The verdict’s in: Your boss approved your request to work remotely full-time. Congratulations! 🎉You’re no longer tied to the geographical location of your office.
As someone who’s been working remotely full-time for over a year, I know and appreciate the many benefits of this lifestyle. I tend to keep the same working hours as my co-workers, but I still have so much more ownership over my time. I can work from wherever I want, and my commute is only seven seconds long (hello, home office)!
But one fact remains: I don’t see the people I work with every day. In fact, I’ve never even met some of them face-to-face. Our relationship exists purely on Slack and is built on a steady supply of GIFs.
Due to this lack of face time, I actually put a lot of effort into proving that working remotely doesn’t affect the quality or timeliness of my work. Because whether I like it or not, many people are skeptical about other people working remotely. Some even think it directly correlates with decreased productivity.
But that’s not the case. Remote work is so much more than the stereotype of Netflix binging and spending the whole day in pyjamas. It can be hard to go about your daily work routine knowing that these opinions exist. And if your company isn’t 100% remote, you’ll probably even have some of these remote work stereotypes left to fight within your own teams.
Based on my experience going from an in-office environment to a remote one, here are some quick and easy ways that you can be the remote employee your boss and teammates love to work with. Now let’s prove those doubters wrong 💪
Ramp Up The Communication
Here’s one fairly obvious fact: If you work far away from your office, you won’t see your co-workers (in-person, at least). I know, I know—duh! Stay with me.
Because you won’t physically be in the office, you’ll miss out on crucial in-person connections with your co-workers. Sure, this might not be the worst if your cubicle neighbor chews loudly.
But the thing is, you’re not just missing out on the watercooler chat as you pass each other in the kitchen or the awkward faces you make at your teammates during team meetings. (Those things are important in their own way, though.)
Your absence in the office means that you can’t quickly ask your deskmate how to do an Excel formula or run down the hall to consult with your supervisor about a tricky client email. It also means that you’re not there to answer others’ questions either.
When you don’t work in the same space with your colleagues every day, you need to ramp up communication. By a lot. Here are some tips for becoming the communication queen (or king!) on your team:
1. Schedule Regular Meetings
If you and your boss don’t already have a regular check-in scheduled, get that on the calendar right away.
Whether it’s an hour every other week or a half hour every week, you need to set aside time so the two of you can touch base. And make sure to use this time wisely. Before each meeting, come prepared with updates on your work and any questions or concerns you might have.
If possible (i.e. if your employer provides the necessary equipment), turn it into a video chat. You and the others on your team will feel more connected if you see each other’s faces, which is always good for team morale.
Bonus tip: Schedule these types of check-ins every once in a while with the rest of your team to ensure they know what you’re doing, you know what they’re doing, and that you’re all on the same page. It’s also a great way to see if they need any help with projects (unless, of course, your plate is already too full). Many bosses are concerned about how a remote employee’s rapport will be with the rest of the team, so this is a good way to say, “Hey! I’m still here, and I’ve got your back.”
2. Be Incredibly Detailed
I am a big fan of over-communicating in general, and I truly believe that this is a rule all remote employees should swear by. Again, the inability to speak face-to-face on a consistent basis means there will be even more gaps in information sharing than may have existed before. That’s where persistent communication comes in.
Instead of writing: “Hey Ryan, here’s that report,” your notes to people should look more like:
It’s due by tomorrow at 6 PM, so if you could have it back to me before noon tomorrow, that’d be great.
Thanks so much! I really appreciate it.
I’m not saying every single message needs to look like this. The goal here is to provide as much detail and context that’s needed so your teammate can respond with the right information you need to keep doing your job. Use your own discretion, but I always err on the side of caution (and over communication), even if it seems like overkill.
Email or chat are not the only places you should include detail. If you and your team use Trello, for example, you’ll want to provide all relevant pieces of information within each project card. This includes the most recent updates, a checklist, and any necessary files. Having all of the information in one place is really helpful for everyone (including yourself!).
Right now, in reference to this very article, I can go into Trello and find every detail about it—my original pitch, different phases of feedback from editors, due dates, the link to the working document, and more—all on one card. No one has to dig through email chains to figure out what’s going on, nor do I have to call my editor and say, “Wait, how long is this article supposed to be again?” Because I can see the word count right there, in the card.
And a chat tool like Slack, where you can create individual and group chats, comes in handy for filling in any blanks there may be, brainstorming your way through challenges, and providing real-time updates.
