7 Tips on Improving Work-life Balance While Working Remotely

The COVID pandemic forced many companies to shift to remote work. Without much preparation, employees were suddenly forced to work from their homes. While for some this was a positive change – they suddenly could sleep in and be more flexible with their time during the day, others found themselves in a messy brew of household chores, work emails, zoom calls, and family interruptions.

Work from home allows us to spend more time with our partners, kids, pets, and simply, ourselves, but what if you struggle to put aside your work, now that it can’t simply be left at the office? Of course, it is all about setting boundaries – easier said than done! Thankfully, we give you 7 clear and direct ways to achieve a better work-life balance when working remotely:

1. Create a Workspace

The number one tip every remote work expert gives is creating a workspace at home – decluttered and clear of any distractions. In some ways, it should resemble an office at home. This helps draw a clear line between work and home which, in turn, helps you focus. Make sure to put all possible distractions, like your phone (this especially applies to those of us who have a work and a personal phone) away. But what if your distractions are in the same place as your work – namely, your laptop and phone? Creating a digital workspace can be a bit more difficult, but there are ways. For instance, a Chrome extension StayFocusd allows you to block particular websites for a specific period. It might be a tough realization when you will unconsciously click on one of your procrastination websites and instead of accessing it, you will be shown a strict message that you, indeed, must be working right now. But, believe us, it’s a good reminder that will ultimately save you a lot of time.

2. Find your own self-care practice & dedicate time to it

Taking breaks is important, but make sure you don’t spend them just stressing your brain out by a different type of activity – like scrolling your Instagram feed or taking care of your child. Take quality breaks. Instead of blindly following the wellness trends, figure out what helps you unwind. Of course, it can be something we’ve all heard about like yoga, meditation, or drinking a big glass of water. But it might also be anything you enjoy and feel refreshed after. Some people like lying on the floor for 10 minutes to feel grounded, while others enjoy dancing to their favorite pop song. And since you’re working from home, no one will think your self-care is strange! After all, self-care is about caring for your self, no anybody else’s. Whatever it is, plan your breaks and don’t skip them. Your productivity depends on how well you rest.

3. Go outside

This is a very simple tip but in the world of the pandemic, it might be ignored by many remote workers. No matter how much some of us hated commuting to the office every morning, at least we got to see the world around us every single day. Now, that it’s not a part of our lives, we have to consciously choose to go outdoors. If the weather isn’t that great and you don’t have a reason to go outside, like visiting a friend or grocery shopping, it might be a real challenge to leave the house. However, when both work and personal life are situated in the same space, it is extremely beneficial for your overall well-being to get out of the house regularly. So make sure you prioritize having at least a ten-minute walk outside every single day and see how it changes your stress levels.

4. Take days off when you need them

Taking paid days off might seem counterintuitive for some remote employees. But equating working from home to a vacation ultimately comes from a lack of recognition of your work’s value. Ultimately, this is a dangerous practice as you risk burning out quickly. When you feel drained, anxious, and overwhelmed by the work, and the daily self-care practices are just not enough, don’t hesitate to ask for days off.

5. Keep a to-do list and don’t multitask

Unless you live under a rock, you must have heard of the bad reputation that multitasking gets. While there are said to be methods of effective multitasking, most of us do it because we are either overwhelmed and think that attending to everything at once will make it faster, or we lack focus and switch between tasks as they fall into our hands. Both of these things just waste your time. A good to-do list with broken down tasks and clear order can help avoid multitasking. First of all, breaking down big tasks into small ones allows you to have a better sense of how far you are in your work. For example, instead of writing down “post an article”, break it down into “research, outline, write, proofread, edit, make design for, schedule, post”. Secondly, have an order in which you will be completing the tasks. Use apps that sync between multiple devices (can be as simple as Notes for Apple users), so that you always stay updated.

