I’ve been working as a remote employee for almost a year now.
I wasn’t sure how I would handle the transition to distance work, but it has worked out quite well. In many ways, I now feel more efficient and focused than I was working in the main office.
Along the way, I’ve learned some tricks to help remain a productive worker and a valuable teammate.
If you’re a distance worker, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Build your own office (or Why you shouldn’t work in your pajamas)
Some people don’t mind working from home. Personally, I need to get out of the house. In any case, you need to put some real thought into your work environment.
- Are you in an environment that eliminates distractions (Netflix, Xbox, your 8 children, etc.)?
- Are you separating your work life from your personal life?
- Are you comfortable (nice chair, natural light, etc.)?
- Do you have the supplies you need (computers, monitors, fax/phone, etc.)?
I was lucky to find a great coworking space five minutes from my apartment. Coworking spaces are a major upgrade from the home office or coffee shop because they cultivate a more collaborative environment.
I’m waaaaay more efficient here, and my employer graciously offered to pick up the tab.
I regularly get technical and business advice from other workers, chat about the weekend around the water cooler, and even get my “office roommates” to help out with odd tasks every now and then.
Plus, the coffee is hot, the internets are fast, and they offer quiet rooms for phone calls and meetings.
Don’t write angry (or How to write like a robot)
When you work in the same room as people, misunderstandings can be quickly cleared up. In contrast, remote workers tend to spend most of their time communicating via the written word that can be easily misinterpreted from afar.
So, pay attention to your emails and instant messages. Get in the habit of eliminating any non-essential comments that might be taken the wrong way.
If you are worked up about something — angry, confused, frustrated, etc. — try not to vent your frustration in writing. Instead, take a moment to voice or video chat with your team to discuss the situation. It’s much quicker and avoids unnecessary distress on both sides.
Join the A/V club (or Why Skype is your friend)
Synchronous audio or video communication is the best way to tackle complex issues, or anything that needs to be handled sensitively. It’s also essential for feeling like you’re still “a part of the team”.
The key is to get everyone on your team comfortable using these video chat tools on an everyday basis. If certain people aren’t set up to use Skype, it’s going to be a hassle every time you want to chat.
Spend some time getting everyone set up with the tools they need, then get in the habit of calling your colleagues regularly to brainstorm ideas, clear up confusion, or just to say hi.
Stay personal (or Why cupcakes make the best birthday cakes)
One of my favorite things about Idea Works is the people I get to work with. It’s easy to lose your personal connection with colleagues when you move away, so it’s important to do what you can to stay connected.
As a remote worker, remember to share personal news from time to time. And take the time to ask about the personal lives of those in the home office.
Remember birthdays, celebrate weddings and new babies, and ask about what funny stories you’re missing from the office.
Be available (or The virtual open door policy)
In the home office, when you have headphones on, it generally means “do not disturb”. I try to maintain similar cues from a distance by updating my Google status, hanging out in group chats, and posting in Yammer.
Little things like this help my co-workers know what I’m up to, when they can ping me with questions, and when I’m tied up in a meeting.
Be flexible (or In conclusion)
Above all else, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Ask your colleagues how you are doing. Do they feel connected to you? Are you fulfilling all your responsibilities? Are you accessible? Are you easy to work with?
Hope these tips help give you some strategies to consider. Happy remote working!