Syed Balkhi is the co-founder of OptinMonster, a conversion rate optimization software that helps you recover abandoning website visitors and turn them into subscribers and customers. On his blog, he writes about his business experiences and lessons learned along the way.
In the past, working remotely was sort of taboo. People didn't know what to think about this style of working and would usually raise their eyebrows at the thought. This is no longer the case, thanks to growth in technology and a new mindset. Working remotely is now very common across a variety of industries and demographics.
Having worked remotely for the past decade and now running a 100 percent remote company of 30-plus employees, I have found there are five common mistakes that cause the initial decline in productivity for new remote workers.
If you are new to remote working or hiring someone who's new to remote working, here are the five mistakes you want to avoid:
1. Not having a dedicated office.
Every remote worker needs a dedicated office--with a door. Working on your kitchen table may be fine on certain days, but there are times when you'll need to retreat behind closed doors to enjoy some peace and serenity. Do not underestimate this fact.
In addition to offering privacy, a dedicated office gives you a "home base," so to speak. This is your workspace where you go to accomplish tasks and make things happen. If you have files and computers strewn out around the house, then you'll feel disheveled. This lack of organization will ultimately permeate your job and lead to poor performance.
2. Failing to set ground rules.
One of the biggest issues remote workers encounter is being distracted by an environment that was once reserved for your personal life. If you're going to work from home, you need strict ground rules. Here are some things to think about:
- Family members: Do you have other family members in the house when you're working? Whether it's a spouse or children, you must give them clear boundaries. For example, you may require them to knock before coming into your office. Or you may tell them you're off-limits during certain hours. They need to know you're working and cannot be bothered with issues that aren't important or time-sensitive.
- Friends: If you have close friends who are stay-at-home parents, you may find that they feel as if it's okay to simply "drop by" now that you're working from home. You should address this if you believe it's going to be an issue. Make sure friends know that you're still unavailable during work hours.
- Household chores: The other thing you need to watch out for is commingling your household chores with your work responsibilities. While there's nothing wrong with taking a break to take out the trash, be careful about getting too distracted. It's easy to put other things before work when you have a long to-do list.
One of the benefits of working remotely is that you're afforded a bit more flexibility in your schedule. To an extent, you can decide when to handle certain tasks. However, along with this freedom comes the need to be disciplined. By setting ground rules, you can ensure productivity isn't compromised.
3. Not utilizing the right technology.
The rise of the remote worker has been fueled, at least in part, by the corresponding growth in technology. There are so many wonderful resources and tools available to remote workers, but they must be leveraged in order to be valuable.
Depending on the industry you operate in and what your daily tasks and responsibilities look like, you may find these eight apps helpful. These tools do everything from foster the virtual equivalent of the water cooler to facilitate project management. At our company, we rely on Slack for communication, Basecamp for project management, and TimeDoctor for time-tracking.
4. Ending the day early.
When you work remotely, the idea of ending the day early can be tantalizing. With less direct oversight, workers feel as if clocking out 30 minutes early is no big deal. While it may not be an issue every now and then, it can become a big problem if you make it a regular habit. Half an hour turns into an hour, which turns into taking a long weekend, which ultimately feeds the mindset that you don't really have to work. You don't want to go down this slippery slope.
5. Working in loud public spaces.
Who says you always have to work from home as a remote worker? The term remote simply means you aren't holed up in a corporate office somewhere. In order to avoid burnout, you should mix up your routine. Go to a coffee shop. Work from your back patio. Grab a corner booth at a quiet lunch spot. These changes in environment can provide a boost.
However, you must be careful with where you work. Working in loud or distracting places can hinder your productivity more than help it. For example, working on the back patio when your kids get home from school and want to play in the yard may not be the best idea. Likewise, choosing to work at Starbucks at eight in the morning when everyone is rushing in to grab a cup of coffee isn't smart. Get out of your office, but be wise about when and where you choose to work.
Working from home is not only acceptable in today's business world--it's actually quite commonplace. However, before you decide that remote working is right for you, make sure you understand what it entails. You'll need discipline to avoid these five mistakes.