Maddy Osman
I write about productivity, the future of work, and collaboration at the Planio Blog.
February 28, 2018 · 3 min read

How to Work in a Remote Team: Productivity Best Practices

How to Work in a Remote Team

There is a lower turnover rate at companies that use remote workers than those that don’t for a reason – in many ways, it’s a better lifestyle. According to Stanford Professor of Economics Nicholas Bloom, people who work from home are happier and more productive.

Though most people usually think that remote work is for freelancers and digital nomads, more and more companies are coming around to the idea and understanding the benefits of having remote workers on the team. By 2020, half the workforce is expected to work remotely.

However, only 67% of companies currently allow employees to work from home from time to time and only 38% allow employees to work from home on a regular basis.

One of the major benefits of remote work, which digital nomads are famous for taking advantage of, is the opportunity to stay in places with low living costs while making paychecks that are designed to support people in much more high cost of living locations.

Though remote work has it’s challenges from work-life blur to time zone differences, it’s possible to be part of a strong, innovative company’s remote team while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Structure Your Schedule for Your Remote Work Lifestyle

One of the best parts of working on a remote team is not having fixed office hours. This means that you can work at the times your brain functions best—some people are night owls, while some people are early birds.

However, this unique schedule can also pose a challenge. Most people are accustomed to a regimented lifestyle from their school days, on. Not having an outside-imposed schedule means that it’s necessary to create your own and stick to it.

Productivity Best Practices

If your attraction to remote work is the idea of not having a schedule, that’s also fine. In these cases, at least create a to-do list and block off times to work that you are most needed. This will help you stay productive and prevent remote work from nibbling away at your free time.

Choose a Space Conducive to Productivity

Because you aren’t assigned a working space, you’re now responsible for finding and creating a space that will allow you to be productive. Your failure to recognize this as an important choice can be detrimental. Remote work doesn’t mean you can work anywhere. It means you can work anywhere that you are productive—the difference is striking.

Some people work best at home, while others do their best work in coffee shops or at coworking spaces. Coworking spaces are especially helpful when working outside the United States, as they are often filled with like-minded people and provide the sort of office resources you’ll likely need to have access to—printers, scanners, coffee, and so on.

Be wary of locations filled with distractions.The temptation of giving into distractions because no one is managing you in person not only has negative impacts on your work, but it can also cause work to be dragged into your free time.

Working In a Remote Team: Don’t Neglect Yourself

Because there’s no one watching over you, workaholics and perfectionists think they can (and have to) work and work and work until they basically pass out. This is the fastest way to burn out, which is not good for you or your employer.

Working from home does not mean the lines between your personal life and work life have to be blurred. In fact, it’s even more important to ensure that they aren’t than when you were working at an office (unless you follow the same philosophies as the CEO of Barstool Sports).

There are numerous ways you can combat the possibility of blurred lines between your work and personal life. Perhaps the best is to remember why you wanted to work from home in the first place. Many people decide to work remotely to spend more time with their family, then end up spending less time with them. If family time was your goal, make sure you’re actually achieving it. If not, a change may be in order.

No Blurred Lines While Working Remotely

No matter what your reason was, it’s probably safe to assume that you didn’t take on remote work to give up every other aspect of your life. By winding down at the end of each working day, you can reclaim your free time. However, to do so, you need to have a clear definition of when you’re working day ends—and that puts you back to creating a clear work schedule.

Also, just taking breaks can make a huge difference. Many workaholics think that taking breaks is a waste of time. However, these breaks can increase productivity by preventing decision fatigue, increasing creativity, and improving learning.

If you’re concerned about potentially wasted time, why not take the break to do chores, such as loading a batch of laundry, doing the dishes, or vacuuming? After all, having the opportunity to knock these things out are some of the greatest perks of working on a remote team!

How to Work in a Remote Team: Productivity Best Practices

With 50% of the workforce expected to be working remotely within the next three years, developing the skills to make you both attractive to employers wanting remotely employees and the mindset necessary to benefit from the lifestyle of working on a remote team is essential.

According to Toggl, the most desirable remote workers have a history of self-management, a good social support system, and clear writing skills.

Adding these skills to your job-specific skill set, as well as learning to create your own schedule, identifying productive workspaces, and tempering your workaholic tendencies, gives you the best chance at having a successful career on a remote team.

Of course, success when a team is split up among multiple locations and timezones ultimately comes down to having the right tools and processes in place. Might we suggest all-in-one project management tool, Planio?