When it’s done correctly, working remotely can be a boon to workers’ personal and professional lives. Cutting out the commute gives workers extra flexibility to manage family needs and other important priorities. Meanwhile, studies show that remote workers are happier and more productive than their office-bound counterparts (while saving money in office space and furniture costs.) Here are Quartz’s recommendations on making the most of remote work.
Trust is the bedrock of a successful remote working relationship. Your manager needs to be confident that you are meeting your commitments even when out of sight, and you need to feel secure that you’re being held to the same standards as in-office colleagues. At the start of your arrangement, have a detailed conversation with your manager about both of your expectations regarding work hours, scheduling, and deliverables. It sounds obvious, but the only way your boss can know what you’re producing from a remote office is what you produce. Confirming those expectations upfront ensures that you both understand the metrics by which you’ll be evaluated.
It’s also important to have an honest conversation with yourself about whether remote work is right for you. Are you organized? How well do you hold yourself to deadlines? Do you thrive on the camaraderie of an office, or do you prefer to hunker down distraction-free when it’s time to get work done?
It is absolutely essential that you have a regular workspace with a reliable, secure internet connection. If you are fortunate enough to have a room (preferably with a door) that can be used as a home office, great. If not, clear a dedicated desk or corner of domestic distractions. