Business Technology

The Remote Work Survival Guide

Photo by Ian Harber on Unsplash

Advice on Working from Home from an Experienced Remoter

It’s a myth that working from home is only for introverts.  Extroverts and omniverts (chameleons who can shift between introverted and extroverted characteristics depending on what circumstances call for and external stimulation) can also thrive in a work from home ecosystem.  The fact is the vast majority of people are not extroverts or introverts.  

Most people are omniverts. They can keep their head down, shut up and work when needed. They can also turn around and approach an attractive member of the opposite sex with ease and make new friends on the fly.  

The uncontrollable extrovert and stereotypical introvert are rare extremes on the spectrum.  

But even if you are a true extrovert, you can thrive working at home if you are able to embrace technology.  Extroverts who embrace technology garner as much satisfaction from a zoom meeting as they do from a boardroom meeting.  The thing that helps true extroverts work at home is that true extroverts have their own circle of friends outside of work.  And those friendships help fill the social needs of extroverts.  The final piece of the puzzle that helps extroverts work from home is that they often have work at home roles that require remote human interaction, such as manager, sales person or account executive.  Communication with clients and employees over the phone lets them get their gab on. 

Just because anyone can work from home doesn’t mean it’s best.  While any personality type can work effectively from home with the right set of habits, some job functions are better suited to work from home than others.  For instance I don’t think a waitress, chef, or custodian will ever work from home.  But my primary care doctor has been working from home during coronavirus quarantine without skipping a beat, so work from home is certainly not limited to technology jobs. The future will surprise us with how many positions can be done from a home office.  

So now that we’ve established that any personality type can work from home provided it suits their job function, let’s look at what people who work from home can do to get the most out of each day.  To be a peak performing remote worker you need to establish a daily routine, stay focused, self manage, keep your boss happy, keep your employees happy, use the right tools, and keep yourself happy.     

Establishing a Daily Routine While Working From Home

To establish a daily routine when working from home start by knowing your peak hours.  Those are the hours in the day when you are most productive and capable of doing your best work.  Schedule your most challenging tasks with the heaviest cognitive load to coincide with your peak hours.  Maybe it’s solving a difficult programming challenge.  Maybe it’s writing an article for a major publication.  Maybe it’s a meeting with your toughest client.  You want to handle your toughest challenges in the moments when you are firing on all cylinders.  

Next, list what you want to accomplish in a day.  Certain positions have a project manager who manages their weekly and monthly workloads.  Others don’t.  But the day to day schedule is down to the individual employee.  While managing your own weekly and monthly schedule and planning ahead is important, the most crucial thing you can do is to list what you will accomplish each day at the beginning of the day.  Then, cross off the accomplishments as you achieve them.  Priorities are ever changing and ever shifting.  So daily task management is necessary.

Sort your daily schedule into time blocks.  If you’re in sales, this could be a block for cold calls, a block for follow ups, a block for current customer contact and a block for responding to warm leads.  If you’re a developer, this could be a block for front end code, a block for back end code, a block to work on the database, a block for meetings, a block to answer emails and a block to update your project manager on progress. A marketer’s blocks might be a block to optimize campaigns, a block to review analytics and reports, a block to create reports, a block to answer emails and a block to report results up the chain.

How to Stay Focused While Working From Home

Start the process of staying focused by managing the noise.  Do what you can to make your working environment quiet.  But for moments when the noise level is out of your control, having a good pair of noise canceling headphones and managing your own playlist will allow you to block out background noises.  Get the MP3 files of songs you want to hear.  Don’t use a streaming service when you are working or doing anything important or prior to doing anything important.  Music can affect your mood.  The information you take in before making a decision can affect your decision.  You don’t want that affect to happen randomly from some song choosing algorithm.  You want it to happen by your deliberate choice.  Make a playlist that puts you in your optimal working mood.  Or if you can’t work with music, have a white noise sound track.  

Communicate with housemates.  Create an understanding with those living with you about your work schedule.  Whether it’s your children at home or roommates, let them know when your critical focus hours are.  Also, let them know when you are less busy in case they need something from you.  If you have children, have set activities for your children to do, like ABCMouse, building with blocks or painting.  Create a list of tasks to divert them to if they start to interrupt your work.  

Manage your boss.  Some traditional managers are uncomfortable managing a remote team.  They tend to worry about what their employees are actually up to and imagine the worst.  So they check in with employees too frequently or require too many updates.  If you have such a boss, you can alleviate their anxiety by sending a morning email with what you plan to work on each day and an end of day email with what you accomplished.   

Have a home office or dedicated work space.  If you have the space, designate a room as a home office.  If you don’t have a dedicated room, at least work from the same spot each day.  If you are very tight on space, you can get a corner desk, which is a triangular shaped desk made to fit in the corner of a room.

Entering your work space will signal to your brain that it’s time to work.  You can learn how to setup a home office from scratch for under $500 here. 

Have a goto backup work location.  Potentially your main work location could get disrupted.  A neighbor doing a construction project, uncooperative roommates or city work could all disrupt your work day.  That’s why you want to be prepared with a dedicated backup work space you can go to.  Research co-working spaces which rent by the day or hour, coffee shops and libraries in your area.  Pro tip:  Test out your backup workspace on your own before you need it on a day you aren’t very busy.  This will let you know whether it meets your needs before you actually need it.  