6. Block specific hours for work

This piece of advice goes hand in hand with the previous one. If your company allows you to work flexible hours, this seemingly beneficial condition might become the hardest part of keeping a healthy work-life balance. Whether you will be postponing work or stretching it far into your personal time, you will feel stressed and unsatisfied with the two constantly clashing. Block out specific time slots for your work, including short and long breaks. Consider the previous tip and allocate time slots for different tasks.

7. Once finished with work, don’t go back to it

Last but not least, if you find yourself returning to work after you finished, this one is for you. And if you struggle to determine when you finish, go back to tip number 6. One last email? One last call? Just perfecting this one last thing? This is work. You can’t achieve a work-life balance if you don’t draw a line between one and the other. But we understand that this doesn’t come easy. Some tips include using the same tools to block work-related websites for when you rest and spend time with yourself and your loved ones. Another useful method is physically putting away work – your laptop or work phone.

We sincerely hope these tips were helpful. Remember that the quality of your work directly depends on your wellbeing, so invest in yourself to achieve greater overall results.

Hybrid Work Model Considered

Have you already heard of the Hybrid work model? As leaders expect the pandemic to die down in the next months, many are considering returning their teams to the offices, at least partially. This is where the idea of a hybrid between remote and office work comes in – it’s supposed to combine the best of the two worlds. However, many experts are warning company leaders of the nuances that might turn the hybrid model experiment into a disaster. In this article, we’ll briefly present the potential challenges and solutions that will help you decide if the hybrid work model is for you.

What exactly is the Hybrid Model?

There are roughly two different definitions of the Hybrid work model. One suggests that everyone works both at the office and remotely some days of the week. The other definition refers to a separation of the workforce into two groups – one attends work at the office and the other is fully remote. Nonetheless, both of these separated working situations can have serious implications on an organizations’ success.

Some days in the office, some remote

Let’s first consider the hybrid model in which all employees are required to come to the office a number of days a week. The appeal is by bringing everyone to one place, the company ensures informal communication that might be missing in all-remote situations and provides a central hub for the organization. At the same time, this model still allows workers to be remote on some days, thus saving them commute time and allowing for more control and flexibility over their working lives.

In comparison to full-remote, this model immediately poses the following challenges. First of all, every employee has to be located in the vicinity of the office. Even with the requirement is one day per week in the office no one can live far away as they have to be able to reach the office. Resulting from this, the recruiters will have to deal with a limited talent pool. This hybrid model restricts you to hiring remotely. Thus, you will inevitably miss out on some international candidates you could consider if you were hiring remotely. Obviously, these are just things to consider when choosing to switch to hybrid, since if you do pick this model there is no alternative to being local. But if you want to allow for employees whose locations don’t let them come to the office, it could be worth considering the second hybrid model.

Some employees in the office, some fully remote

The idea behind this hybrid model is to allow some employees to stay remote full-time while others return to the office to work in the pre-COVID fashion. The main danger this model poses is creating two “classes” of employees. Firstly, managers tend to think less of the employees they don’t physically encounter on a daily basis. The basic “out of sight, out of mind” concept applies. In fact, the managers might even undervalue the efforts of remote workers in comparison to those they see putting in the hours every day at the office, and the lack of personal contact may also affect their view of remote workers in a negative manner.

The other side of this problem is the remote workers’ psychological well-being which directly affects their productivity. Many of those advocates for the importance of in-office working claim that remote workers feel isolated and left out as they fear missing out on what is happening in the office. Informal communication at the office might become a problem for both of the outlined hybrid models. But, clearly, its effects are more evident in the second one because it is always the same group of people who meet in person at the office and the same people who are always excluded from these interactions. Therefore, the only way to keep the productivity levels high is to adapt the traditional office system to accommodate the needs of the remote staff as well. In fact, many experts suggest companies adopt the first-remote policy which implies that the company would be able to run smoothly even if those in the office go remote.

