The Remote Hero learning and working guide

In an unprecedented event, many people around the world have had to start learning and working from their homes, without much prior warning. For those who are used to being in a physical classroom or office this change may have come as a shock. We would therefore like to offer some helpful tips to make the adjustment easier. 

Whether you’re learning or working, there are some basic requirements:

  1. Internet connection - You want a fast, stable connection that doesn’t go below 1.5Mbps (upload & download). Below this speed, the quality of calls via Zoom, Google Hangouts or other video conferencing will be affected. You can use Speedtest to measure the quality of your connection.

  2. Headset - You should always use a headset during your calls. If you are on a call without a headset there is a high chance of creating echo or having other audio problems.

  3. Camera - Tablets and laptops all have built-in cameras but if you are using a PC, you should buy a good camera for others to see you.

Although this is very dependent on your personal preference and the type of learning or work you do, here are some tips to keep you feeling at the top of your game:

  1. Try to use an ergonomic chair and desk, particularly if you must spend hours sitting at a computer every day.

  2. An external monitor is a good investment. If you are looking down at a laptop all day, it can cause neck pain or other issues. Ideally you should have the screen directly in front so your face is in a neutral and natural position. Try placing books below your monitor or laptop to raise the screen.

  3. Find a place that is your designated learning or work place. The couch is probably neither. A designated desk or room can help you get into learning or work mode faster and stay focused. 

  4. Being remote will save a lot of time, there is no commute but there is also no school or office chit chat. Learning or working in isolation is not everyone’s cup of tea, and over time can lead to a feeling of cabin fever. It’s strongly recommended that extra time is allocated to your family and friends to recharge your social batteries, even if just virtually. 

  5. Make a schedule. Depending on your living situation, it could be very easy to switch to a 7:00-21:00 day, or the opposite, get distracted by things around the house. Making a schedule will help you keep a balance between learning/working and necessary breaks.

  6. Increase your exercise time. If you are learning or working from home, your lifestyle can become sedentary. Therefore, you will need to make an effort to increase the time you spend moving your body. YouTube is full of great videos for everyone from children to adults. 

  7. Particularly at the beginning, it might be difficult to switch into school or work mode in the morning. Here are some tricks:
  • Dress as if you were going to school or work (as tempting as it might be to stay in those pyjamas!).
  • Maintain your dedicated learning/work spot.
  • Build and follow the same routine.
  • If you need help dividing up your learning/work time, try the Pomodoro Technique. There are hundreds of free apps out there that can help with this.

Some tips for teamwork:

  1. Create a virtual water cooler or cafeteria -  In most offices, water coolers or coffee machines, and in schools, cafeterias, are gathering places for conversation. Create a digital place that replicates this for your team or classmates to share funny images, news, and other silly things.

  2. Stay in the (work) loop - Being in an office together makes staying in the loop fairly effortless. Working remotely requires more effort to stay connected. If you use a project or task management tool, consider setting up automatic check-in questions such as, “What have you worked on since yesterday? What will you do today? Anything blocking your progress?” Answer and share these questions daily and schedule at least one team meeting per week. 

  3. Stay in the (learning) loop - Both online and offline, ensuring that direct and open communication with teachers and peers exists is a vital component in learner success.

  4. Try replacing synchronous communication (meetings/calls) with asynchronous communication (text) as much as possible. You have the tools. There is one exception - never try to handle emotional situations via text. Even great writers are not immune to being misunderstood. 

  5. One-on-ones become even more critical when remote. Make sure you do them regularly. 

We hope this guide will help you navigate your new work or learning environment. Most importantly, figure out what works best for you - experiment, and when you find something that does work, stick with it. Remember that if you feel isolated, you aren’t alone - there are millions of people around the world in the same situation. Whether your workplace/school or beyond, your supportive online community is out there. Explore a little!

What are the challenges you’re currently experiencing with remote learning or working? We’d love to hear your thoughts -- please share by completing this very quick survey.