Making Remote Working Work for You
Remote work is no longer reserved for a private, secret society of companies. Those with HR teams and management that are hip to the benefits that a distributed team of non-cubicle dwellers would offer their organization. It's estimated “50% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.” In addition, “3.7 million employees (2.5% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.” I’m willing to bet some of you are reading this very post right now from the comfort of your own home, perched at a bustling downtown cafe or while seated at a co-working space.
Once bookshelves and business magazines were dedicated to offering advice on how to co-exist with co-workers in “meatspace” - but we’re now seeing a hearty amount of information served up to help this unique group of “pajama-clad, headset-wearing, doing housework while brainstorming marketing plans” people.
For both remote employees and employers, it’s not always a utopian vision of effortless success. There can be misunderstandings, pitfalls, communication breakdowns, time zone fails, glitchy conference calls and a host of other situations that all require prompt resolution to ensure that everyone’s needs are met and it’s business as usual.
Here are several ways that you can make remote working work for you - no matter what side of the desk you sit on:
For Remote Workers
- Step Away From the Computer: It’s easy to adopt an ‘always on’ mentality, but much like beloved apps like Slack and Basecamp (essential tools for remote workers) - humans need downtime. Whether it’s for maintenance, system upgrades or a simple mug of tea, it’s important to take breaks in order to remain sane. Set a timer using either your phone or rely on a handy dandy program to ensure you come up for air, stretch, drink a bit of water, rest your eyes, meditate, do some squats, pet your kitty, share a quirky gif - or engage in anything that helps to break up the day a bit and bring you a bit of joy.
Pro Tip: Hire an ergonomist to come into your home and help you set up your space. Items like support cushions, proper chairs and standing desks can all go a long way to making you less like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Your back, arms, neck and overall spirit will thank you.
- Take Up Space: Unlike those who work their 9-5 daily at headquarters, remote workers are free to choose where they set up shop. An Italian bistro, beachside hangs halfway around the world, from a home office, beside their child’s crib - the lifestyles of teleworkers are as varied as the roles they are performing. It’s important for the newly remote worker or those considering this kind of lifestyle to conduct some user testing of many environments to see which one(s) they perform best in. For some, even though the wi-fi — like the coffee — is always strong, cafes are distracting hell-dens, while for others the din of the frother is like music to their ears.
Pro-tip: To get that cafe sound at home, try Coffitivity.
If working from home, if you can it’s best to carve out a spot where you get your work $%!@ done. This will ensure that you’re functioning at maximum productivity with all of your preferred gear around you, and more importantly to help you to have a full sense of a divide between work and life.
- Seek out Your Tribe: It’s easy to feel alone when you’re the only one who’s so far away from the mothership - aka corporate headquarters. You’re the sole person who knows the struggle is real. It’s not like you can physically grab a mug with your work wife and decompress over the shared frustrations you feel over the broken printer. You’re on your own, dear remote worker, and that can bring up all kinds of feels. Rely on the help of fellow teleworkers to vent, learn how to deal, discover strategies to up your game and revel in your unique position. The Remotive LinkedIn group is one such beacon of light for wayward remote employees. Founded by Rodolphe Dutel, Operations at Buffer, this group knows its way around working from beyond the four office walls. Meetups across the world are also held for remote workers and can also provide an in-person space to exchange knowledge on the topic.
For Those Who Employ, or Considering Employing Remote Workers
- Appreciate their Uniqueness: Many remote workers choose the remote life for a reason. Many are introverts - coders, writers, project managers and designers to name but a few roles that attract this personality type. Introverts function best when able to recharge their brains, chill out and take time to re-engage. For extroverts who enjoy teamwork and thrive in a crowd, the idea of being left alone with the tap tap tap of the keyboard as their sole outlet may prove to be a nightmare scenario. Any solid business knows that a mix of all personality types (including ambiverts) helps with diversity and ensures a full holistic approach in what their company can offer.
- Know (and Trust) They’ll Get the Job Done: Quality teleworkers are (abnormally) skilled at being organized, ask a lot of questions, over communicate to the nth degree and are able to function independently and without micromanagement. A study conducted by Chinese travel website Ctrip found that “people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did — meaning that Ctrip got almost an extra workday a week out of them.” If you’re wary about bringing on a remote staff member, have faith that many other companies are successfully making it work.
Pro Tip: Use a productivity enhancing tool like Jell. Here at Onboardly, we swear by this sweet little piece of tech to us help track what’s going on. It provides all of teammates with a sense of accomplishment and is handy for at-a-glance viewing of what each of us has on the go.
- Have Regular One-on-Ones: Put yourself in their shoes. Out of sight can sometimes really feel like out of mind. Just as you schedule coffee or lunch with your team, make sure to do the same with your remote team. Ensure you view them as more than a voice at the end of a Skype call or a non-entity in a Slack channel. They are a valued part of your team so treat them as such.
Frank Waltervoort, in his essential Medium post, “The Care and Feeding of Effective Remote Teams” offers the following bit of advice on developing a relationship with those who aren’t in your workspace: “Building a trusting relationship with someone who works remotely is not easy and requires that you are a good listener.” So put in the effort and you’ll be rewarded with a loyal and hardworking member on your team.
Pro Tip: To get a full sense of remote work, do a bit of homework and read REMOTE: Office Not Required by founder and CEO of Basecamp, Jason Fried. Heck, even the microsite for this book will give you enough to check out and get inspired by. To go one step further, dig into Scott Berkun’s book, The Year Without Pants which covers his time spent working for WordPress and well, working without pants.
So as you can see, remote work isn’t just reserved for bleeding edge companies who are throwing caution to the wind and taking a gamble on the concept. It’s already entrenched in the DNA of today’s modern workplaces and isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. If anything, given many people’s desire to become digital nomads and the increase of Millennials in the workforce, it’s quite likely that more and more people are going to choose to join the ranks of teleworkers.
Are you a remote worker? Do you employ teleworkers on your team? What tips do you have for making remote work? Leave us a message in the comments section.