Have a work browser and a play browser.  Your browser naturally gets set up to push your mind in certain directions.  That can be towards work or away from work.  The websites which autofill as suggestions when you start to type a search are often based on your past searches.  The shortcuts that show up on your home screen, the toolbars you have installed and your saved favorites all can be distractions if they link to places of play.  But if they link to places of work they will keep you focused.  That’s why you should launch one browser if you plan to work and another if you plan to read the news, play online games, watch videos or do other non- work related activities.  

Have a time to take breaks built into your routine.  Taking breaks is important to operating at optimal capacity.  The mind needs time to reset itself.  

When you’re in the zone, motivated and rolling, keep going.  Keep pushing that intensity.  But if you get stuck or are moving slowly, stand up, walk away from your computer and take a 10-15 minute break.  Then get back to it.

Sticking to your daily routine mentioned in a previous section will also help you stay focused when working from home.

How to Keep Your Boss Happy

Ninety five percent of keeping your boss happy when working from home in a remote position is the same as when working from an office.  But there are several key differences.   The first step to keeping your boss happy when working from home is to meet your goals.  Work from home jobs tend to be more performance based than in office jobs because there’s less opportunity to build rapport with your boss. So it’s more important than ever to meet your KPIs when working remotely.

Exceed your goals.  Of course the only thing better than meeting your goals is exceeding your goals.  Good remote bosses judge their employees on performance because there is less person to person interaction in a work from home position.  So as long as you are exceeding your goals there is less opportunity for your boss to release you from a remote position.

Proactively communicate.  Proactive communication is critical when working remotely.  Your boss doesn’t have as much insight into what you are doing.  So you can alleviate any anxiety by communicating proactively.  Escalate any issues you can’t solve on your own.  It may seem uncomfortable at first, but you can proactively provide your boss with your daily to do list in the morning and your accomplishments at the end of the day.

Be polite.  The same social skills apply when working from home as in an office, even if there is less opportunity to apply them.  There will be no water cooler moments in your home office, but you still need to be polite and courteous with coworkers and customers in meetings and on the phone.

Address performance issues.  If you are not meeting your KPIs, or you feel like you are not achieving as much as you should, bring up the subject with your boss.  Don’t start out by stating you don’t think you are performing well.  Instead, solicit your boss’s opinion.  Start the conversation out with an opener like “what do you think about the quality of my work so far,” or “have I been meeting all of your expectations recently.”  If your boss says you are doing fine, then you probably are.  However if your boss has concerns, talk about what you can do to improve.   

Provide a plan.  It’s important to provide your boss with a plan.  The more you are able to communicate how you are spending your time and how that benefits the company the more confident and relaxed your boss will be.  Having a work plan also makes sure everyone is on the same page with how your time will be spent, before the time is spent. And, it keeps you honest and accountable that you are working on the right things. 

Top Tools for Remote Workers

  • Zoom –  Zoom is the world’s most popular video chat tool for working from home.
  • Trello – Trello is the world’s most popular agile development cards and scrum based project management tool.
  • Basecamp – Basecamp is a project management and team communication tool wrapped into one.
  • Slack – Slack is the world’s most popular group chat client.
  • Invision – Invision is a must for anyone who wants to collaborate on a visual design remotely.  It allows multiple users to insert comments or annotations into any part of a visual design file.
  • Werkington – Werkington is working diligently to become one of the top tools for remote workers by posting new daily remote jobs, providing an online community for remote workers to network and posting weekly content on how to win and thrive in a work from home job.

So those are the top 5 work from home tools and one up and comer.  There is a list of the top 300 work from home tools placed into categories here if you are looking for something specific or for other options.

How to Be Happy When Working From Home

“I don’t know about you, but in my line of work, it’s important to be happy.”  Hunter Thompson.  

Maintaining good habits for happiness is critical for the at home worker.  Perhaps the biggest danger of remote work is if work from home employees don’t maintain their hygiene, fitness, healthy diet and social interaction levels.  Of course you are going to wake up at the same time, take a shower and brush your teeth every morning if you are going into the office.  It’s critical for people who work at home to maintain these same routines, even though they may not be in direct contact with people during the work day.  It doesn’t hurt to make sure you smile and laugh every day as well.  Read a comic, have a pet, spend time with your spouse or children, or find something in your life that can make you laugh and smile each day.  

Have a social group outside of work.  If you work from home, daily human in person interaction is a concern you have to take seriously.  You are on your own to create it.  If you are having trouble, you can try joining a sports team, social club or dating app.  You can also look for pickup sports games in your neighborhood or reach out to old friends for a get together.  

Actually do your work, do it well and get it done on time, while working a reasonable number of hours.  Nothing builds anxiety like not getting your work done or being behind on a deadline.  Working hard to meet performance metrics will lower your anxiety level.

Find a job that has tasks that you find important or fulfilling.  If you don’t find your job important or fulfilling, consider other options within your skillset.  If there’s nothing within your skillset to fulfill you, consider going back to school or attending a coding or marketing boot camp to expand your skills to include a type of work you would actually like to do.

Find a job that compensates you more than fairly. If it doesn’t, consider having a tough talk with your boss about compensation, backed up with research.  Find the industry average pay for the type of work you are doing and then create a case for why you should be in the top 50% of the pay bracket, or consider applying elsewhere after putting in at least three years.

About the author


William Ellerman

William Ellerman is representing - a platform to help connect remote companies with work from home talent, to help workers find remote jobs, connect with one another and gain education about remote work. He has 15 years of professional experience and has worked both in house and remotely, most notably as Sr. eCommerce Analyst for AutoZone and Sr. Marketing Manager for