Our work habits make or break our remote work careers.
As Sean Covey (son of Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) said, “Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.”
Want to Be Successful? Use This Remote Work Habits Checklist.
Work habits (meaning the things you do day-in and day-out) are the daily seeds that grow into professional success.
When reading lists of work habits, examples often include obvious fluff like, “Always do your best.” Rather than waste your time with common-sense practices, let’s focus on impactful (and often underused) work habits for remote workers.
1. Stay Professional (Even When You’re Working from Your Couch).
A simple definition of work habits is doing things that contribute to job performance. Some things we take for granted in the office are easy to let slide when working from home.
For example, most of us would dress up for the office – but do we when working from our kitchen table? “Fine feathers don’t make fine birds,” goes the saying – but dressing like you’re actually in the office can put your mind in “work-mode.”
Do you have video calls or meetings? The backdrop of the bed’s headboard or a messy living room doesn’t make you stand out as a professional employee. Do everything you can to make it clear that you take your job seriously.
Don’t forget to add a professional touch to your online voice calls by Krisp.ai to remove distracting background noises (like your children playing, your dog barking, or the neighbor slamming the door).
2. Be the Trustworthy, “Safe” Employee – Don’t Give a Negative Impression.
Tammy Cohen (when talking about a valuable employee) quotes, “A great employee is like a four-leaf clover, hard to find and lucky to have.”
Staying valuable helps your chances of keeping your remote work position. Want the number-one tip on how to be a good employee at work? Have honest and trustworthy work habits – especially if you’re remote.
For most managers, one of the biggest challenges in managing a remote team is trust. Are my employees actually working, or are they binge-watching the latest Netflix show?
Build trust by keeping a close eye on your company communications – whether that’s email, Slack, your phone, or other remote communication apps – and give prompt answers.
3. Become a More Desirable Employee for the Remote Workplace by Excelling at Self-management.
Even though remote communication has advanced by light-years during the last decade, it still poses challenges. When you’re on a remote team, there’s little guarantee that you can get the answer you need right away.
Self-manage by understanding a task’s goals before you start. Learn as much as you can about things not directly in your line of responsibility. This way, you’re able to make informed decisions when necessary.
Setting boundaries is just as important. A significant other, children, pets, or household tasks all disrupt your productivity.
Even though your manager isn’t physically watching you answer texts or scroll Instagram, your work output shows the truth. Apply work habits of creating your schedule and to-do list, then laser-focus on each task to maximize your efficiency.
4. You’re the First Line of Tech Support – Avoid Bad Situations by Getting Comfortable with Your Equipment and Environment.
If Outlook keeps crashing, your Internet cuts out, or you can’t connect to a conference call, you can call the help desk and have them send IT to fix it.
That’s true in the traditional office – but not if you’re working from home. You don’t have to be a technical expert. Still, one of the vital work habits is staying familiar with the tech basics so you can avoid downtime from problems.
While some problems might be out of your ability to fix, you must know how to fix or work around the most common ones – like restoring your computer from a hard drive backup.
Having a plan B location – like a nearby coffee shop – can save precious minutes when your Internet cuts out just before a critical meeting. And of course – become familiar with simple debugging issues like reconnecting a computer monitor or cables.
5. Master Your Company’s Technology.
Knowing the nuances of the appropriate tools for your tasks is vital when working remotely. Using these appropriately is one of the work habits that will make you shine.
Depending on the complexity (or technical savvy) of your company, you’ll use a variety of online tools to collaborate with your team.
Project management could range from full-featured software like Asana or Basecamp, to a collection of Word documents and spreadsheets.
Are you sharing files? You’ll likely need to become familiar with Google Drive or understand how to VPN to your company’s servers from a remote location.
Are you doing remote conference calls? You’ll need to know how to turn your webcam on (or off), mute or unmute yourself appropriately, and host or join meetings.
6. Stay One Step Ahead by Being a Great Organizer.
Disorganization is at the top of the list of bad work habits.
When you’re out of the office, getting clarification on a pending to-do item or replacing a lost document could take hours (or days), depending on how responsive the other person is.
This communication lag makes it especially crucial to stay organized when working remotely. Keep track of your necessary items, and plan ahead of time to ensure you have information from managers and colleagues before starting a task.
While one of the prized work habits of millennials is flexibility, pre-planning your day can massively affect your productivity. It’ll help you eliminate wasted time by focusing on high-priority tasks and avoiding distractions like your phone.
7. Become a Student of Effective Remote Communication (Not Just Weekly Check-ins).
One of the biggest challenges facing the remote workplace is communication. Face-to-face communication is natural, but that’s often more difficult to arrange when working remotely.
For effective remote communication, you’ll need to master the art of remote communication and the necessary tools. Frequent check-ins with your manager and team are essential – but there’s more to it.
Is that quick chat message disrupting your colleagues’ focus, or would a well-crafted email be better suited? Are you practicing active listening and including all relevant details to reduce back-and-forth messages?
8. Become More Efficient by Using Apps (like a Tech-savvy Millennial).
You can crank up your productivity more by using more tools alongside your team’s preferred collaboration method. You’ve got the will to work, but a few tools can help you turn that will into high-quality deliverables.
Are you scheduling your days with time-blocking, batching tasks, using a Pomodoro timer, and taking advantage of other productivity hacks? (You probably should be). Maybe a full-featured planner like Amazing Marvin could take your efficiency to the next level.
9. Use Self-reflection to Avoid Becoming Distracted (Don’t Fall Prey to Poor Focus).
Avoiding distractions is an art in itself, especially in today’s world.
Social media, texts, computer notifications, emails, and the Amazon delivery van can turn a focused two-hour productivity session into a chaotic mess. We don’t want to be left scratching our heads while wondering where our time went at the end of the workday.
One tip for staying focused is to use self-reflection. Avoid distractions and schedule appropriately by timing tasks. Some swear by techniques like the Pomodoro timer to create hyper-focused, intensely efficient bursts of productivity.
You’ll face non-digital distractions too. Short breaks can help increase our focus, but too much time with Fido or taking care of household tasks is easy to fall victim to – and just as damaging to our productivity.
10. Unhealthy Habits Can Kill Your Productivity – Stay Positive and Healthy.
One of the most significant impacts on our work habits comes from how we spend our time outside work.
Being “always-on” – feeling like we’re always at work – is a common problem for remote workers. Set up a routine to disconnect from the workday, and mentally transition your house from an office into a home.
Did you know that people who get regular exercise earn 9% more than their more sedentary counterparts? Science shows the indisputable benefits of physical activity on the brain’s capability to focus. Making time to move will boost productivity, whether that’s a short walk or an hour at the gym.
Other healthy decisions include getting enough sleep, eating a well-rounded diet, and reducing stress. Others find that journaling or meditation can help boost their motivation and hone their focus.
Get Better Work Results by Adding These Work Habits to Your Life.
You could spend your entire life developing new and better habits. Still, we can only accomplish so much in a given period.
Take the next step toward becoming an adept remote worker by making these ten essential work habits a part of your daily routine.