How to Work Remotely (and Still Be Productive)

Kendall Holland on background

Kendall Holland —

remote work

Remote working isn’t anything new, but it has grown in popularity over the past few years. Since the availability and dependability of remote wifi, remote work has become more and more possible and popular. Here at Savas Labs, we have three fully remote team members and a generous policy of remote flexibility for the office folks. So when the risk of coronavirus hit home this week, we were fortunately already pretty well set up to work from home. 

By the way, I’m Kendall! I’m a Senior Project Manager here at Savas working out of our Durham office, but prior to that, I worked for a fully remote educational startup. During this time I worked primarily from home, and quickly found that some extra consideration (and communication) goes a long way when working remotely. 

There are some obvious things you need to be successful working remotely - a laptop or home computer, an internet connection, and a way to keep the kids and/or pets occupied. But on top of that, the tools and strategies you use for working remotely can greatly affect your team’s productivity and morale.

As many organizations are moving to a work from home policy for at least the next couple of weeks, here are some tools and tips from Savas Labs to help you keep up with your work (and your sanity) during these uncertain times.

1. Use Video Conferencing Tools

When you can’t see each other in the office, video tools are key to stay in touch with your team and clients. While Slack is fine for chatting and quick calls, seeing peoples’ friendly faces on regularly scheduled face-to-face calls helps teams stay connected and in tune with each other. We use GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts.

team go to meeting

Pro tip from our Senior UX Design Strategist, Sean O’Shea: “To save bandwidth if you’re presenting a screen, you can turn off your camera and call in via phone cell networks. that way you’re only streaming your screen through your internet connection—not screen, video and audio.” 

2. Collaborative Cloud-based Tools

Luckily Google Drive is already a big part of our day-to-day. Whether you’re editing a blog post in a doc, budget tracking in a spreadsheet, or creating a presentation for a client, having an easy way to create and share documents is crucial to remote working.

Figma is a design tool that is fast and easy for multiple team members to use in unison. This makes for swift and flexible collaboration

Teamwork is another popular work and management tool that is collaborative that helps teams with visibility, and accountability within a team and could also prove helpful between your team and clients, too! At Savas, we use it for both internal task management and as a shared communication tool and file repository with our clients. 

3. Combating Isolation

When working remotely it’s very important to check in with yourself regularly to see what you need. When work is home and home is work, it can be hard to unplug completely and take the breaks you need throughout the day, which can lead to isolation. Try scheduling a daily walk on your calendar, or calling a friend on your lunch break.


Donkey (Shrek character) singing "I'm all alone, there's no one here beside me"


Donkey (from Shrek) signing "You gotta have friends"


Creating a specific space to work in your home can also be helpful. This helps you separate home from work as much as possible. This is to say, don’t work from your bed, but sit at a cleaned off kitchen table, or from a home office if possible. Often, this helps you get in a more productive headspace instead of thinking about other things you could be/need to do like laundry or dishes. 


4. Develop a Routine

Creating some kind of habit and routine helps increase productivity. For instance, some people working remotely find it helpful to create and stick to a morning routine to help get their day started; waking up, making coffee, putting on “real clothes” (get out of those PJs!) and try to eat lunch or finish your work at a similar time each day. 

On a higher company level, a routine might mean having standing meetings each week; perhaps a Monday morning all-hands check-in and/or a meeting at the end of the week to forecast what the next week's calendar might look like. It’s a great time to get on that video conference, talk to one another and work out any deadlines, share expectations, and communicate collaboration needs with one another. 


5. Communicate Intentionally (and often!)

Here at Savas, we’re all used to project-based conversations in Slack, but working remotely means you don’t have the same organic check-ins with each other the way you would in a shared office. This makes it even more important to create opportunities for socializing with your coworkers. For example, we regularly host a “social” over Slack where we play games like 20 Questions, 3 Truths and a Lie, or Would You Rather.

It’s also important to show your personality and have fun (when appropriate) with your team. We love our pets here at Savas (we have an entire Slack channel dedicated to it! #pets) and our talented and pet-loving UI/UX Designer, Drew, turned our pets into Slack emojis! It goes without saying that this was a huge hit with the entire team.

Savas Labs slack bot pets

So, there you have it! Even for the most office-loving extroverts among us, working remotely can be enjoyable and productive. It also certainly has perks (like some cute four-legged co-workers) that the office may not regularly have like Irwin, the newest addition to my family. 

Irwin the dog

We want to hear from you! Share with us on Twitter any tips you have for working remotely!