Tips for Starting a Remote Job in 2021
What Is Remote Working?
Remote working is working from any location that is not the official company office.
Those who work remotely often work from home, a coffee shop or a co-working space.
Before 2020, remote working was desired by employees because it improved work-life balance.
However, employers believed the quality and quantity of work would be reduced if employees work from home.
The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic forced business owners to adapt to work from home conditions, where they discovered that productivity and quality remained the same or even increased.
As a result, business owners are now starting to rethink their workforce strategy.
A survey by Monster found that 43% of companies now consider remote working as a priority.
If you are in a profession where you only need an internet connection and a computer to do your work, you may be asked to work remotely.
For those joining a company as a remote worker, the onboarding process will be different from a regular office job.
However, these tips will ensure that you feel confident in your new role and get the support you need.
What to Expect When Starting a Remote Job
Working remotely can look one of two ways:
- A hybrid working system where you work from home for two or three days and in the office for the remainder
- Fully remote with no official head office
There are advantages and disadvantages to working remotely. Here are a few that you can expect to experience when starting your new role:
The advantages are:
- You have more control over your working day; when you take your breaks, the music you have on in the background, your working hours and the order in which you do your tasks
- There are no long commutes
- Your work-life balance is improved as the commute time can be used for a hobby, exercise, catching up with friends and family (or extra sleep)
The disadvantages are:
- It can be harder to manage your time as you could be tempted to carry on working through the evening or you find it difficult to focus because you are not in a work environment
- It is harder to build a rapport with your colleagues
- You have less interaction with people, leading to loneliness
- Creativity and innovation might suffer as you have no one to brainstorm with
- You can get easily distracted by neighbors, the delivery guy, phone calls or your children
- It is easier to develop bad habits like excessive snacking, not taking breaks and lack of exercise.
10 Tips for Starting a Remote Job in 2021
1. Set up a Dedicated Workspace
The idea of sitting on your sofa with your laptop in your comfy clothes can sound appealing; however, it can hinder your productivity and make it difficult to switch between work and relaxation mode.
Find a space in your home that you can transform into an office: a spare room, the corner of your living room or one end of your dining table.
Remind yourself when you are in that space: you are working, and you are not to be disturbed.
If you do not have space, try to make your work area as ergonomic as you can by using laptop stands and separate keyboards.
A dedicated space will help you mentally and physically; a good setup will help prevent back, neck and wrist injuries.
2. Be Prepared for a Different Onboarding Experience
Your onboarding experience will look very different depending on the nature of your role and your location.
You could be asked to provide your equipment with no, some or thorough reimbursement. You might be required to collect your equipment or your employer may courier it to you.
Following that, your employer or manager may arrange a video call to welcome you to the team and explain how to use the system (set up log-in credentials, where to find files).
Again, this all depends on the company you work for. Some roles will require a formal onboarding process, while others will be less formal.
Contact your recruiter or HR representative ahead of your start date to confirm the onboarding program and what is expected of you.
You may find that the learning curve is much slower than it would be if you were in an office. Do not push yourself to learn everything right away.
3. Understand Roles and Expectations
Whether you work at home or in an office, knowing your role and employer expectations are vital. However, this is especially important for a remote worker, as you may not have these conversations day-to-day.
During your onboarding, ask what is expected of you and what the limits of your role are – displaying initiative a great way to get noticed.
Further into your employment, whenever you begin a new task or project, make sure you understand your tasks.
As you and your team will not all work in the same room, getting answers in real-time is not always possible; therefore, understanding the work and any deadlines ahead of time will avoid any mistakes in the future.
Make sure you also communicate what you expect from your employer or manager while working remotely.
Do you want regular feedback sessions through video call, or do you prefer to communicate through email? Perhaps monthly feedback sessions are enough.
Gaining clarity right from the start will help you settle into your role and stop you from being forgotten about or neglected.
4. Communicate the Right Way
There are many ways to communicate:
- Zoom and Skype
- Microsoft Teams
Make it a priority to learn how the team communicates as a whole and how each individual prefers to be contacted.
Some people do not like to be contacted through WhatsApp as that is for friends and family. Others may prefer it as it is easy to use and limits the number of apps they have.
