8 Tips for Staying Productive When You Work Remotely

iStock
iStock

When it comes to working remotely, getting your boss on board may seem like the hardest part. Once they’ve agreed to let you work from home—or basically anywhere outside your cubicle—it’s all pajama-clad smooth sailing from the comfort of your couch, right?

Not quite. You actually have to keep your boss on board—and that requires a whole lot of work.

Whether you'll be signing on from across town or across the pond, going remote may offer a lot of freedom, but that freedom brings about a great deal of personal accountability. As a remote worker, it’s your job to show your boss that he or she didn’t make the wrong decision by letting you fly the coop. So how can you prove that you don’t need to be micromanaged from an office setting in order to get your work done?

Amanda Little, Head of Human Resources and Culture for Canadian telecommunications company Fibernetics, has a unique perspective on the matter. She’s seen the issue from both sides, having managed remote workers and worked remotely herself. Here are her tips for proving to your boss that you can, in fact, be just as productive on your own time as you are when you’re chained to your desk.

1. MAKE THE RIGHT PITCH.

Without the proper pitch, your remote work dreams are pretty much dead in the water. More than that, though, the way you present your idea to your boss can help set you up for success in the long run. Here are the most important things to keep in mind, according to Little:

- Know Your Boss: The more you understand your boss, including his or her priorities, the easier it will be for you to pitch your request. Align the reasons why you want to work remotely with what you know to be your manager's priorities.

- Know Your Company’s Priorities: Think about the bigger picture. If you can make clear how your remote working arrangement will affect the company as a whole and support the company’s overall vision, you should be well on your way to a solid consideration.

- Play Devil’s Advocate: List all of the pros of remote work, but don’t forget about the cons. Think of the drawbacks and limitations ahead of time—and come up with solutions to work around them—and then you have a better chance at hearing “yes.”

2. KEEP UP WITH YOUR COMMITMENTS.

Working remotely is not an excuse to slack off. If anything, you have to work even harder than normal to prove yourself. Staying on top of your workload is a crucial part of this. “At the end of the day, you are being paid for delivering a certain level of work or service, so be sure you keep that in mind,” says Little. “However, if you can find ways to be more efficient, save yourself time, and still deliver the same output, it’s your win.”

3. SCHEDULE A WEEKLY UPDATE MEETING.

If you’re a full-time remote worker, it’s crucial to get regular face time in (or at least, phone time). “Have a recurring weekly meeting at an agreed upon time where you call your boss,” says Little. “Even if your boss ends up not being available, moves the meeting, or simply doesn’t answer because of distractions, call every time.” She suggests bringing up items you discussed in previous conversations to show that you paid attention and took notes, and use the time to show your boss that you’re staying on the ball with your commitments.

4. ASK HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE.

Instead of waiting for feedback to come your way, ask for it yourself. Little suggests proactively seeking answers for areas of improvement by straight up asking what you could be doing better. It will give you the opportunity to fix any problems before they become bigger ones. And best case scenario? Your boss tells you you’re perfect, amazing, and things couldn’t be better. It’s a win/win.

5. COP TO YOUR MISTAKES.

If you miss a deadline or deliver subpar work, acknowledge it immediately. You know it happened, your boss knows it happened, and ignoring it only makes things worse. “Own up to it and try to admit it and address it before your boss has to call you out on it,” says Little. “Human error is easier to forgive when admitted than pure ignorance.” (This is good advice for anyone, not just remote workers.)

6. KEEP YOUR CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WORK.

One of the best parts of working remotely is that you’re far, far away from office distractions, so make sure you aren’t getting caught up in them when you do check in. “When your boss asks how your weekend was … keep your answer short and sweet and don’t go on for too long,” says Little. “Once you’ve shared a simple answer, ask your boss how his or her week or weekend has been. After you’ve each shared your personal updates, you should be the first to transition the discussion from recreational back to business.” This shows that you’re focused, which can be a major concern for managers of remote workers.

7. RESPOND TO EMAILS ASAP.

Even if you’ve figured out how to shift or minimize your work hours to avoid the typical 9 to 5 grind, it’s important that you’re always available when your bosses, coworkers, and clients expect you to be. “When a boss feels that your responses are taking longer than usual it is almost always viewed as a red flag, because what else could you possibly be doing?” says Little. Stay on top of your correspondence to avoid raising any concerns.

8. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA DURING BUSINESS HOURS.

If your boss or coworkers see you posting a picture of a beach or a Snapchat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in the middle of the day, they’ll know you aren’t working. Even if you think none of your colleagues follow you, be smart about the way you use social media. Better safe than sorry.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The U.S. Postal Service Is Struggling—Buying Stamps Can Help

Inclement weather doesn't stop them, but a lack of funding could.
Inclement weather doesn't stop them, but a lack of funding could.
Pope Moysuh, Unsplash

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have drastically reduced the number of advertisements and other marketing materials they’re sending to consumers—and since a considerable chunk of the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) revenue comes from those large mailings, the ongoing crisis has put the organization in a tough spot.

The importance of keeping the USPS afloat goes beyond simply wanting to preserve something that’s been around since the dawn of U.S. history. As Lifehacker explains, the institution delivers mail to every single household in the nation—be it by truck, boat, or even mule—which makes it a critical method of circulating necessary documents like paychecks and voting ballots. Without the USPS, it would be difficult to reach rural residents who might not have consistent phone or internet service.

So, how can we help? The USPS doesn’t get any taxpayer funds, relying instead on the sale of stamps and various shipping supplies. In other words, the best way to put money into the pockets of our postal guardians is to stock up on stamps.

There are dozens of different designs listed on USPS’s online store, which makes this charitable endeavor an especially fun one. You can, for example, decorate your envelope with Sally Ride, Scooby-Doo, or celebrated broadcast journalist Gwen Ifill. There are plenty of fruits and flowers to choose from, too, and even a lovely illustration of Walt Whitman, complete with a very thick mustache and a very piercing gaze. And we’d be remiss not to mention the existence of this mail carrier dog costume, which only costs $18.

An American hero.USPS.com

If you’d like to go the extra mile, you can also sign a petition to save the USPS by texting “USPS” to the number 50409. A chat program called Resistbot will walk you through the steps to add your name, and it’ll even send an automated message to your senators, letting them know you’ve signed the petition and support the continued operation of the USPS. You will have to enter your name, email address, and residential address, but the whole process takes about two minutes.

[h/t Lifehacker]