The mention of remote working may conjure images of someone lounging in pajamas and taking the occasional call, but this may be only half true.  Some people may be able to get away with wearing PJs, but remote work is less about style and more about working in a way that maximizes productivity by allowing people to function in a way that works best.  Whether that means waking up at the crack of dawn to chat with someone on the other side of the world and recharging with a quick, midday cat nap or watching kids all day and hitting the ground running at night, remote work affords the flexibly to accommodate life.

Technology has increased the popularity of remote work, and it is becoming less of the anomaly and more of the norm.  A recent study by International Workplace Group revealed that 70% of professionals telecommute at least one day per week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week. The ability to work from home or from a digital office has changed attitudes, leading to the abandonment of the typical 9 to 5 grind.

The IT field is especially remote work friendly, as most tasks can be accomplished online, and the field is generally forward thinking.  Remote working is becoming the accepted framework, showing that there is a strong willingness to evolve.  This is key as the FIAforecasts that the majority of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of freelancers by 2027.  The growing prevalence of IT remote work makes it necessary to develop skills that will optimize efficiency and productivity.  If you are venturing into the remote working world, build the following habits into your routine, and you will be sure to transition smoothly, maintain optimum productivity, and create strong bonds with your coworkers.

Communication is Key

Working remotely does not have to equate to being stranded on an island.  It is important to develop a virtual workplace that creates a sense of camaraderie among coworkers.  Clear and consistent communication is the key to success.  While it is unnecessary to spend all day blabbing away with other employees, it is important to establish a place where the team can brainstorm, ask questions, and post notes.  Platforms such as Slack,Cisco Webex Teams, and Workzone allow teams to break projects into subgroups and collaborate.  In some instances, even non-work related subgroups can be added, creating a virtual water cooler where employees can get away from shop talk and take a quick virtual breather.

Status Checks

Much like traditional in-person weekly action meetings, virtual check-ins are important for structuring the ongoing flow of work, possibly even more essential when working remotely.  Setting aside daily or weekly times where concerns, feedback, goals, and reports can be discussed with managers ensures that all parties remain on tasks and that expectations are clearly communicated.  Video tools, such as Zoom, allow parties to have face-to-face discussions from anywhere they may be located, making remote working seem more personable and interactive.

Develop a Routine

While one of the most advantageous aspects of remote work is flexibility, it is easy to get carried away with non-work-related tasks if you do not develop a strong routine. Designating specific times for work allows you to stay task oriented and to keep a consistent schedule. Additionally, creating a predictable work schedule provides other team members with times where you are readily available.  That being said, your routine may vary from day-to-day to provide lifestyle flexibility. Keep in mind that developing a sporadic routine is better than not having one at all.

Take Advantage

When happiness increases, so does productivity.  A study by the Social Market Foundation found that happiness increased productivity by 12% – 20%.  The best part about remote working is not being chained to a desk.  While routines are crucial, this does not mean that your work life must resemble the traditional 9 to 5.   It is necessary to take advantage of the perks of the position!

Incorporating midday workout classes or working from your favorite coffee spot on certain days are easy additions to break up monotony.  Perhaps you want to start and end earlier some days or vice versa.  Maybe you want to take a vacation to the beach but build in work sessions; this is possible because you can be productive anywhere with WiFi.  Regardless of what floats your boat, it is important to capitalize on flexibility so that you do not have to feel confined, can increase your happiness, and, ultimately, optimize productivity.

Have a Workspace

Remote work is greatly influenced by your state of mind.  While you can roll over in bed and begin working, having a designated workspace, or two, puts you into the right frame of mind.  It helps you get into work mode and stay focused throughout the day. Whether your spot is at the library, a full-fledged home office, or a café table at the local coffee dive, it does not matter what it looks like as long as it functions as your work spot.

Get a Life

While it is cliché, no man is an island.  Socializing is a necessary component of life, even if you are introverted.  Having an outlet breaks up boredom and allows you to thrive.  Whether it be a book club, yoga, or cooking classes, pick something where you will engage other human beings and stick to it.

Go Time

Equipped with these tips, it is time for you to figure out what works for you.  Keep in mind that you may not develop the perfect scheme on the first try, but it is okay to evolve over time.  Afterall, the key to remote work is flexibility.  If things get stale, it is time to swap things up.