How to Work Effectively Remotely

Remote working is on the rise. By some estimates the number of people working remotely in America including freelancers will form a majority of the US workforce by the year 2050, and globally the trend is towards increased remote working as the internet allows company to connect with freelancers across geographical zones. In the face of this new reality we have sought out some experts to share their tips on how to make the most of working remotely for freelancers.
Bullingan Team

Bullingan Team

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Ellen Johnson

Associate at CDC group
‘working remotely is a chance to shape work around life and not the other way around’

Edem Fiadjoe

CEO at Jet solutions / Web Consultant at Togolese Ministry of Post and Digital Economy
‘ working remotely can be rewarding but is not for everyone.’
  • Ellen Johnson
  • Edem Fiadjoe

The lifestyle flexibility that remote working generates makes it hugely appealing to the millennial generation, who are less willing to bend over backwards and sacrifice lifestyle for a job or career. For the last 2 years I worked remotely, as a manager and early employee with She Leads Africa. I would describe myself as an advocate of remote working, having benefited hugely from the opportunity to “live my best life”, whilst working extremely hard and delivering solid work. Remote working works, but ultimately a person's ability to perform well in this context largely depends on attitude as well as effective use of online tools.

The internet and it’s many tools have gifted us with remote work possibilities, such as video calling (aka virtual meeting). Tools such as Skype, Google hangouts, Facetime and Whatsapp enable us to have live, face to face interactions with colleagues, clients and mentors/mentees, from all aroundf the world (including your sofa or bed).

Always turn on cameras and create space for friendly interactions in order to increase trust between colleagues/clients/mentors. Whilst it may feel invasive/annoying to turn on your camera whilst working from home in your pj’s (or by the pool), video calling is extremely important for building rapport amongst remote team members and clients. Being able to read a person's facial expressions advances our abilities to develop meaningful relationships. Additionally, creating space for friendly interactions on video calls is equally important. In an office environment, colleagues might have lunch together at the office, banter between tasks whilst sitting at their desks, or have a friendly chat  after a meeting. Creating substitute space for friendly interaction deeply strengthens the social capital that manifests between clients/colleagues/teams and is therefore likely to increase productivity and revenue for the company.

No matter where you are in the world or what your circumstance, developing a “show up for work” mindset on working days is key.

Getting up early, showering and dressing for work can significantly improve productivity and focus. Remote working means that your office is wherever you are and therefore it should be treated as an office. For many individuals, that temptation to crawl back into bed at 11am after a tough conference call will be too strong. And with no one there for hold you accountable for slacking productivity, you have to be your own boss and your own coach. Dressing for work each day and working at your desk/or table creates the idea of an office space and can decrease that temptation to slack or chill for a couple hours in the middle of the day.

Keeping track of your own productivity every day helps you to consistently manage your workload and deliver a high quality of work, as if your boss were sitting beside you.

Creating a list of your daily targets and sending these to your boss when you “arrive” at work in the morning, then sending a “check out” email in the evening when tasks are completed. This holds you accountable, to deliver the work you promised  on any given day. If you get through that list quickly- well done! you can go to the beach now. If it takes you until 11pm because you got distracted mid-day, that’s on you. The important part is that you are measuring your output and this gives your manager the opportunity to add/remove tasks to/from your daily list and also have a clear picture of what you are completing each day. As a remote manager in my last role, I found this particularly reassuring and informative, as I was able to easily measure the productivity of my team and their abilities to work consistently.

Effective use of online tools is crucial for achieving maximum productivity for your team or your client.Online management tools like Asana and Slack are really great interfaces for communicating regularly as a team (both for managers and employees). Slack has great spaces for brainstorming and having live discussions with your team. Asana is useful for getting work reviewed by your manager or setting tasks to your team due to it’s reminder, assigning and timeline mapping functions.

Google drive allows you to collaborate on documents/spreadsheets/powerpoints live, as well as store work in shareable folders, in the cloud. This tool is invaluable for remote teams, as it reduces the transaction time spent sending documents between team members. With Google drive, everyone with access to the folder can access key documents they need real time, whether it be to submit work to your boss, review a team members work or collaborate on a project. This is also extremely useful for managers who want to quickly check on the progress of a team member. If the document is in the drive, they can click in and have a look whilst their team member is working on it. Finally, storing documents in the drive is also convenient. If someones laptop suddenly crashes then there is still a version available on the cloud.If a team member has internet issues, but they need to send over a document to a client, the rest of the team can still access their work and help out, as it would all be saved in the drive.

The tools and methods mentioned above may assist a person to work effectively, as they did for me. However, the crucial ingredient to success in a remote role is “the right attitude”. Remote working is not easier, more chilled, or a way to do less work but still be paid. Effective remote working is based on trust. Your employer or client trusts you to deliver the same quality of work that you would deliver in a traditional office environment. In many cases, employers believe their employees might be happier in a remote role, and therefore even more productive. The right attitude understands and respects their privilege. The right attitude wants to prove to their employer that they can be trusted, that remote working works. Those of us lucky enough to have remote working opportunities should take our responsibility seriously. As more success stories of remote working come to light, we will see an increase in companies getting on board with it. Meaning, more people can, like us, “live their best lives” on their terms, and wherever they want.

