How to Make Working Remotely Work
More people work remotely now than ever before. In fact, almost a quarter of U.S. workers telecommute at least a few hours every week. It’s a fast-growing trend that top companies have caught on to. And for good reason — studies have shown that with telecommuting comes significant productivity increases.
The only problem is that it’s hard to stay an effective team when people are working from a coffee shop, their living rooms, or a playground while their kids play after school. Here are a few steps you can take to keep this flexibility and still have an effective, close-knit team.
Make sure to communicate
This is probably one of the most important tips to keep in mind. After all, it’s hard to be a team when colleagues disappear for days on end. In an office, you would run into a co-worker in the hallway, or in the break room, but that isn’t possible for people that work remotely. Face-time is important, but use more than one communication tool — phone, email, chat, web, and video conferencing are all viable options. Let everyone (including your manager!) know when you are working on something, otherwise they won’t know. Similarly, let them know when you won’t be available, so everyone can be on the same page. Plus, people forget sometimes (we are human), so a little reminder won’t hurt!
Be a proactive team player
video conferencingBeing a team player goes hand in hand with communicating well. You’re still a part of the team, you just don’t see the others everyday in person. Reach out and connect with your colleagues, whether that means joining a team conference a few minutes early to just chat, or have regular check-in calls with your manager for progress updates. Visit the office a few times a year, or schedule a lunch date with a colleague (or make that virtual if you want!)
Be available and responsive
Just by working in an office, you have the luxury of walking over to a colleague and asking for advice. Remote workers, however, don’t have that luxury. Responding quickly to messages and emails helps you build trust and credibility with your colleagues. The more active and available you are, the more others feel as if they can count on you. Sacrifice a tiny bit more of your time to join in on a few impromptu meetings or chats, and it will pay off in the end.
Set clear goals that everyone understands
Instead of having vague expectations, set smart, concrete goals that everyone (in-office or remote) understands.This is especially important in virtual work environments, where poorly defined goals may cause problems to be amplified. Since the productivity and performance of remote workers are typically judged by just their results, there needs to be a clear measure for this. It could be numbers that show if someone is killing it or needs a little boost — a 3% increase in sales might be a minimum goal. But these can be non-numerical goals as well, particularly for roles that have changing definitions of success, so maybe hitting project milestones would be a sign of someone doing well.
In the end, working remotely relies 200% on good, effective communication. You know what people say, out of sight, out of mind. Making your (online) presence known is key to successful telecommuting.