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5 Distance working – how to do it well

There are several things you can do to make remote working more successful. Remote Year (no date) makes the suggestions given in Box 1.

Box 1 How to make remote working more successful

  • Over-communicate – schedule regular check-in meetings with colleagues to discuss goals and daily tasks.
  • Invest in reliable tech – consistent WiFi is important.
  • Lean on your community – being surrounded by others who are successfully remote working can inspire you to remain productive.
  • Consider your workspace – create a designated spot at home or find a nearby co-working space to make sure you feel motivated by your environment.
  • Figure out your working style – do you prefer background noise or silence? Are you more productive in the morning or evening? Do you like short breaks throughout the day or a long lunch?
  • Take time for self-care – commit to your fitness routine and make time for healthy nutritious meals.
  • Know when to log off – set a time when you officially log off for the night.
  • Embrace the perks of working remotely.
Remote Year (no date)

The first point about communication is an important one: you need to be clear about who you’re reporting to, how often you are expected to check-in, what your objectives are and the timescale in which you are expected to achieve them.

There are also some key skills that will make working remotely easier. Birnir (no date) lists several of the most important in Box 2.

Box 2 Skills to make working remotely easier

  • Organisation – knowing what needs to be done, balancing priorities
  • Communication – keeping in touch, replying to messages promptly, being clear and concise
  • Time-consciousness – awareness of time-zones, setting and keeping to time limits for conversations
  • Proactiveness – demonstrate that you are self-reliant and a self-starter
  • Tech savvy – be comfortable with technology, demonstrate your digital skills
  • Motivation – get involved, follow relevant podcasts, know what’s going on for the company
  • Balance – don’t over-work, stay healthy and happy, look for opportunities to share what you do in your spare time.
Birnir (no date)

Open University graduate Anika Roberts has the following top tips, for both the employee and employer.

Case study 1 Anika's top tips for a successful virtual internship

Anika has completed a virtual internship, currently does consultancy work which involves an element of working from home and has been a line manager. Drawing on all of that experience she has kindly shared with us her top tips for students and employers considering a virtual internship.

The virtual internship: it’s a real job!

Essentially, you’re an employee with work expectations for both virtual and office based staff being the same. So, what’s good practice for virtual working?

For the virtual employee:

  • Organise a dedicated workspace/area with all you need, it’s your office.
  • Dress for impromptu web conferences, always!
  • Create a work mindset: avoid the sofa and wearing slippers.
  • Take breaks and track your time as you go.
  • Compile a daily log of your activities, as you go, sharing weekly.
  • Let people know your key weekly availability.
  • Set up shared/backup work folders online; updating at each session.
  • Keep in touch with other staff.

For the office staff and employer:

  • Treat virtual working staff as any other employee.
  • Provide a virtual induction.
  • Select an affable line manager who is regularly available.
  • Organise key meetings via web conferencing to encourage inclusion.
  • Treat audio meetings as just that, for all staff i.e. avoid grouping office staff together.
  • Try and ask some non-work related questions too.
  • Be clear on what tasks/actions are required, avoiding assumptions.
  • Keep in touch; it’s as easy to make a call as it is to pop over to someone’s desk.

For both:

  • cooperation is intrinsic to successful virtual employment.
Anika Roberts, BSc (Hons) in Natural Sciences Open University graduate, virtual intern 2019

All of the sources referenced here include communication in their lists, and it is really important to get that right when working remotely.