs, the cost of RemotePC ranges from $22 to $375 for the first year. The software provides remote access to other computers in your network. It allows you to access these computers through any device.
Zoho Assist: Depending on your needs, the cost of Zoho Assist ranges from $8 per month to $21 per month. The software allows you to provide remote assistance to customers. It also offers live chat options.
Popular communication tools for remote workers include the following:
Slack: Slack is a messaging platform for businesses. The minimum cost of Slack is $6.67 per person, per month for small-to-medium-sized companies. For very large companies, it will be necessary to inquire about a pricing estimate. Slack allows your network to set up multiple channels for different purposes.
Google Hangouts: This is a free video chat tool. It also offers screen sharing options.
Microsoft Teams: This is a communication platform that offers everything from messaging to conference calls. There is a free version of Microsoft Teams available, but depending on your needs, upgraded versions may cost up to $20 per month.
Mattermost: Mattermost is a messaging platform for DevOps collaboration. It also offers screen sharing options. Depending on your needs, Mattermost costs anywhere from $3.25 to $8.50 per month.
Discord: Discord is a messaging platform that allows users to create different channels within a single server. There is a free version of Discord and an upgraded version that costs $5 per month.
Popular project and task management tools for remote workers include the following:
Basecamp: Basecamp is a project management tool that utilizes a message board, chat features, and automatic check-ins. Basecamp costs about $100 per month.
Asana: Asana is a project management tool that offers features such as milestones and team objectives to organize long-term goals in addition to providing individual deadlines. There is a free version of Asana, but pricing for upgrades will depend on factors such as the size of your organization.
Trello: Trello is a list-making collaboration tool that allows you to automate some updates. Trello costs a minimum of $12.50 per month.
Monday: Monday is a task management tool that integrates with many other tools. It costs a minimum of $39 for the Basic version, while it is necessary to contact Monday for a pricing estimate for the Enterprise version.
Airtable: is a cloud collaboration service with features like spreadsheets and grouping options. The Pro plan is $24 per user per month.
Popular time management tools for remote workers include the following:
Timely: Timely is a time management app that offers calendar tools in addition to tracking your time. This app can cost anywhere from $5-$18 per month depending on your plan.
Toggl: Toggl is a time tracker with calendar integrations and manual input options. The price is $10 per month for the Starter plan and $20 per month for the Premium plan. Pricing estimates for the Enterprise plan are offered upon inquiry.
Everhour: Everhour is a time tracking and scheduling software with a team dashboard and customizable reports. There is a free version and a Basic version that costs $7 per user month.
BQE Core: BQE Core is a project management tool that includes time management and accounting options. The price of the software starts at $7.95 per user per month.
Popular conferencing tools for remote workers include the following:
Zoom: Zoom is a conferencing tool that can operate through many mediums. It costs anywhere from $0-$20 per month per host.
Skype for Business: Skype for Business is an instant messaging and conferencing app. It costs about $5 per user per month.
Join me: Join me is a video conferencing tool that offers a digital whiteboard feature. It costs anywhere from $10-$30 per month.
8x8: 8x8 is a video conferencing tool that integrates with many calendars and scheduling apps. It costs up to $10 per user per month, depending on your plan.
Spatial: Spatial is a VR video conferencing app that allows you to create a 3D avatar, screen share, and upload pictures, videos, 3D models, etc. There is a free version and an Enterprise version. The cost of the Enterprise version is dependent on an estimate based on your organization and needs.