Tips for Working Remotely and Staying Connected

Summer is here, which means many of us will be taking vacations, staycations, and even workcations (yes, that’s a thing says the Wall Street Journal.) We strongly believe in the benefits of completely unplugging from work during your vacation, but you might choose at some point to have a laptop open while your toes are in the sand.

Who better to offer advice on how to stay effective when you’re working remotely than Julie Clarenbach. Julie not only works out of her home office in Portland, she is also responsible for making sure other remote Fools feel connected and effective no matter where they live.

Julie shared with us some of the biggest challenges she faces working remotely as well as the tips and tools she uses to stay focused and connected.

A typical Fool’s view of Julie every day.

What’s the biggest challenge about working remotely? And how do you address it?

The biggest challenge is information. When you work remotely, it’s harder for people to know what you’re working on and how things are going, which can in turn make them a little anxious, so I have several regular communications with co-workers, my supervisor, and key stakeholders so they know what’s going on and can weigh in as necessary. I’m also easy to find on Slack. Similarly, it’s harder to know what’s going on, because you aren’t getting the hallway conversations. I follow a lot of channels on Slack that aren’t directly related to my work, so that I’m absorbing a wide range of information. That context helps me understand business decisions and see where my projects fit in.

What do you miss the most about working in an office?

Getting to grab friends and colleagues for a walk-and-talk. Sometimes talking through problems is the best way to solve things, and the informality of the walk-and-talk makes it low stakes. Also, it’s fun!

What are three tools you couldn’t work without?

My headset/camera set up makes video calls more successful; it helps avoid the dreaded feedback echoes that can make those calls painful. Just as in the office, my docking station/2-monitor setup gives me the ability to look at multiple documents or sites at once, which makes it easier to get things done efficiently. Finally, I use Asana to track all of the various tasks and project I’m working on.

How do you minimize distractions and stay focused?

My office is in its own room at the top of the house, so household distractions are few. Beyond that, I’ve turned off all notifications so that I can concentrate on whatever task I’m working on. It’s easier for me to stay focused in my home office than it is at HQ, simply because it’s quieter.

Things get meta. Here’s the Slack conversation that built this blog post.

What are some things you do to stay connected with coworkers?

I have good morning conversations on Slack with key friends/co-workers first thing, I have regular video chats with people, and I hang out on Slack most of the time. Basically, I replicate virtually the experiences I’d be having with them face-to-face.

Has Fool HQ done anything in particular that made you feel more connected?

Slack was an absolute game-changer, because it gave me a way to stay connected and informed not only with my own team, but with teams across the Fool. Also, setting up the conference rooms for effective video calling was A+. Finally, tools like live-streaming and Slido have made it easier for me to attend and participate in company-wide or business-unit-wide meetings in real time, and that makes me feel like I’m a valued part of the company.

What’s your best piece of advice for others working remotely?

Other than “over-communicate,” my best piece of advice is to know yourself and what you need to be happy and productive, and figure out how to set that up for yourself. It doesn’t have to look like someone else’s set up; it only has to work for you!

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