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When you want to succeed as a remote worker: 5 tips to shine from your home office
I am very excited about my revised blog format. We will be exploring relevant work topics in a series of three looking at that topic through three different lenses: yourself, your team, and your leadership.
First up, remote work. Some of you may have been called back to an office for 1-5 days per week. Most of us still have a remote work option every week whether that is one day or every day.
I thought by now the remote/hybrid/distributed/RTO conversation would have concluded. I didn't think we would still be grappling with the following questions: what model works, do people work while being remote, and how can we build and shore up culture in a distributed workforce? I certainly didn't think I would see CEOs demanding RTO or showing people the virtual door three years later.
I agree that being face-to-face has great benefits. I struggle with why this has to be done all the time or why we need to count days in the office. I cannot get on board with making someone come to an office every day so they can sit in a small pod with the door closed on global meetings and not interact with a soul in the office.
Now, for a design session, brainstorming session, intake meeting, sales meeting, problem-solving session, etc., being in person can certainly have a positive impact. Networking, team building, and relationship building, in general, can also be significantly helped by seeing someone in person. This is all true and I think these activities should be scheduled to provide people a reason to be in the office.
I also think people who work remotely have a special responsibility to ensure they are producing, engaging, communicating, and accessible. Everyone may not agree with me, but I have always believed that having a manager or leader in another office, state or country means you have an extra requirement to show up and contribute even more than if you work in the next cubicle over. That manager also needs to intentionally reach out and communicate more; this is, of course, a two-way street.
If you have hopes to work remotely for some or all of the time, here are 5 things you can do to shine.
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Part of the remote work challenge is that it takes great trust to allow someone to work wherever they want. For some, if I can't see you, then I have no idea what you might be doing. That may not be fair, and managers need to stretch their abilities in this space (next week's blog!). Be accessible during business hours. If something happens in your personal life, you should share that you will need time off or time away. You don’t always need to share personal details, but you must communicate. Even in an emergency, you must send a text or email to your manager, letting them know something has happened. I have seen too many times when an employee completely goes dark. There may be a severe issue causing this, and managers should give the benefit of the doubt. Managers are understanding; managers get concerned. Don’t disappear. Let them know you will be off for a while.
Be proactive in your communications.
In a remote relationship, you cannot communicate enough. Good examples include status updates over email, notes about going to the doctor, scheduling vacation time in advance, getting thoughts on an approach for a project, and sharing issues with a client as they happen. Email, IMs, texts, WhatsApp, and Slack are all communication channels with your manager. Some may feel they have to over-communicate being remote. That is correct. You need to over-communicate to stay connected and have all parties remain in the know. This isn’t “big brother”; this is how we must work effectively together to continue our trusting relationships.
Schedule one-on-one meetings.
I have encouraged managers to do this, but there is nothing wrong with the team member being proactive and scheduling one-on-one meetings with their managers. I also think the employee should drive these meetings. Sometimes, a manager may have things to share or ask about, but this is the time for the employee to get the ear of their manager, who probably manages several people. Schedule this time, and put together lists and agendas for these meetings so you can proactively share what is going on, brainstorm solutions when needed, and inspire decisions that will help you move forward.
Know and accomplish your goals.
Nothing strengthens trust more than meeting your deadlines and objectives. Hopefully, this is the time of year when you and your manager set goals, targets, and development opportunities. This also should not all come from the manager. As a professional, you should think about what can be achieved and provide your thoughts on your goals. As a manager, I am always grateful when my team proactively sets their own goals and brings them up for discussion. I may have additions or subtractions, but it shows commitment when you can set your own goals as a starting point.
Set boundaries and share them.
We need to be intentional about our working hours and communicate these to our managers. I have always said that I am willing to work hard, but I am not ready to work 70 hours every week. I think we mix up working hard with working long hours. These are not the same thing. I work pretty straight from 6:30/7 am - 4 pm. Then, I need to walk or exercise. I am happy to work an evening or two and even put in some hours on the weekends. But, working 6 am - 10 pm every day and over weekends will backfire and take its toll. Work with your manager to set logical boundaries. Gain agreement and be transparent about when you will be working and offline. Block your calendar to be even more evident. This will proactively quell any bad feelings and set clear expectations.
Being a stellar remote employee is not 100% dependent on the manager; the employee has some responsibility. Be committed, meet your goals, set boundaries, and be over-communicative. All these actions will help your remote relationship with your manager be successful.