Have you found yourself working remotely lately?

Many people have abruptly shifted to remote-based work due to COVID-19. But in truth, remote work has been growing in popularity anyway. This includes roles such as electrical estimators, where it’s not absolutely necessary to always be on-site.

If you’re making the move from having been based in a workplace, it can mean a few adjustments to how you work. For example, you need to figure out where, when and how you do your work – what do you need to be productive?

Here at Countfire, we’re used to working remotely as are many of our customers and connections. Here are some of the best tips we’ve found to maintain remote productivity:

Download our extra tips for remote work here

Give yourself a break

No, not from work altogether (although breaks are important!), but give yourself a break from being overly hard on yourself if you need time to adjust. Working from home, or wherever else you’re working remotely from can be a huge transition. We often feel the pressure to be super-productive immediately, but the truth is you’ll probably be more productive if you take a beat to sort yourself out.

There is such a thing as being too stressed to be productive, although we also tend to need a little pressure to be at our best. If you’re feeling overly stressed because you’re still trying to figure out how to make remote work productive, you’re probably impacting your own productivity right there.

With the COVID-19 situation in-particular, many people are juggling work along with other commitments that must now be managed from home. School work, for example. It’s important to sort out your routines, communicate with your employer and others involved, and devise something that works for everyone.

Follow a schedule

It might sound obvious, but it’s easy to slip out of following any sort of schedule when you don’t actually have to leave your house. A schedule gives you structure that helps ensure your productivity. 

For example, while it might be tempting to remain in your pajamas all day, several studies have found that what we wear can impact our mindset. While some people might be just as productive in their PJs, for many, it’s a psychological shift that is distracting. A routine of getting up at the same time and getting dressed for work can help.

One of the great things about telecommuting is that you often have more flexibility. Unless you have specific meetings to attend, you can probably arrange your day so that you work during your most productive hours. So if you’re not a morning person at all, maybe you work through the middle of the day or into the evening. There are studies to show that shorter, more intense work days can be much more productive.

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Define your boundaries

One known hazard of remote work is that boundaries can become hazy if you don’t define them clearly. For example, you might find yourself working at all hours of the day (because if you work from home, you never “leave work.” You might also find that family or friends assume that you are available during the day because you’re working from home.

Neither of those situations are great for productivity. If you’re constantly working, you run the risk of burning out, while if you’re interrupted by others a lot, it’s hard to get anything done!

Setting “office hours” for yourself and sticking to them can help. Communicate with the people around you and let them know that you need to work during those hours. Sometimes at home, rules such as “please don’t come in if the office door is shut” can help.

Remember this BBC interview, interrupted by the kids? 

Have the right tools

Remote productivity deeply relies on having the right tools available to you. When we recently chatted with Ronan Carroll of Lucid Electric, he talked about how he needed to find another way to count takeoffs and produce estimates as a remote-based electrical estimator.

Ronan was trained to produce estimates by printing off drawings and manually counting takeoffs. At home, he didn’t have a large printer and had to go out to get drawings printed. Practically speaking, he lived in a small apartment and drawings would take over the whole space. When COVID-19 hit, he wouldn’t have been able to go out to print drawings anyway.

Fortunately, he got onto cloud-based takeoff software before the pandemic. As a Countfire user, Ronan could continue working remotely, without his work routines being impacted by COVID. Other clients have also specifically chosen Countfire because it is cloud-based.

This is just one example – cloud-based software is invaluable to remote workers for many other functions, too. For example, project management software (such as Asana), communication tools (such as Slack) and time management or tracking software (such as Hubstaff).

Cloud-based software has multiple advantages for remote work. For example:

  • It lives on the cloud so you don’t need a huge amount of harddrive space to install software, and you’re not reliant on work servers to access software.
  • It is “real time,” so you’re always looking at the most up-to-date version.
  • Software updates are made automatically by the software developer.
  • It’s easy to share work with others in a remote setting.

Besides software, it’s also important to have a decent laptop or desktop computer that runs reliably. As a remote worker, there is nothing more frustrating than losing precious time due to tech issues!

Create a work space

Not everyone had time to put together a home office setup in time for pandemic restrictions, but it’s still important to have some kind of work space that is conducive to productivity. 

For example, if you have to work at the dining table, making sure you can set up as comfortably as possible is important. If you have an ergonomic chair, this can help in terms of posture and comfort. Ensuring that any clutter is cleared away also helps – it’s a major distraction for many people!

Lighting is also important. If the space is too dim, it can naturally make you feel more sleepy throughout the day. 

Free download: Get our extra tips for remote work here

Have good communication systems

We mentioned tools for communication among the cloud-based software options, but it’s worth noting communication as an important tip for remote productivity. It’s important to be intentional about having good systems in place so that you avoid miscommunications that can hurt productivity.

This looks different for every workplace, but here are a few ideas:

  • Set regular startup or weekly review meetings as a team. These can easily be done by video chat.
  • Make a habit of “overcommunicating.” We say this because there’s a tendency for people to think they don’t need to mention that item, or to assume that others already know that piece of information. It’s better to assume that everyone needs to know.
  • Make sure everyone knows exactly how they can get hold of you.
  • If you have issues that need to be resolved quickly, pick up the phone. There tends to be a lot of room for misunderstanding in text-based communication.
  • Have a good system for sharing documents. For example, a cloud-based storage software such as Dropbox ensures everyone has access to what they need.

Final thoughts

While many people were suddenly thrust into remote work due to the pandemic, from what we’ve seen of the electrical and construction industries, there was already a shift toward remote work in the long-term.

Traditionally, employers have often been concerned that people might not be as productive in a remote environment, but the truth is, with good systems and processes in place, they can even be more productive than before. Remote work cuts out tiring commutes and allows people to focus on their work during the hours that they are at their best.

COVID may have forced the hand of businesses, but we think remote work will be here to stay a while.