For managers and senior team members, they might prefer questions to be asked in a group chat in case someone else is having the same problem or towards the end of the day in one big batch.
If someone receives a volume of emails, they might prefer to use an instant messaging service or communication platform for urgent matters.
Your team or manager may set up a weekly Zoom call to go over priorities for that week.
In your first meeting, ask everyone’s preference.
Not only will it help you get the information you need, but your colleagues will appreciate you asking.
5. Keep Your Tone Neutral at First
Watch out for emojis, jargon, slang and abbreviations. You do not know how everyone feels about them, and you do not want to start on the wrong foot.
For the first couple of weeks, take note of how your colleagues communicate with each other and use that as a guide.
Until your colleagues become familiar with you and your communication style, speak clearly and in full sentences.
Make sure any note or email is clear by using phrases like 'urgent question' or 'for your review' at the start of the body or in the subject line.
6. Introduce Yourself
As soon as your work system is set up, send an email to your team introducing yourself by including a little information about the experience you have, why you are excited to work for this company, and two or three hobbies and interests.
Doing this highlights that you are new, so if you make any mistakes, they know why, and it also acts as an ice breaker.
Perhaps you are reading the same book as someone else, or you both play an instrument.
Being the first to open up creates a trusting environment and encourages others to do the same.
7. Make the Effort
Living through a pandemic and making adjustments at work has been difficult. For some, not having someone to interact with daily has been the most difficult adjustment of all.
If you think it suitable for your company, suggest virtual meet-ups.
These could be:
- Lunch breaks – perhaps you could order from the same place
- Virtual coffee mornings
- Thursday night Zoom cocktail hour
- Online work periods – particularly useful if you are working on a project. Everyone signs into Zoom/Microsoft Teams/Skype and turns on their webcam and microphone for two or three hours a day, so it feels a little more like an office environment.
If your company already offers these, then get involved with as many as you can.
8. Do Not Be Afraid to Ask Questions
There is always the fear of asking a ‘silly question’ and disturbing someone, especially when they are at home.
However, refraining from asking the question could result in mistakes. Take advantage of being new and ask all the questions you need.
To make it easier, find out who is the best person to ask for each topic.
If you think you will need to ask someone senior to your manager, reach out to them first and ask how they prefer questions to be asked.
Some managers might be ok with you reaching out to the right person, others might want to pass the question on themselves, while some may just want to be CC’d into the conversation.
The process will vary depending on the size of the organization, your role and the nature of the work.
9. Find Ways to Stand Out
When working from home, you can feel neglected. There is no one around to offer you praise or to notice the lengths you have gone to in order to get something done – they just see the result.
Standing out in the virtual world involves:
Communicate effectively and efficiently – Make sure all your technology is working, keep managers up to date with your work, deliver your information concisely and professionally.
Showing up – Be present and contribute to team meetings and any additional activities, have ideas or suggestions if they ask, and if you have ways to improve part of the workflow, speak up and share.
Following up – If you and your manager agreed on feedback sessions, politely remind them by confirming a time and date. After the sessions, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and a list of actionable steps you are going to take.
Being proactive – Just as you would in an office, take the initiative to think one or two steps ahead and get things done before being asked.
10. Manage Your Time and Yourself
Try to conduct your day as you would if you did not work remotely.
Take the breaks you usually would and have your lunch away from your desk.
If possible, take a walk around the block to mimic a commute to and from work. Not only does this help you switch on and off, but it also ensures you get some movement and fresh air in your day.
Make to-do lists and check deadlines so you know how to structure your days and week.
Make a note of any issues or queries as soon as they come up, so you do not forget to address them or bring them up in a team meeting.
Ensure you get enough exercise every day, and you watch what you eat. With the fridge being so close, it is tempting to snack; however, try to avoid sugary foods and only eat when you are hungry.
For those who enjoy the structure of a working day, remote working could be a difficult adjustment.
Before starting your new role, speak with HR to know what to expect in your first month. Once you are officially on board, discuss any issues with your manager so you both know what to expect from one another.
To make the adjustment as easy as possible:
- Try to mimic your working day as much as possible
- Reach out to someone if you need help
- Make an effort with your colleagues
- Set yourself personal and professional goals to keep you motivated