The internet does not need another remote tips round-up. Those of us who have been thrust into full-time remote work are well aware we need to schedule breaks to avoid burnout, practice good Slack and Zoom etiquette, and take measures to separate work life from home life when working from home. Thank you. Yes. We’re good.
This isn’t another article like that; we promise. We assume you have your remote work setup by now, and a good understanding of what the perks and pitfalls of remote work are — but also that maybe there are a few tweaks you could make to improve your remote work routine.
Even if you act on just a couple of these tips, the new normal will feel noticeably more comfortable — no matter if you're a newly remote employee or have held down remote jobs for a while.
11 easy ways to streamline your remote work routine
When working remotely, questions and updates, recurring meetings, and even casual virtual watercooler conversations contribute to what can feel like a constant, cacophonous stream of alerts, pings, and notifications –– all of which you have to wrangle in between hopping into different virtual meeting rooms. And at the end of the workday, you're left feeling like you haven't accomplished much.
Though I’ve worked remotely for the last three years, I’ve made adjustments in my remote work routine of late, too. Here are some of my learnings that can help you better settle into the remote reality we live in.
1. Set your notification preferences
Many of us don’t think twice about adjusting our apps’ default settings. If you find yourself continually swatting away pop-ups and growing overwhelmed by beeps and boops, customize your notification preferences to turn off sounds or only send you alerts during certain hours.
2. Update your status often
Even if no one can physically see where you are, you can take measures to share what you’re up to without interrupting anyone else’s work. Take advantage of using status updates in Slack whenever possible or blocking out time in your calendar to give others visibility into your schedule.
Updating your status immediately cultivates a sense of transparency and allows you to properly manage expectations around communication based on your schedule and preferences. It can also help you manage your workflow more smoothly. For example, you can add details to blocked times on your calendar to give your colleagues an idea of if, when, and how to communicate with you best. I add “Busy - DNS” when I am not available, but “Busy - Slack to confirm” when there’s a chance I might be free to chat during that time.
3. Save on scheduling back and forth
Think about how much time you could save if you didn’t have to exchange multiple emails or comb through a colleague’s calendar just to find a time to meet. Smart calendar assistants like Clockwise automatically optimize your calendar to help you prioritize focus time and shift meetings to a time that's the most mutually beneficial for you and your invitees so you don’t have to obsessively pore over your calendar. It’s been a major time-saver for me!
4. Take advantage of integrations whenever possible
Juggling between apps or tabs doesn’t make it any easier to do your job well, and it's easy to find yourself overworking when constantly context switching. Integrating tools in your work stack can immediately help you feel like you have better control of your virtual workspace and reduce toggling between different windows or extensions. It can also help you better focus on doing one task at a time.
Other useful integrations that might come in handy are:
5. Snooze notifications
It’s good practice to snooze your notifications when you have to focus on deep work so there’s no reason to feel pulled in different digital directions.
One particularly good time to snooze is right before jumping into a video call (Clockwise does this automatically if you integrate it with Slack!) — especially if there’s a chance you might have to share your entire screen with someone. That way, you can record a loom without having to worry about unplanned notifications, such as a text or Slack message popping up on your screen.
I also like to snooze my notifications before I sign off every day so I'm not tempted to bring my work life into my personal life.
6. Keep one to-do list
I’m sometimes guilty of writing my to-do list items down on multiple sticky notes, only for them to grow into a large, menacing pile in my office at the end of the day. Whether or not you prefer handwriting your to-do list or keeping it digital with a project management tool like Asana, pick one format and stick to it so you can spend less time scratching your head over what’s actually on your to-do list, and more time crossing items off of it.
7. Curb your ‘Zoom fatigue’
Feeling completely exhausted after a video call? It’s not just you.
“Zoom fatigue” is a very real phenomenon many of us are experiencing right now. According to Harvard Business Review, there are a few reasons why we feel especially tired after a video meeting, including feeling required to focus directly on our computer screens for long periods of time in order to absorb new information. To prevent eye strain from too much screen time, you can explore a blue light blocking app or use Night Shift.
8. Better yet, cut back on the number of meetings you schedule altogether
A recent Korn Ferry study revealed 51% of people believe spending too much time in meetings distracts them from completing their work. In-person time is essential for collaborative work, but there are more efficient ways to ask questions or share status updates when they don’t require real-time discussion, especially if you're spread out across different time zones.
A video message is the perfect middle ground between lengthy text updates and in-person meetings because it allows you to convey your message with a personal touch without the time and effort required to schedule a separate meeting.
9. Stay aligned with your teammates without overdoing it
It’s tempting to want to check in with colleagues more frequently when you’re not physically next to them, but clogging their calendars with synchronous check-ins or pinging them to gauge their response times isn’t the answer. (No one wants to spend their morning routine scrolling through work chats.)
A great way to mitigate this is to check in asynchronously — that way, everyone on your team will know exactly where everyone else is with their projects without affecting team morale. At Loom, we use Geekbot to share asynchronous team updates and to stay apprised of one another’s work.
10. Keep building culture
It’s invaluable to continue to create space to connect with teammates about your lives outside of work.
A simple way to do this is to begin meetings (or asynchronous Geekbot updates) by sharing something meaningful each person did on the weekend. It not only helps you form stronger bonds with your teammates, but reinforces the importance of work-life balance.
Another way we facilitate connections at loom is by using a Slack app called Donut to automatically pair one another with coworkers with whom we don't necessarily interact frequently. Donut facilitates intentional time for Loommates from across the organization to take time to get to know each other better not just as coworkers, but also as people, and to look out for each other's wellbeing.
11. Be intentional about how you communicate
Successful workplace communication doesn’t just mean having multiple tools at your disposal, but knowing how to use them appropriately and effectively. This especially rings true for remote teams.
For example, sending a few words of text in rapid succession might be a great way to communicate over text messages. Still, it can be daunting for your teammates to see they have multiple notifications from you that tie back to one thought. Before you start typing, think about how you can get your message across as succinctly and successfully as possible, whether through chat, email, video message, or an in-person meeting (and maybe even good, old-fashioned phone calls).
Before I sign off
Working remotely doesn’t mean replicating exactly what you would do in the office in a home setting. It can be a major adjustment for some, and it takes time to establish a more seamless work routine and truly make it work for you. Plus, what works one week for you might need to disappear altogether the next –– and that’s OK! But if there’s one thing you take away from this, it’s that even subtle shifts here and there can help you work more effectively no matter where you work from. Here's to making #wfh work for you.
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