In the Localization Industry, we are always working in distributed teams. It’s standard practice to hire linguists who live in their native countries. This way, linguists stay current on always-evolving language trends — keeping current with how people in their country are actually speaking these days.

On any given day, a team translating into 5 languages, with a PM and a manager, might be a team in 7 countries. In localization, working in distributed and remote-first teams is part of the DNA. That’s why I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about working from home…

Working from home sounds like a dream — no loud phone conversations, no cubicles, and, if you’re an introvert, no small talk waiting in line at the café. You can even bring your best-friend doggo for a walk at lunchtime because, well, when you work from home, it’s always bring-your-pet-to-work day! Best of all, the webcam just captures torso, upwards, so definitely an opportunity to wear your sweatpants to work.

And while all of this “from home” stuff sounds great, it leaves out the “work” part. Let’s dive into what makes a successful work-from-home day and a few ideas of how you can set yourself up to focus and get s**t done.

Here’s how the ActiveCampaign team is making the most of work-from-home:

  1. Find a quiet place to work
  2. Ensure you have reliable fast Wi-Fi
  3. Test your audio equipment
  4. Stay in touch with your team
  5. Keep in touch with your manager
  6. Hold effective remote meetings
  7. Set boundaries
  8. Over-communicate
  9. Slack your messages clearly

1. Find a quiet place to work

This is critical. You’ll be participating in Zoom and Hangouts meetings all day, with colleagues, customers, and prospects. Don’t make them strain to understand you. Working at a café or common space during video calls is probably a bad idea.

2. Ensure you have reliable fast Wi-Fi

Your standard here should be higher than casually scrolling through Reddit at Starbucks. Use fast.com or speedtest.net to ensure you have the minimum requirements for Zoom video conferencing: Minimum bandwidth is 600kbps (up/down) and recommended is 1.5 Mbps (up/down).

3. Test your audio equipment

This takes 5 minutes before your Zoom call and buys you an eternity of goodwill from other participants who don’t want to wait for you to re-pair your AirPods from your iPhone to Mac.

4. Stay in touch with your team

Use Slack to share pictures of your home workspace and invite people who are between calls/meetings to virtual coffees. In reality, a lot of important connections are made through those casual office-space interactions. You need to make an effort to let people in your team’s Slack channel know what you’re working on and solicit collaboration.

Are you new to the sales team and want a senior member to shadow your call? Put in a good description of your challenge and situation in the team Slack channel to find someone to join in.

5. Keep in touch with your manager

I like to send an email in the format of OKR’s. OKR stands for Objective and Key Result. (Here’s a great guide.) This tells my boss what I’m working on and what I’ve achieved for outcomes. It lets my boss know what to expect out of me and where he could intervene to be helpful, clear roadblocks, or even realign my work if I’m off track on what’s important.

6. Hold effective remote meetings

Assume someone in the meeting is always remote: Always include a video conference link!

Not everyone on your team/meeting may be remote for a specific meeting. If possible, ask everyone to join video conferences from their laptop – even if they’re in the office. This allows you to focus on everyone’s face and optimize audio quality.

Effective meetings include collaboration and follow-up actions. Unfortunately, it is much harder to focus when you are not in the same room and you have a million notifications popping up. So, during meetings, quit Slack, don’t just minimize. Close your Gmail tab.

It’s hard to interject when you can’t see and hear people in-person, so make sure to go around the room and solicit feedback from everyone, by name. “Hey Joe, we haven’t heard you weigh in on this decision. What are your thoughts?” This is especially helpful to those who feel awkward about interrupting the in-person conversation.

7. Set boundaries

Contrary to popular suspicions, the most common hazard of working from home is actually working too much, not too little. Part of the way we know it’s the end of the day in the office is that we see others packing up and saying goodbye. At home, we’re on a roll, especially if the afternoons are our productive hours, and I can find myself easily cruising into 7 pm or 8 pm if no one bothers me.

Work and be available on Slack during your normal work hours, but shut down when you’re done. I even pack away my computer in my backpack to signal the end of the workday.

8. Over-communicate!

When you’re in the office, you stand up to go to lunch and your desk mates see you. If your boss sidles up to ask where you’ve gone, chances are, they’ll know. When you’re in the office and you’re deep in a work trance, you’ve got your noise-canceling headphones on and you’re hammer typing – it’s a clear sign for colleagues to leave you in peace.

But working from home is totally different. I recommend updating your Slack status and dropping a note to your team when you expect extended disconnection time. Don’t be ‘default-available,’ but do keep people posted on what’s up in your workday and when you’re open for a casual chat and when you’re simply unavailable. Your boss doesn’t need to know exactly what you’re doing at every second of the day, but don’t make them guess if you’re playing Nintendo or calling a dozen prospects!

9. Slack your messages clearly

When you ask a question in a DM, do not expect that person to get back to you right away. They may have their status as available, but just picked up a phone call from their boss. Instead, include the query with information about an expected response (“Could you get back to me in an hour?” “Could you give me a thumbs up if this sounds good?”)

Secondly, remember that communication is part verbal and part non-verbal, especially the emotional aspect. Use carefully chosen emojis to help your tone be interpreted correctly and be mindful of how your sentence could be read in different situations.

What are your top tips for staying productive and having a successful work-from-home day?