The common enemy of both hybrid models

Informal meetings at the office risk being the main enemy of both hybrid work models. These brief unplanned meetings may seem like the most natural office practice. Indeed, why shouldn’t you be able to just pop by your colleague’s desk to ask a short question? Simply speaking, other people (and yes, even those in the office) are unaware of your short meeting. The problem is not only that they cannot participate, but that they likely won’t have a chance to see the results of it either. This goes against the main rule of remote work – clear and full documentation of the workflow. The same applies to conference calls. Remote workers can be made to feel like “second-class citizens” when they have to a group of colleagues through a monitor, and this can, in turn, affect the cohesion of employees and reduce the sense of camaraderie as well as employees’ experience of a ‘company culture.’ If the others are situated together in a room, they tend to exchange comments that will be hard for remote staff to hear and impossible to document.

Designing a hybrid model that works

Foreseeing the problems for both models we have discussed, the need for a new, smarter solution becomes clear. Specialists advise keeping the remote work rules in place as well as redesigning the office space for the new way of working. First of all, this means keeping documentation of the workflow that is prioritized and shared by all of the employees – remote and on-site. This will ensure everyone is on the same page.

Next, the regulation of informal meetings is needed. Not only should they be documented if something work-related is addressed, but the circumstances under which they happen for both remote and colocated colleagues should be discussed. This might mean allocating time slots in which remote workers meet online for informal chats with each other just like the staff at the office would do.

You will have to do some basic restructuring of your usual office work to prepare for this novel way of working. Those who aren’t physically present shouldn’t feel absent from the company’s workflow and it is the leaders’ responsibility to ensure this. One way to do this is redesigning the office to have individual spaces for calls instead of conference rooms so that both teams feel equal in their ability to communicate. When most conference rooms are eliminated so is the temptation to crowd in front of one monitor.

Should you or your company do it?

The hybrid model might become an effective work practice for companies that aren’t ready to go fully remote. However, without a structured approach to this transition, it might cost companies a lot of resources. You can’t just combine the traditional all-colocated and remote approach without rethinking it first. If you still think of the office space as the necessary “glue” for connected working, you automatically disadvantage those working for you remotely. If you do not embrace remote work, you won’t be able to embrace a hybrid model either. You will find yourself prioritizing on-site communication, staff, and processes while ignoring the results of your remote team. Adaptability is key and Changing your mindset is crucial. Then you can redesign the traditional office spaces and practices to fully address the needs of your remote workforce. You need both mental and structural change to succeed.

The hybrid model is new, and all new things demand us to accept some degree the unpredictability. But if well-prepared, you can revolutionize your work style and adapt to what might become the new “new normal”.

Culture Fit & Remote Hiring: How We Do It

In the day and age of work from home, one might think that since we do not have to communicate face-to-face and share an office fridge with our colleagues, it is less important to hire for cultural fit. However, in this new and unprecedented era, it couldn’t be more crucial to make sure that your new employees communicate and work in a way that aligns with your company.

What is Culture Fit?

Culture fit describes the process of hiring an employee whose work practice aligns with your company’s values, work customs, and communication style. This includes everything from the size and distribution of the workforce in your organization to the degree of informal communication between colleagues. However, many recruiters go with their gut when hiring for culture fit. This, in turn is a risky endeavor as it falls under the influence of personal biases. In this article, we will look at ways to both successfully define and communicate your corporate culture while, in turn successfully recruit in line with culture fit practices.

Why is Culture Fit important for remote teams?

Hiring someone according to culture fit is seen to positively affect the productivity and the overall well-being of the team and its members. To some extent, this is self-evident, as anyone would work harder to bring a firm they believe in to a success. Obviously, this remains true for remote teams as well.

However, there are even more reasons to focus on culture fit in the age of work-from-home, one of them being communication. Indeed, remote employees are often less eager to communicate with each other informally as usual office chit-chat is simply taken out of the equation. Hiring for culture fit helps bring more like-minded individuals on board, ensuring a more comfortable environment for communication. This, in turn, is shown to increase productivity on both personal and team levels. In the end, hiring for culture fit is really about building a strong front of professionals with a shared idea of where your company is headed as well as a shared enthusiasm to get it there.

