The Remote Worker Survival Checklist
15 minute read
Written by Liam Donoghue, Marketing Executive
This article was updated on the 5th of October 2020. Our SEO lead Liam Donoghue hosted a virtual seminar for students at Kings College London. We’ve uploaded the session and Liam’s notes below. You can use this link to go straight to the video. Passion.io’s KCL Remote Working Seminar.
Working from home!? That’ll never work for me, how can I concentrate with so many distractions around me?
If you feel like this you’re not alone. The past few months have seen a huge shift in the way people are working (I’m sure we don’t need to tell you why) and the ‘new normal’ you keep hearing on the news isn’t going anywhere soon.
It can feel odd working from home but also super rewarding. You have more freedom to approach the projects you like your way, and there are no overbearing managers breathing down your neck. But being your own boss can lead to a lot of procrastination and daytime TV if you let your guard down.
So, to help you out in these strange and uncertain times we’ve created this Remote Worker Survival Checklist to keep you focused and help you thrive when you’re working from the kitchen table.
Who is Passion.io?
We’re a SaaS company that has built a drag-and-drop, no-code app creation platform for coaches, tutors, and trainers who want to take their skills online.
We’ve been a remote company since 2016 and we have team members based across the globe. We love remote working and think, in many ways, it’s the future of work.
Sharing our tips, tricks, and strategies for creating successful remote teams is something we love doing. Honestly, we’ve found we’re more productive when we’re at home and if we can share that productivity with others we’re all for it.
The survival checklist
To make the checklist easy to digest we’ve separated it into three categories; mindset, digital tools, and equipment.
Before you start typing away from your kitchen table it’s important to check you’re in the right headspace for work. It can be easy, when working from home, to convince yourself you’re being really productive. When in reality you’re eating ice cream on the sofa, watching Netflix, and your work laptop is sitting disregarded on your lap.
To avoid this scenario you need to check you’re in a work mindset.
When you’re working remotely time management and self-organization are the keys to success. Make sure you are ordering your daily tasks in a list and stay focused on the tasks you give yourself.
If you often jump from task to task quickly you could find that you’ve reached the end of the day and finished nothing. Strict prioritization will keep you focused and accountable for your own work.
Also when you finish a task you get a nice endorphin rush. There’s nothing like looking at a checked-off list at the end of the day to remind you that remote working isn’t impossible.
You’ve had a stressful morning, and your lunch break has flown by. Why don’t you just give yourself an extra 30 minutes off? No one is going to know.
But before you know it that 30 minutes has turned into an hour. Well that’s fine, you can just add an extra hour of work onto the end of your day. Yeah right!
Getting up late, staying in your dressing gown, watching too many Tik Toks. These are all symptoms of a lack of discipline and can lead to a very unproductive remote worker.
Be honest with yourself about your working habits and set up a routine that can remove your negative impulses. If you’re not a morning person start slightly later in the day but make sure you’re fully committing to work when you do.
If you find you are more productive in the evenings, schedule your deep work for then. Just be honest with yourself and make sure you’re actually working. That can be easier than it sounds!
Having empty bottles of wine strewn around your kitchen and half-eaten takeaways is bad vibes. Mess in general isn’t good for creating a productive work environment. Get rid of the clutter before starting work to ensure a zen calm whilst replying to emails.
To get yourself in a work mindset it helps to have a dedicated workspace at home to use. Free this space of non-work-related distraction and put your phone out of arm’s reach (We’re serious).
Creating a space within your home that feels like an office or library will lead to a productive day’s work.
Once you’ve got the right mindset for a day of remote working you’ll need to master the tools that make doing your job possible. This isn’t a complete list as there are 100s of tools out there. We’ve listed the most important ones that 99% of remote companies will be using.
Video Conferencing platform
Whether it’s a Zoom call or Google Hangout, mastering the use of video conferencing platforms is essential for remote workers. Not only is it nice to see your colleagues (In most cases anyway), but video conferencing let’s whole teams get on a call together.
It’s very difficult to stay focused on an audio-only call. When you can’t see your colleague you’ll often find yourself talking over other people. Your meeting can quickly become clunky and unproductive.
Oh, and holding a phone to your ear for an hour is no one’s idea of fun.
What is Slack? You might have seen the adverts on TV or heard some tech-savvy friends mention it over a beer. To put it simply Slack is like Whatsapp for work. It’s the
# 1-way remote companies communicate and the platform comes with a host of features that make communicating with your team easy.
Make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with the platform before accepting any remote role. There’s a very high chance you’ll be using it.
And yes, it has gifs.
Project Management Tools
Working on a project with team members can be challenging at the best of times. When you throw remote working into the mix it can be impossible.
Trying to remember who’s accountable for what tasks, when your deadlines are due, and who reports to who are all common issues faced by remote teams. Luckily, there are loads of digital tools in the market that take the pain out of collaboration.
Asana, Trello, & Monday.com are all viable options you could use to collaborate with colleagues. Your chosen company will likely use one of the above or another product. Whatever they use, spend some time learning the platform so you can be a savvy remote worker from the get-go when you join the company.
