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5 Ways to Stay Effective While Working Remotely

Friday 15 September 2017

A mobile, flexible, and distributed workforce is no longer our future; it’s our present-day reality. As EVP of Innovation for RingCentral, I spearhead the ongoing expansion and improvement of communications and collaborations tools that facilitate remote work. Gone are the days when 9-5 and daily facetime are necessary or even desirable for employees and their companies. Staying connected while working remotely is not only possible, it’s easy. Staying efficient, on the other hand, may take some planning. Here are my five practical tips for staying effective from your remote worksite. 

1. Keep a set schedule, both for time-on and for time-off. Look ahead at least a couple of weeks to plan your workdays. I try to keep the same general schedule regardless of my work location. Keeping relatively the same hours helps my co-workers and staff to know when I’m accessible. Scheduling helps me to put boundaries around my work day, too. I make an effort to power down when I’m off for the day to turn my attention to the other important stuff of life: my family, exercise, food, relaxation, etc. Working remotely doesn’t mean “always on.” It just means you have some flexibility. That flexibility can be a good thing when you want to see your kid’s soccer game, and it can be a bad thing if you fail at keeping a schedule and setting boundaries. Time management is essential for staying effective while working remotely.


2. Have a dedicated office or work space. In addition to time boundaries, space boundaries matter. It is hard to stay focused on work if you are within sight of the rest of your to-do list at home. I have a dedicated home office. When I’m working, I can shut the door and leave the rest of the house behind. When I’m finished, I can close the office door behind me and leave work for the day. If you don’t have the space to dedicate to a home office, consider where you might make some, and protect it. More and more co-working spaces are cropping up, too, so perhaps your flexible office is somewhere outside your home such that you work out of a laptop and a briefcase. Consider things like noise-cancelling headphones that might help you to maintain focus in those environments. In my experience, if you’re working from your couch in your pyjamas, chances are that you’re not in work-mode and won’t accomplish what you need to that day. Set yourself up for a professional workday with whatever space and tools you need in order to remain effective.


3. Employ good communications tools. With phone numbers that work internationally and video-conferencing from any device, RingCentral offers solutions that allow you to remain connected from wherever you are. There is no longer a need to tie yourself down to a landline or to a forwarded number. Communicating easily from a handheld device in any location is key to an effective flexible work situation.


4. Use collaboration tools with file sharing, task tracking, messaging, calendaring, and more as a way to cut down on phone calls and e-mail clutter. Collaboration tools may be the biggest key to working effectively and remotely. Glip is a great solution. When I add someone to a team on Glip, they can check the flow of messages back beyond the time at which they joined the company or the project to learn the relevant history. By storing information in the same place, we work together effectively even if one of us is travelling in Asia while another is working from London with a manager checking in from our home office in California. Using Glip for collaboration has cut down on my e-mail traffic significantly and improved my efficiency markedly. It’s as if my teams share one giant workflow that allows for true symbiosis. As someone who spent a career innovating, I strongly believe that the future of the mobile and flexible workforce is found in effective communication and collaboration tools, like Glip, that RingCentral offers.


5. Find ways to connect professionally offline, whether this is going into an office from time to time or through professional networks. When working remotely, it is important to have some face-to-face with your colleagues if possible so that you do feel part of a team. You and your team will work out whatever balance of face-time and remote work-time is appropriate. These days, some offices are solely remote, and face-to-face meetings can’t be a thing. No matter how much you love working remotely, being an island won’t feel good in the long run. Especially if you can’t plug into local colleagues, consider joining professional networks in your field. The ones in my area have monthly speakers and social time. These gatherings are a good idea regardless of whether or not you have a local office, as they are a good way to plug into mentors or even to find your next job.


For both companies and employees, there is great benefit to be derived from enabling a remote workforce with the best practices and best tools. Managing a distributed workforce has its own challenges as well. It is possible to stay effective while working remotely, though -- perhaps even more so than when working in an office, as there may be fewer interruptions and happier employees who reap the benefits of shorter or no commute times and greater work/life balance. If you’re going to undertake mobile, flexible, and remote work, I urge you to consider these tips to set yourself up for the greatest success. 

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