How to define and express your company’s culture

Now that we’ve covered the significance of considering culture fit in recruitment processes, it’s time to get to the practical part – determining your company’s culture and understanding how to express it. In order to define your company’s culture, it’s best to simply describe the way it functions right now. What kind of communication style is mostly used? How do the hierarchical relationships function? What values does the company hold on the whole? Innovation? Tradition?, Environmental awareness? Diversity? Punctuality? Which performance metrics matter the most? These are all important questions to ask and discuss with your colleagues (and don’t forget to write down the answers!).

It is crucial to express your company’s culture in a meaningful and systematic way even before a job interview with a candidate. After all, the first time potential employees interact with your company is likely to be through social media channels and the website. Conveying your company’s values through unique content on the website, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other platforms is essential for the right candidates to be drawn to your brand in the first place and it’s important to make sure to put forward coherent messaging about your culture.

How to hire for culture fit when recruiting remotely

Understanding and describing your company’s culture is only half the battle. Now is the time to integrate it into the recruitment process. To determine whether a candidate is a culture fit for your company, it’s important to ask about their successes and failures, as well as things that make them proud, including questions such as why they left their previous job and why they chose their profession. It is also important to ask why they chose your company and whether the company’s goals resonate with their own worldview on a personal level. For each position (especially if your organization is rather big), consider also the smaller culture of each team. For example, this can mean the way tasks and results are communicated between the members of a team. And last but not least, be sure to ask the same set of questions in order to avoid a biased impression.

Our approach

At Coder Staffing we prioritize culture fit, providing our clients with top-notch developers that not only match all the technical requirements but are also able to easily join existing teams, complementing these team structures while ultimately strengthening the company itself. At the very beginning of any prospective cooperation, we discuss the values, goals, and working processes that exist in our client’s company and present them with candidates that fit them. Applying the extensive experience of matching Russian developers with foreign clients, we understand thoroughly the intricacies of intercultural communication and only offer the best-match candidates from our database. As we aim for long-term cooperation, our experienced team helps with the developer’s adaptation to the company. Indeed, over time most of our clients hire more than one developer, using our services. While we help to build these teams, we continue to put a strong focus on culture fit with our ultimate goal being a continuous partnership with our clients. Interviewing for culture fit in turn allows us to create sustainable teams that reliably deliver excellent results.

Podcasts about Remote Work

With the increasing flow of information we are exposed to on the daily basis, podcasts have become the new go-to when it comes to quality content on specialized topics. Here’s a list of our favorite podcasts that discuss all things remote work. Tune in!

  1. The Remote Show
    This interview-style podcast features tips, tools, and management concepts that help remote workers be more productive while keeping a healthy work-life balance.
  2. Building Remote Teams
    The podcast offers insightful conversations as well as practical advice which can help employers build better remote teams.
  3. Remoter Podcast
    The podcast is a great fit for both remote workers trying to achieve a better work-life balance and the employers who strive to build a strong remote team.
  4. Mastering Remote
    In the first season of this podcast, also known as ‘Outside the Valley’, diverse start-up leaders share their experience of building remote teams. The second season offers bite-sized episodes with expert advice on particular topics around remote work.
  5. The Yonder Podcast
    The episodes of the Yonder Podcast feature interviews with people discussing and working out all things remote work and distributed teams, from workflow organization to employees’ well-being.
  6. Distributed
    Hosted by the co-founder of Word Press, Matt Mullenweg, the Distributed podcast provides an in-depth look at the future of work. Mullenweg shares his own extensive experience in creating and managing large remote teams and also interviews other leaders in managing remote work.
  7. Rosie Report
    This female-led podcast is focused on “re-imagining a more equitable future of work”. Starring the game-changers and emerging leaders from multiple industries, the podcast explores the topic of remote work from a broader perspective.