Forget Microsoft Office, Google Drive is a cloud-based word processor that allows you to collaboratively work on documents together with your team. It also has spreadsheets, powerpoints, and a host of other functions that let you create professional documents.
Google Drive stores your work on the cloud. This means there’s no chance of losing it if your computer explodes. You can access your documents anytime, anywhere. It’s free to use, so get familiar with it now to ensure success when you’re working from home.
This is a Passion.io favorite. Haxball is a browser-based fusball game. It’s a great way to socialize with your colleagues and have a break between working. We’re sure other online games are available but we love Haxball as a way to strengthen team bonds and unwind after a busy day in the (remote) office.
Remote working doesn’t mean ‘work from home’, it means work from anywhere! As society gets back to a sense of normality you’ll probably want to leave the house and work from a coffee shop or co-working space.
To make this trip a pleasurable experience, and to maximize your comfort and productivity when you’re out of the house, here’s a list of things we think it’s wise to pack for your afternoon excursion for a latte.
Coffee shops are noisy places. When you can hear clattering plates and indistinct chatter it can be hard to concentrate. A decent pair of noise-canceling headphones can let you get your head down and get work done no matter where you are.
Notepad & pen
Sometimes the old ways are the best. If you need to make rough notes or want to doodle between assignments then a notepad & pen is a must.
Weather is unpredictable and nothing will kill your work ethic like getting hosed down in the rain on the way to a WeWork.
Water bottle & reusable cutlery
This one’s for the environment. If you’re working in town and want to help mother earth bring your own bottle and cutlery. If it saves you using single-use plastics it is worth it.
Laptop & charger
It goes without saying really. You can’t do work without your laptop. Be sure to pack your charger though, you’ll be surprised how many people forget it.
After work clothes
Imagine finishing work for the day and bumping into a friend. They’re going for a few drinks and want you to join them. You didn’t plan for this, you were only out to steal the coffee shops wifi. Some nice trainer at the bottom of your bag and a t-shirt with no holes in it can be a great addition to your backpack.
Passion.io’s KCL Remote Working Seminar
Slide 3 & Who Am I?
I’m Liam Donoghue. A 29-year-old archaeology graduate from the University of Manchester. I graduated in 2012 and I’m originally from the Lake District.
I’ve had a really interesting career path. At uni, I wanted to join the military, so I spent three years in the OTC. After uni, I’ve had several career moves. I spent 2 years as a chef, then 3 as an auctioneer before finding my current career as a digital marketer. In my spare time, I also moonlight as a DJ and run a music blog.
I now work at Passion.io. We’re a fully remote company and we’ve built a drag-and-drop app building platform for personal trainers, coaches, and teachers. I work as an SEO lead in the marketing department.
[If you take one thing away from this seminar, forget everything I say about tech or remote working. Just remember you can do anything with your degree.]
I love remote working, I think it’s the future of work for many industries. The pandemic has hastened the shift to remote teams and I think for you, getting ahead of this trend now will stand you in really good stead when looking for your first role.
Slide 5 & 6 Why am I giving this talk?
- Still relatively new to remote working, I’ve been working remotely, or from home for less than a year. So I think some of the pains and difficulties I experienced when I started remote working will still be relevant to your journey
- I came from an industry that was so technophobic. Auctioneering has one foot literally in the past. So my adoption of technology in my most recent career was very rapid.
- As I mentioned earlier in the talk. I think remote working is the future of work. Not just because it companies like it because it means cheaper office overheads and more productive teams which = more money. But it’s also a type of working that empowers you as an individual. It gives people greater control over their lives.
I really dislike the stereotypical image of the office. Power men in suits, shaking hands, dog eat dog, climb the corporate ladder, work 80 hours weeks. This is the 21st century, get a grip, and find a way of working that gives us a happier life. Remote working is that balance.
Slide 7 & 8 What is remote working?
So, what is remote working? You might think it’s silly that i’m saying that as you’re all at a remote working seminar but there are loads of different names and definitions of remote working and they can get a bit confusing.
The short answer is: if you’re working from home the majority of the time, you’re a remote worker.
But, for a more complete answer get ready to bust some jargon!
Sole trader / Freelancer – If you’re self-employed or running your own business or startup you’re gonna be a sole trader or freelancer. Maybe doing graphic design work, copywriting, or starting a business in your basement.
Telecommuting – “Working from home, making use of the internet, email and phone” That is a definition I googled
Distributed teams – “A group of coworkers who work remotely, either nearby or far away. They may work in the same city, but from home or internationally. They communicate via online means and do not share a physical office space.” – Again lifted from Google.
Digital Nomad – For many the holy grail of remote working. It’s basically taking your laptop traveling with you. Self-styled “digital nomads” are often instagram friendly individuals taking a lot of photos of their laptop on a beach.
Remote worker – Someone who is employed by a company but works outside the traditional office environment.
I wanted to put this slide in here as it’s easy to get confused and persnickety about your status as a worker. I believe the difference in all the above we’ve mentioned are minimal.
