Can you really be as productive working remotely?

Being productive while working remotely is easier said than done. Keep these 5 things in mind to boost your chances of being a productive remote worker!

Employee Experience

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Hello from Portugal!

I am writing this blog on day 7 of my remote month in Porto. I am in an adorable café near my co-working space because, as I have come to realize, the Portuguese aren’t as keen on a “coffee-to-go” as the North Americans!

Why am I in Portugal? If you’ve read my last article, you’d know that I am currently on my first remote working experience, where I’m working for a month in Porto, Portugal (click below to check it out if you haven’t done so already!)

How is it going so far, you ask?

Fantastic! The city is gorgeous, the weather has been amazing, the people are incredible,and the food and wine are to die for. Bonus: the Wi-Fi is solid.

But has it all been a bed of roses? Not entirely.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to believe that life’s best-case scenario would be being able to climb up the ladder while working remotely from across the globe. But the question I ask myself (and get asked most frequently) is: Are you really as productive working remotely as you are at the office?

While that’s a yes or no question, the situation isn’t quite so black and white. There are many elements that will contribute to your success as a remote worker, and the answer is: it is certainly possible!

But, as I have come to learn over the past week, there are certain things you will need to keep an eye out for to improve your chances of success. So, without further ado, here’s a list of things to do to be a productive remote worker:

Consider the Time Zone Differences

My workspace for the month is currently 5 hours ahead of our offices in Montreal, which turned out to be more of a challenge than I had initially anticipated.

The first few days, I aimed to overlap with the rest of my team for at least half a workday – their morning hours matched perfectly with my afternoon hours. However, after 2 days, I realized that it wasn’t incredibly ideal, especially considering that our work is very team-based.

So, what can you do to avoid the nuisances of time zone differences?

Consider the nature of your job. You may not have a problem if your work doesn’t rely on anyone else, and no else relies on your work. But if you work very closely with your team and require collaboration for success, then consider shifting your schedule to line up with theirs as much as possible. It would also be a good idea to avoid parts of the world that would simply make it impossible for everyone to be online at the same time.

Speaking of collaboration…

Don’t shy away from collaboration tools

Depending on your personality, you could be one of those people who loves exploring and using new tools, or one who finds it challenging to keep up with every new trend that pops up. But regardless of the type of person you are, collaboration tools will save your life while working remotely.

There’s a plethora of collaboration tools out there for you to use, and a million blogs with examples, so I won’t bore you with another list. I will, however, highlight the importance of using tools that everyone on your team is comfortable with.

Think about what you would need from a collaboration tool, and then consider the personalities of the people on your team. Try to keep things simple (whether that’s in your nature or not), and take the time to help those on your team who aren’t as adaptable as you are.

Be smart about the tools you use. In this case, more is NOT better.

Get comfortable with being out of the loop

I know…. This sounds harsh, but it’s true. No matter how hard you try, there are certain things that you’re going to miss simply due to the fact that you aren’t physically present.

You may be virtually present in all the meetings, are constantly on slack with your coworkers, or cc-ed in every email that’s being sent out, but that quick decision or conversation that happened when you’re your boss and co-worker bumped into each other? Forget about it.

Missing out on communications that affect your work can be particularly frustrating, but being out of the loop on every-day office life is also a bit disheartening (although that may be just me – we’re a tightknit bunch at AtmanCo!). Regardless, it’s most important to remember to take it with a grain of salt. It’s not you, or them, it’s the situation.

Simply recognizing that this is bound to happen, and shifting your mindset into problem-solving mode instead of wallowing mode will make a world of difference.

The view from my coworking space in Porto. Pretty cool, huh?

Master the art of effective communication

I have a confession: the first day I landed in Portugal and started my workday, I was sending my team messages and notifications like there was no tomorrow.

I felt like I was so far away, and I needed to talk to everyone about everything to make sure I stay on track.

Needless to say, it quickly became annoying, and my messages were starting to get ignored. Which is exactly why the word “effective” is key.

Find the right balance for yourself and your team, and choose the right channel for your messages.

Know yourself and your team

You can use all the tools and do all the prep, but being productive while working remotely relies heavily on the habits and behaviors of everyone involved.

Be sure you understand the circumstances and situations in which each of your team members best performs, and try to create them as best you can.

For example, I am a more traditional person who likes structure – so I have taken over a spot at the co-working space here in Porto and declared it my own, and I go there everyday at the same time.

I also know that my team is generally more spontaneous than most, so we make a conscious effort to keep each other up to date on all the tasks that end up on our plate, and work together to organize ourselves for efficiency.

There are, of course, many more tips and tricks to being productive while working remotely, and I have just scratched the surface. However, if you consider time zone differences, don’t shy away from collaboration tools, master the art of effective communication, and understand the habits of your and your team, you are definitely on the right track!

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