This type of communication (read: asynchronous) is vital for remote teams. When the whole team abides by it, it means that every single team member can stay in the know and will have everything they need to carry out their responsibilities, no matter where they log on from or what time zone they’re in.
3. Respond Promptly
No, I am not telling you to check your email every five minutes or even every hour.
Talk about a major productively killer, right? Nor am I saying every email requires a response—plenty can go without one, and everyone’s inbox will thank you.
But if someone messages you asking for something, you do need to respond within a reasonable time frame. Otherwise, your team is going to assume that you’ve gone silent and are skipping out on your responsibilities.
They’ll probably envision you lounging on the couch, munching away on Doritos, and binge watching reality TV. That’s not going to aid in changing their negative opinions of remote work!
For the times that you need to be laser-focused, activate the away or snooze functions on the office chat tool. If you’ll be out of the “office” even for one day (with your manager’s approval, of course), remind your team ahead of time and set up an automatic email reply and status in chat. You can even set up a shared team calendar to log vacation days and out of office statuses that everyone can access. That way, they won’t wonder why you haven’t answered them.
4. Provide Progress Updates Via Email, Slack, Or Trello
Because you won’t be in the office, your boss may be concerned that you won’t stay on task. And yes—I know. It’s just as easy to get distracted and hinder your productivity in the office. The alluring free snacks, the chatty deskmates, the ping pong table—oh my! When I worked in an office setting, I had at least four to five hour’s worth of co-worker coffee dates and “mid-day walks” scheduled each week!
So, yeah, being at the office actually hindered my productivity 🤭 Many believe working at home is way too distracting. Welp, that’s not true for me. Folding laundry or scrubbing dishes doesn’t tempt me because, uh, I never actually want to do those things.
You know what tempted me in the office, though?
Hiding away in my friend’s office to gab about non-work things and share snacks. Or grabbing a two-hour lunch to “discuss the state of the workplace.”
At home, those distractions don’t exist. My cats don’t talk back (why?!) and I don’t like their snacks. Bottom line: I get a lot more done in a lot less time. Shocking, I know!
But this sad truth remains: For some unknown reason lacking solid scientific evidence, people just assume that if they can’t see you, you’re not getting any work done.
To alleviate this potential concern, try sending your manager regular updates about your work. These could occur at the beginning of the week or the end of the week—just choose a day and stick with it. Here’s an example:
Next week, I’m going to tackle:
Is there anything else you need me to work on next week?
Hold Yourself Accountable
This is a given. But I truly can’t stress this enough for remote employees —having no one watching over your shoulder can be good in a lot of ways, especially if you can’t stand micromanagers. But it also means you won’t have that built-in accountability that you get just by physically being around your team every day.
Missing a deadline when no one can see you is one thing. Having everyone stare at you in the conference room because you messed up is a whole different ball game.
It’s a lot easier to get distracted at home. Piles of laundry taunt me and resisting cuddling with my cats is near impossible. I am pretty much the sole person holding myself accountable day in and day out. You should always be an accountable human being, but trust me, the pressure really gets cranked up when you work remotely.
But guess what—I have even more good news for you! You may be the sole human in your workspace, but you don’t have to go at it alone. Trello can help.
You can create a card for each project you have and attach due dates to them. The due dates are color coded to indicate how soon they’re due (or how far they’re past due) and you can choose when you want to be reminded about them so you never miss a deadline. If you and your boss have that kind of working relationship, you can add them to your board so they can receive status updates automatically by subscribing to your updates. Pretty great, huh?
Remote Work Stereotypes, Be Gone
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a big fan of this lifestyle. And, honestly, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon (sorry, haters).
The percentage of people in the United States who work remotely full-time has increased 159% from 2017 to 2019. And some people even predict that remote work will soon be the new normal. It’s a cultural shift we all need to get used to because it’s here to stay (and the naysayers just need to get over it).
Despite its increasing popularity, though, it’s not an easy adjustment for everyone. These shifts don’t happen overnight, you know? And you can’t let your preferred lifestyle interfere with your team’s productivity or morale. You need to put a little bit more time and effort in to make communication and projects run smoothly.
Set regular check-ins with your supervisor and other colleagues you collaborate with. Add more detail into all modes of communications (with reason—no one cares that you’re taking a bathroom break). Be responsive, proactive, and reliable. If you do all these things, it’ll feel like you never left the office.
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