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24 Mar 2020

How to Work Remotely from Home

Here are three steps to succeed when working remotely.

In these crazy times, we decided to create this article to help those who are looking at how to work remotely.

We consider three fundamental things you have to keep in mind to start…

Over the last five years, there’s been an enormous movement to allow more people to work remotely. Dynamite Jobs is focused on remote work, but we know that it can be a big adjustment if it’s your first time working a remote job.

While there are a lot of advantages to remote work, there’s no denying that it’s very different than a traditional job. There are some additional skills, both professionally and personally, that you’ll need to learn to be productive as you start to work remotely.

Fortunately, after a decade of remote work through our jobs and our companies, we have a lot of hard-earned wisdom to offer about the best ways to succeed at remote work.

Finding a Remote Income

Remote Jobs

The first thing you’re going to need to figure out is how you’re going to make money remotely. If your job allows you to work from home, obviously, that’s a great place to start. While more companies than ever are going remote first, even more, allow a day or two of telework per week, which can be an easy way to transition into remote work. It can be an ideal way to start setting up a home office and develop the skills necessary to be productive without the social pressure of a boss or coworkers looking over your shoulder.

If your boss is a little resistant to change, there’s never been a better time to get a remote job. In fact, that’s what Dynamite Jobs was created to help you do! Check out our remote job board to see all the positions open at awesome, remote-first companies. Opportunities range from sales and marketing to customer service, and everything in between.

Freelancing

Many people have used freelancing as an opportunity to transition into working remotely as well. It can be a flexible way to earn some income while you hunt for a remote job or try to start a business. Common freelance skills are writing, copywriting, SEO, graphic design, and any kind of online advertising. They can be a great way to see inside a variety of online businesses that you end up working for and get a sense of what kind might appeal to you.

With all that said, freelancing isn’t perfect. It’s inherently unstable, since clients come and go, and many projects are just a one-off that doesn’t lead to future work. Successful freelancers need to figure out multiple sources of leads, how to encourage referrals from happy clients, how to upsell clients on new and bigger projects, and how to manage their finances to prepare for downturns during summer vacations and the holiday seasons.

Starting a business

Of course, we believe starting a business is one of the best opportunities to get more personal and financial freedom in your life, and our founders have spent the last ten years recording a podcast about their own journey, the Tropical MBA. While it can often take years to get a successful business off the ground, it does guarantee you the ability to decide when and where you work – it’s your business, after all!

While not every kind of work lends itself well to going remote, owning a mature business doesn’t mean you have to be in the office every day. That’s why you’ll eventually want to build systems and hire managers, but rest assured: the golf courses and ski resorts of the world are full of entrepreneurs that own “location dependent” businesses.

Setting Up Your Workspace

Your laptop

One of the biggest challenges new remote workers is figuring out how to be happy, healthy and productive when they go remote. Say what you will about working in an office or at a store, you do see people every day, get into a routine around your shift, and do your job in a space that was designed for work.

When you start working from home, you’ll quickly discover that replacing those facets of your working life all falls on you now. It’s important that you set up your space so that you feel good, find space to focus, and get a lot done.

An awful lot of people make it a few weeks into working remotely and wake up with a nasty pain in their neck and shoulders. That’s because most of us jump into remote work with a laptop and have never experienced hunching over a screen that small for a while. Fortunately, there’s an easy answer for “laptop syndrome” – elevate your screen!

For some people, that’s as simple as getting an external mouse and keyboard and setting their laptop on a stack of books (or whatever their AirBNB has available…) For other people, that might mean investing in an expensive standing desk for their home that pivots up and down depending on whether they want to sit or stand. For most of the people in the DC, the easy answer is the combination of a laptop stand like Roost and an external keyboard. It folds up small enough to fit in a backpack or laptop bag, but elevates your laptop screen high enough to protect your neck while you’re working all day.

At the end of the day, though, just make sure you get that screen up.

Move around

Some people are willing to argue endlessly about the best office chair and ergonomics, but one of the real advantages of working remotely is the ability to move around. Yes, you should get a decent chair and make sure it’s at the right height for your desk or table, but there are plenty of other places in your home.

Lots of remote workers spend the day moving between their desk, kitchen table, couch, bed, and elsewhere. In addition to different places in the home, most of us have got a favorite cafe, restaurant or coworking space we move to as well (We don’t recommend that you leave your home until it’s safe doing so). Splitting up your day between different workplaces keeps you fresh, helps you get some movement into your day, and keeps you from getting stuck in any one place long enough to develop bad posture and start feeling sore.

Some people like to move around a lot during the day, something our friend Joel Runyon calls Workplace Popcorn. Just break your to-do list for the day into a few chunks, pick a few places to work from, and divide those tasks into which things you’re going to accomplish at each workplace. That might mean starting the day at your kitchen table, moving to a quiet cafe for lunch and a couple of hours of work, then moving to a coffee shop for tea or espresso before you head home to your desk to wrap up your day.