As an Entrepreneur that works with clients from around the world, having the ability to work effectively remotely, is a much needed skill.

Working remotely is harder and a lot more stressful than most people think, especially if you want to do it right. That fact is though you may be working remotely, your clients will demand the same degree of productivity and access that they would if you were one of their employees at their offices.

Here are 8 tips to make working remotely work for you.


  1. Get Dressed


If you are working from home, make sure you are dressed properly. Why bother getting yourself dressed? Studies have shown that people associate certain traits with certain clothes and so when they wear those clothes they are more likely to exhibit those traits too.  Getting dressed signals to your brain that you are about to go to work. When you are still in your PJ’s, you are not mentally connected to your work and as a resultyou are going to be less focused and your productivity will suffer. So when you wake up, get yourself prepared and dressed just as if you were going to an office or meeting, it will help you be more focused and productive.


  1. Create a work space

As much as possible carve out a place of work.

In particular, do not work in the same space where you sleep.  There are two reasons for this, the first , is that  you will be tempted to procrastinate the second is that working where you sleep will ultimately affect the quality of your sleep. Research has shown that it is important to work somewhere different from where you sleep. The stronger your mental association between sleep and your bedroom. The more you will sleep.

So create yourself a workspace. If you don’t have an extra room at home, find a café,a co-working space where you can work. Look for a dynamic environment, one that that stimulates both your brain and your creativity.

  1. Plan your day


As an independent worker, one of the main difficulties, is staying focused and completing all the tasks you have due. Task managers such as Trello or Asana, can be particularly useful in this regard. They will enable you to list your goals for the day and keep track of progress, which is very important. By keep track of progress and making a note of each task completed you will get a mental boost as your task list grows shorter and shorter.


  1. Stay in touch with coworkers


If you are working in a team or as an independent contractor for a company, staying in touch with your team or the company’s contact point, is non-negotiable.


Idea-sharing, workflow information, project changes – in order to keep up to date with all these things you must have good communication channels with your teammates, clients or colleagues. You must always stay up to date with the latest regarding your project. Good communication channels are essential to avoid misunderstandings, doing unnecessary tasks and ensuring that you work as efficiently as possible.  Slack is a very useful tool in this regard.


  1. Learn some IT skills


Something to keep in mind is that working remotely, especially when you work from home, you will most likely not be able to call upon someone from an IT department to help you out whenever you have a problem with your computer. It is therefore crucial to master a few basic IT skills that will get you out of any tough spots and allow you solve some simple computer problems.


You will need to know how to reset your internet connection, (by turning your router off and then back off), how to reboot your internet (disactivating your wifi and reactivating it). Outside of that the internet is your best friend.  Sites such as Quora , and lifewire are extremely useful in this regard.


For freelance workers, my advice is to also learn some computer skills. It goes without saying that you should, know perfectly the software you are supposed to use on a daily basis.  But you should also familiarize yourself with a graphic design software such as Photoshop ( or canva which is a more basic online graphic design software which is also free) , learn a bit of coding (Python, java, or ruby on rails)  and learn to master office suit programs such as powerpoint and excel. The reason for this is simple, the more you are able to do on your own the less dependant you are on other service providers and it will cut down your costs tremendously if you only outsource the major technical needs but are able to do the simple stuff yourself.



  1. Importance of validation.


As a freelancer, providing services to clients and getting paid for them involves completing a number of clearly defined stages: the prospecting, conversion, billing and delivery stages.  At each stage, it is essential to ensure you total client validation, before you move onto the next phase. Do not move onto the next stage without making sure your client has validated what you are doing! Getting validation is essential. It stops you from slaving yourself for many hours on a feature or piece of work only to be told that it is not needed, or worse that they actually wanted something completely different.  As a remote worker wasted time is your worst enemy. Even more so if you are a freelancer  since ,after all, any additional time you spend correcting on an assignment for a client is time you could be spending on another client.   


  1. Separate your professional and private life.


It is important to split the two. It is the hardest thing to do when you are working remotely since distractions will abound: friends or family dropping in unexpectedly, chores to do. This is part of the reason why it is important to find a working space, to create an effective distinction between moments when you are in work mode and moments when you are in relax mode.

Additionally do not be afraid of being inflexible and frank with friends and family. Just because you are not in an office, does not mean you want to be disturbed and that is something you will need to get across. Just like they would not barge in unexpectedly at your office to ask you to do things or to eat up your time , they should not be a distraction to you when you are working from home. They will understand.


Take some breaks:


At work, you will certainly have to breaks to have some fresh air outside or a coffee. There is no reason to not do the same while working remotely.


  1. Do some physical activities:


When you are thinking of taking a break a good way to decompress is by doing some physical activity. Sport is an excellent addition to your remote working lifestyle. Exercise , is good for your health , will help you sleep better and will make you more focused.



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How to Work Effectively Remotely

Remote working is on the rise. By some estimates the number of people working remotely in America including freelancers will form a majority of the US workforce by the year 2050, and globally the trend is towards increased remote working as the internet allows company to connect with freelancers across geographical zones. In the face of this new reality we have sought out some experts to share their tips on how to make the most of working remotely for freelancers.
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