In my childhood home, homework was serious business. My mom had strict rules about completing schoolwork, at least for me. ( I think there’s some truth to parents being tougher on the oldest child, but I digress. 😅) Before I could watch my favorite evening TV shows, I had to complete my homework assignments. And when I was finished, I had to show my mom so she could double-check my work. If it wasn’t completed to her standards, she’d send me back to the kitchen table to make corrections.

By nature, I’ve always been a people pleaser and a rule follower, so I took my mom’s orders seriously. Every afternoon when I got home from school, I’d grab a quick snack and sit down at the kitchen table to get started on my homework. Though my mom’s rule was to get homework done before primetime TV, I set a goal for myself to get it done before dinner. Looking back, I realize that the discipline my mom instilled in me set the groundwork for my success as a remote employee. While I doubt my mom ever imagined back in the early to mid-90s that I’d end up working full-time from home one day, I’m thankful that she gave me a strong foundation to do it well. Having spent the past seven years working remotely, I can attest to the importance of discipline and routines. What else have I learned about working from home, and what does it take to excel as a remote employee? Here are a few tips for being a great remote team member.

Establish a Schedule

“You gotta make it a priority to make your priorities a priority.” ― Richie Norton

If you’re a Type B personality, you might be cringing at the sight of the word “schedule,” but hear me out. You don’t have to be rigid, but you do have to exercise discipline. Set clear boundaries about what you will and won’t do during a workday and work to structure your day in a way that optimizes your productivity. It’s important to commit to yourself and your team that you’ll be available during certain hours. Does an 8:00- 5:00 schedule work best for you? 9:00- 6:00? Let your team know. Put it in writing and schedule some beginning and end of day rituals to help you stick to regular hours. For example, I take 3-5 minutes at the beginning of my workday to jot down three things I’m grateful for. I end my workday the same way and also take a few moments to write down my top to-do items for the next day. Other examples of morning and evening rituals could include a quick meditation, reading the newspaper over a cup of coffee, stepping out to walk the dog or heading to the gym. Establishing patterns in your workweek helps train your brain to be more disciplined. When you have activities to complete after work, it helps to keep the motivation alive and procrastination at bay.

Jenn Petty, the owner of Petty Details Appraisal Services, has worked from home running her business for more than ten years, and she agrees that schedules are critical to her success.

“As tempting as it is for those who don't have other responsibilities in the morning--getting kids to school, feeding the chickens :)-- to get up and start work in their pj's, a good start to the day is important,” she says. “Wake up on a schedule, take a shower, get dressed, then start your day ready for whatever may come your way!”

Quick tip: be sure to set your working hours in Google Calendar or Outlook. 8x8 Virtual Office user? Here’s a handy guide for establishing business and after-hours rules in Virtual Office.

Bring Your Best Self to Meetings


We’ve all been guilty of scrolling the gram for memes during a boring conference call, sending out a group text, or posting on social media (see exhibit A above). It happens! Admitting it is the first step to making a change ;-) But in all seriousness, don’t be that person. Especially when you work from home. Being present and attentive when others are speaking is just plain common courtesy. When you’re not in the room during meetings, you have to make an even bigger effort to remain engaged. That means putting the iPhone down, turning your camera on, and participating in the conversation.

When you’re not in a brick and mortar office every day, or you’re thousands of miles away from your teammates, it takes a bit of extra effort to build relationships with your coworkers, customers, and business partners, but it’s worth it. Bringing your best self to meetings is a simple way to do this. Show up a few minutes early if you can, and take the opportunity to chat with colleagues about their weekend plans. Those little moments of humanity build rapport and morale.

Take Short Breaks When You Can


As you might have gathered from my story about homework, I put a lot of p