The important thing is to find a few comfortable places that will keep your mind and body feeling fresh so you can focus on work. The benefits will more than outweigh the time you spend going from place to place.

Taking care of yourself

Yes, we’ve all dreamed of working from our bed all day, sipping coffee in our pajamas as we cruise to a nice empty inbox. But the reality of working remotely is that it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves if we don’t have to face anyone for the day.

That’s not to say you should wake up and put on a tie every morning before your video chats, but take a shower before you go straight for the sweatpants. Make your bed and tidy up your workspace before you get to work for the day. Make sure you schedule time to get a little exercise in, or at least a walk to get the blood flowing and that you get a little sunlight.

This all might sound silly, but it’s easy to underestimate the little routines a traditional job gives your life, and even easier to turn into a bit of a couch potato when you first start working remotely. It’s worth spending a little time to think about what you’d like your new routine to be and what would help you feel happy and healthy instead of just firing up the laptop and getting to work.

Staying Productive When You Go Remote

Obviously, getting the work done is a big part of working remotely, but that can be easier said than done. Sure, you’ve eliminated the distractions that come with a traditional office job, but now you’ve got barking dogs, garbage trucks, internet outages, and just about anything else that can go wrong eventually will.

That’s on top of needing to get work done without someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re not on social media or shopping all day. For most of us, learning to work remotely means mastering a new set of skills to stay on track. Fortunately, there are a lot of new tools to help remote workers get more done.

Slack and Zoom

These tools are the backbone of the remote workforce. While Skype, Gchat and MSN Messenger were early leaders in the field, they’ve been passed up by more modern tools. In fact, the speed and reliability of Slack and Zoom are probably partly responsible for the recent boom in remote work.

Slack is essential for communicating quickly with your coworkers. It can organize conversations neatly by topic or by team, as well as having searchable archives to help you track down what you discussed about a particular part of the business. It’s also a very handy way to quickly share files with one or all of your coworkers. While it can become a bit of a distraction if you leave it open all day or notifications turned on, it makes up for that in the efficiency of communication. It’s also a handy replacement for the office watercooler when it comes to chatting with teammates and building relationships.

Zoom is, simply, the best video chat app we’ve ever seen. It’s much higher quality video and reliability than what we were using before and makes face to face meetings very easy for remote workers.

Basecamp

Basecamp is one of the highest-rated and longest-lasting Project Management apps in a space where a lot of contenders come and go, which is a good sign in and of itself. But they also recently released a free plan for new users to run a limited number of projects, which is a way to get started managing your work (and your life!) when first start working remotely.

If you have a remote job, they might have project management software they’d like you to use instead, but it’s a great option when you’re just getting started or if you end up running a business on your own. And it’s not just limited to running a business: people have used it to plan everything from weddings to birthday parties to home renovations.

It has the built-in ability to separate different projects, discuss them with your teammates, share files and create dedicated to-do lists and deadlines for each step along the way. Their paid plans offer even more help for remote teams, but their free plan is a great way to start keeping track of all the things remote workers need to manage.

Getting things done

In a perfect world, we’d all wake up, have a nice breakfast, and be locked in for the next eight hours or so on doing the best job we can. But in the real world, sometimes life gets in the way, especially if you work remotely.

So how do we stay on task and productive without any sort of safety net? A few simple tips and free apps can go a long way.

If you’ve never heard of the Pomodoro Method, the basic idea is that humans pay attention best in short bursts with frequent breaks, so why not break your work into 25-minute blocks with 5-minute breaks? Many of us have found it can be an effective way to stay focused, partly because it breaks work into manageable periods of time and partly because it gives us a place to defer our distractions to.

If you know you have a few minutes to do whatever you want coming up, it can help you to stick to the task at hand. BeFocused is a great new app to help you use the Pomodoro Method effectively in your work. It’s only on iOS at the moment, but it’s a lightweight timer that helps track your Pomodoro block throughout the day.

The nuclear option

Last but not least, sometimes you just need to get off of the internet to focus on your most important task for the day. Freedom is a great tool for desktop or mobile that lets you control your access to the internet for a set period of time.

Sure, you could just block certain websites like Facebook and Reddit for a certain period of time. But you can also turn off the internet completely for a while if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

That might seem like an extreme move, but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. When there’s deep work that needs to get done, sometimes you just need to turn the web off for a while.


Learning how to work remotely is a big transition, but nothing you can’t handle. The main lesson to learn is that you’re kind of on your own. On the one hand, you’re free to set your schedule and your workstyle, which is wonderful. But if you don’t take the time to plan a productive lifestyle, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.

You’re on your own now to design your workspace, plan a schedule that will make you as productive as possible, and keep you healthy and happy. But the good news is that, while you make your work exactly what you want it to be, you can still be a successful, valuable worker without giving up all the things that make remote work great.

Yours,

Dino the Dynamite Alpaca

Dino the Dynamite Alpaca writing about the best free online resources for learning.

 


 

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