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.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER