As Q1 comes to a close, I can honestly say we are in a completely different place than I would have guessed when I first wrote this post in late 2019 – in a matter of weeks, businesses have been closed down or forced to switch over to remote work arrangements. For most, these have been challenging times, to say the least, but if we look ahead, it’s easy to see what kind of opportunities this will create for remote work to become a more realistic work arrangement for many.
Personally, this transition has been simple for me. I’m coming close to a year and a half of working remotely in Marquette, MI and with the current state of things being a bit…unknown….I thought it would be beneficial to share a few of my thoughts, experiences, and ideas on how to make remote work successful for you and your team.
Before we jump in, it’s important to note that before I made the transition to working remotely full time, I spent the previous 4 years working at the Worksighted office in Holland. During this time, I was able to build many solid relationships that made my transition to working remote smooth. While many people have worked remotely with their organization from day one, we’ll be focusing on the transformation, both cultural and digital, you’ll need to be aware of when exploring the idea of remote work.
For anyone just getting started as a remote worker, here are the basic things you’ll need to be successful no matter what:
A Dedicated Space
While your friends might assume that your go-to spot for work is your couch or the coffee shop around the corner, I’ve found that having a dedicated space away from distractions has been key to feeling engaged and connected to my team – even though we’re 7+ hours apart. If you’re working from home, find a quiet space that allows you to create a healthy separation of work/home life. Once you shut your laptop for the day, you can check out of the pressures of work, just as if you’ve walked out the front door of the office. Bonus tip: to feel even more connected to HQ, bring pieces of your company’s culture into your home office even if that means borrowing a coffee mug from the team kitchen.
I get it – this seems like a no brainer, but there are few things worse than trying to conduct a meeting remotely and getting interrupted by a poor connection. Reliability is key. If you’ve experienced this, you know how frustrating it can be. If your connection is poor, your coworkers will stop calling and collaboration will be harder. Focus on finding a balance between where your dedicated workspace is and where you’ll have access to the best technology and network necessities to get the job done. After running into this issue myself, I even decided to go old school and hard wire myself in to ensure maximum uptime. It’s important to remember that if you’re working from a home office, you can assume your network connection might not be as reliable as the enterprise connection your team has access to back in the office. Be sure to account for this when scheduling meetings with others.
Remote workers are required to be good with time management. If you weren’t, your employer would likely not allow you to work remotely. But successful time management means you’ll need to stay organized, something that not everyone is naturally good at. Here are the 3 primary things I’ve done to stay on task and engaged with my team:
- Practice consistency: Hold yourself and your team accountable for conducting meetings at a consistent time. This routine makes things easier and will eventually lead to streamlined collaboration.
- Take good notes: There are countless options for note-taking including OneNote, Dropbox Paper, and Evernote. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you or someone on your team actively listens and takes notes during each call so that you avoid talking over each other to get something repeated and can ensure the meeting will stay on track. While you can sometimes get away with not taking notes during a face-to-face meeting, this becomes much more difficult when conducting meetings remotely.
- Communicate clearly & often: If you’re like me and most of your team is working back in our main office, take it upon yourself to go above and beyond when communicating. Not being in the office every day means you won’t benefit from seeing someone in the hall and remembering you had to mention something to them quickly. Use the tools at your disposal including email, IM, and Teams to make sure you are making your presence known.
Believe it or not, a dedicated space, good internet connection, and good organization skills do not guarantee you’ll have a successful remote experience. One of the most difficult parts about working remotely is losing the ability to simply walk up to another person and ask them a question. While tools like Microsoft Teams have enabled us to have persistent communication with our teammates, it’s hard to fully replace the experience of face to face interaction with your teammates.
If you’re one of a few people working remotely in your company, take it upon yourself to go above and beyond to stay connected, aligned, and in-tune with your teammates. This will pay off in deeper relationships and stronger collaboration with your co-workers and includes intentionality in things such as:
- When you do have an in-office visit, use your time wisely and make sure you’re connecting with those you might not normally talk to on the day-to-day.
- Hold 1on1 meetings with other leaders to stay in the loop
- Stay active in employee engagement events and team training
- Engage in online conversations with your team using a dedicated team space or intranet
*BONUS TIP* Engagement with your team
Now, more than ever before, it is crucial you are engaged with your teammates. We’re currently attempting to work through one of the biggest economical and social downturns any of us have ever seen. While it might be easy to think you can carry on business as usual, the reality is that we need each other now more than ever. COVID-19 is going to impact us all differently. Be sure to stay connected and engaged with your team to support each other as we work through these transitions. Simple things like virtual coffee with a teammate or a happy hour with everyone are simple solutions to help you stay connected and close to your team. Don’t let distance be the reason you fall out of sync.
I’ll be the first to admit that working remotely- while it sounds fun and looks glamours if you’ve been on Instagram lately- is a challenge. You and your team need to be strategic when approaching remote work and make sure it’s the best fit for everyone.