The real difference is in the mindset and attitude you need to approach remote work.
Slide 9 & 10 What is a remote working mindset?
To give you an example of what a remote working mindset is I’ll tell a quick story.
When I was set on leaving my previous company I started looking for a new job. I was still working my current role when I was looking for my new job. I’d mentally checked out of my current role but I was still turning up to work. I was getting stuff done but, honestly I was probably working at 40%.
Was my lack of productivity raised with anyone? No! Why was that? It was because I was present at work. I was physically inhabiting a work space, therefore I was at work. I had arrived. I punched in and punched out. I was working.
In a “traditional office” you can quite easily arrive and not be present. You’re not measured on productivity but time spent at work.
Remote working is different, you’re more likely going to be output orientated and appraised based on your productivity. For me, I much prefer this, why kick about in an office for half a day when you’ve got no work on. If you’re done you’re done.
It’s the quality of your output that counts and in that respect, there are fewer places to hide working remotely.
At the start of my week, I tell my boss what I’m doing. At the end of the week, he asks what I’ve done. Your work is the evidence of your productivity but you can do it however you like.
You have a lot more autonomy to approach your job and a lot more freedom to organize your day.
To be successful in remote work you need to own your autonomy. A good company should train you if you’re new to a role but you are not always going to have a manager sat a few seats down from you on a desk that you can ask for advice.
Creative problem solving and decisive decision-making are good traits to have when you’re a remote worker as you’ll often solely be accountable for your own goal so you need to rely on your own knowledge to get projects over the line.
Slide 13 General job advice.
Always keep learning, technology and progress are moving so fast now you can’t settle in a career. You need to stay on top of the latest trends in your industry and always be interested in what people are developing that could:
- Make your job easier
- Make your jobs change. (I was going to say obsolete here but that’s quite dramatic)
If you’re the person in your company that adopts a new technology that improves your profit margin or efficiency then you become irreplaceable. I’d always tell people to look for ways to become irreplaceable. Find areas where you can build a team and help people along the same career journey you’ve started.
Slide 14 Advice for applying for a remote role.
Spend some time researching the platform your interview will be on.
If your interview is on Zoom and you’ve never used Zoom before, you should probably download it and make sure it works. Some platforms can have a few hoops you need to jump through to get them to work so I’d give yourself at least 48 hours to make sure all your technology is working.
Wear some trousers.
That sounds silly but it can be tempting to do a digital interview in casual clothes. For me this doesn’t get you in the right mindset for an interview. I’m not saying turn up in a 3 piece suit but wear clean presentable clothes. Once you’ve got the job then you can start rocking up to team meetings in a dressing gown.
Bring a portfolio of work with you
As I mentioned earlier in the seminar, proactivity and being able to work independently are highly valued skills for a remote worker. So if you have a portfolio of work you’ve done, whether that’s a blog, a website, a piece of software, or even an event, end of year show or art work these are all great things to lead with in a remote working interview.
My personal music blog really helps set me apart from the crowd.
Especially in a first interview, show that you can do work on your own. A very extreme example of this was when I applied for the current role I’m in now. I actually analyzed the company’s website and put together a marketing strategy for them and brought it to the interview. That’s a very intense example, but I really wanted the job.
Bring questions, you’re interviewing them too
I think out of all the tips I’m giving you in this section this one is the most important. Research the company you’re applying for, try to figure out how they operate, and ask them questions about that.
Where do they see you fitting into their team?
What training will you get? What projects will you be working on?
What is their culture like?
How do they create a culture when there’s no office?
Why do they think you’d be good for the role?
As I’ve already said in the seminar, the day of the one company for life worker is over, you have power and you have flexibility, you can move companies and that’s not seen as a negative anymore so be forward and honest in your expectations for a role.
If you and an interviewer aren’t clicking find somewhere else. I have red flag phrases I watch out for when in an interview. If someone says we have a “workhard play-hard culture I’m out the door”.
Get relevant experience now!
Find work experience over your summer holidays or during uni, if your course allows it. There’s a lot of freelance gigs out there now and you can find companies that need writers or designers on a project by project basis.
If you can do an internship or 6 weeks at a company get that experience. Not only does it show you’re proactive in finding the right experience for your career but it will give your CV an extra boost when competing with other job seekers.
I honestly believe that remote working is going to become a very big part of all our lives.
Facebook and twitter have become completely remote companies and others will be following suit.
I think the trend of working from home has been steadily growing but the current pandemic has hastened the move.
Not all jobs will be able to be done remotely, Doctors, builders, archaeologists, etc will still need to go to physical sites to do work. But even if your chosen profession makes remote working difficult I think it’s still important that you understand the rules of remote working as the impact it could have on our society and way of life will be massive.
For me personally, as I’ve already said in this seminar, I love it. The freedom and autonomy it gives me in my job and personal life is really empowering. If you’re on the fence about remote working, and I will say it isn’t for everyone, at least try it and see if it’s for you.
What other way of working lets you wear a dressing gown to work!