Best practices and lessons learned


These best practices were compiled using feedback gathered from NIH employees that are currently remote workers. Employees and supervisors in or considering a remote work arrangement should consider how you can incorporate these into your remote working environment to maximize efficiency and communication.

Communication best practices

  • Remote work requires trust between supervisors, employees, and team members. Ensure conversations occur before the remote worker relocates to establish expectations and processes for team interaction.
  • Establish specific meetings between supervisor and remote worker for the first 60-90 days to touch base on how the remote working situation is operating.
  • Establish regular check-ins between supervisor and remote worker, as well as team and remote worker, to touch base on project progress and updates.
  • Establish a procedure or method of letting the team know when the remote worker is unavailable (marking times on calendar, sending an email to team, etc.).
  • Ensure access to and promotion of online training resources.
  • Establish expectations of how often remote worker will travel to on-site location and maximize face time with colleagues and customers when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Remote work works best for employees who do not need a lot of guidance and can work well independently.
  • Don’t allow your status as a remote worker to impact customers; service should be seamless.
  • Make an effort to call colleagues on the phone or via webcam rather than relying on email.
  • Continue to participate in team meetings, through videoconferencing, if possible.

Lifestyle best practices

  • Establish a morning routine prior to starting work, similar to what you would do before going to the office.
  • Remote participants are expected to participate in video meetings using the same professional guidance that they would if they were in person.
  • Regardless of time zone, remote workers are generally expected to keep the same schedule as the regular office. In addition, keep work computer and calendars on Eastern Time Zone to avoid scheduling issues.
  • Be sure to schedule breaks for lunch; when possible, take lunch away from the computer.
  • Get out of the house once a day for a brisk walk during lunch or after work.
  • Set task/deliverable goals for the day and/or week; block time off on calendar for increased accountability on projects.
  • Find alternative places to work on occasion (i.e. a co-working location or other approved worksite to complete a writing project).

Technological best practices

  • Use a share drive. Include all relevant job information in one place. Provide samples and instruction materials on using the shared drive, as needed.
  • Invest in communication tools.
  • Consider team management and project systems.
  • Ensure remote worker is set-up with remote VPN and the ability to sign documents electronically.
  • Ensure remote worker, supervisor, and team are familiar with using technology features, including video calling, instant messaging, and screen sharing.
  • Ensure team has a dedicated conference call line to use for meetings in case additional team members are teleworking.
  • Tape the remote worker’s phone number to the most frequently used conference room phone lines.

Office set-up best practices

  • Have a dedicated room to serve as the remote office.
  • When first establishing a remote office, anticipate that the remote worker will need 1 – 2 days to test technology, work with CIT, and ensure everything is working properly.
  • Make a list of any necessary hardware and identify which resources NIH can provide:
    • Consider using two monitors and a docking station
    • Have a home network that includes a printer, scanner, and a phone with a headset
    • Have a landline phone or iPhone with adequate reception
    • Have a document shredder that can handle multiple pieces of paper
  • Ensure a reliable internet connection.
  • Create a secure document storage system.
  • Make calendar available to all team members and share calendar details. Be sure to note any time away or on leave.
  • Ensure space is free of background noises: children, music, TV, pets, etc. Keep the space professional.

Supervisory best practices

  • Establish clear expectations regarding the remote work arrangement. How will the employee’s colleagues be kept informed of their coworker’s availability?
  • Ensure agreement clearly outlines the employee’s work schedule.
  • Schedule regular meetings to get caught up on the employee’s workload and to fill them in on office happenings.
  • Keep the remote employee engaged – invite them to still be a part of the team/community by regularly using videoconferencing at meetings and during office celebrations.