By now, everyone knows most organisations are capable of functioning well in a virtual environment, and most employees can be every bit as productive while working from home.

In fact many people have been working harder in a remote environment – Microsoft found remote employees have been sending twice as many chats after traditional working hours, and joined 55 percent more meetings.

But employees can’t just dive into remote work without the right playbook and expect to be engaged, fulfilled and happy.

So here are 10 tips you need to master your remote office.

1. Accessorise

A decent computer and fast internet are necessities, but you should also invest in some accessories to help you present well. A second monitor can help you work more effectively by enabling you to use multiple programs at once.

A good headset, with a microphone, will ensure professional audio quality on your calls, and an HD webcam will increase professionalism in your video appearance.

You may even invest in an ergonomic workstation with a supportive desk chair, a standing desk, or other comforts.

To save money, you should ask your company if they offer reimbursements for these supplies – many do.

2. Set a schedule

One of the virtues of remote work is the zero-minute commute. That doesn’t mean you should dive into work as soon as you get out of bed, however.

Instead, set a consistent schedule that includes a designated start time, a clear end time, and breaks for lunch, stretching or even exercise. In a remote environment, you have exceptional control over your time and schedule – use that to your advantage by setting a good routine to keep your work from spilling over into your personal life.

3. Create physical boundaries

You should also designate a physical space in your home that’s meant just for work.

This not only helps you mentally delineate work time from personal time, but it also indicates to others in your home when you’re working and when you’re not.

Not everyone has a spare room that can serve as their office, but even setting up a folding table in the corner of the living room, or designating a chair at your kitchen table as your “office chair,” sets a clear boundary between work and life.

4. Manage your inbox

As mentioned above, a near-universal effect when transitioning to remote work is an uptick in virtual communications. Remote workers may find themselves bombarded with emails and chat messages, and can lose hours at a time in an effort to monitor and respond to everything.

You can avoid this by communicating with your team when they can expect you to respond.

For example, you may commit to answering all urgent messages the same day, and everything else within 24 hours. This clarifies for your colleagues when they can expect to hear from you, avoiding frustrating uncertainty.

Borrow the fitness world’s favourite practice of interval training – build breaks into your day to 'recover'

5. Manage your energy

When working remotely, it's easy to drill into intense, uninterrupted work for hours at a time, without breaks. Doing this will lead to burnout, and sub-par results over time.

Instead, borrow the fitness world’s favourite practice of interval training – build breaks into your day to 'recover' from periods of intense work, follow difficult projects with less demanding ones, such as attending a department call, and avoid spending more than 90 minutes on one thing without a break. This will keep you fresh for the long haul.

6. Re-create your commute

While avoiding a commute is one of the benefits of remote work, it’s important to realise that commuting provides a good mental transition in and out of the work day.

Just like you don’t want to jump right into work in the morning, you should also give yourself 20 to 30 minutes to take a walk, read or listen to music at the end of the day before going on with your evening routine. This will help you move out of ‘work mode’ and unwind before stepping into your personal or family life.

7. Be social

Working in an office has drawbacks, but it’s also a great place to make friends and get much-needed social interaction.

If you’re on a remote team, reach out to your colleagues to set up short calls that are purely social, where two or more coworkers join to chat about non-work topics for 30 minutes.

You can also arrange virtual lunches, coffee breaks or happy hours to get to know your colleagues beyond what they do for work.

8. Use video

Along those same lines, be sure to make yourself available for video calls, rather than just phone. This not only will help you build trust with colleagues, clients and partners, but it will also make the conversation clearer.

Video is much better than the phone for interpreting body language, tone and other social cues, and you definitely don’t want to lose those nuances in all your professional interactions.

9. Embrace flexibility

Remote work offers many possibilities not available for office work. In non-pandemic times, you can arrange your schedule to fit in a run or workout class, do drop-off and pick-up duty for your kids, or make a quick grocery trip in the middle of the day to avoid crowds. You can even ask your manager about working somewhere other than your home, such as in a coworking space, or while traveling the world.

The remote working world offers enormous benefits to employees – assuming you have the right tactics and tools.

To learn more tips like this, check out my new book on remote work, How To Thrive In The Virtual Workplace, available for purchase now.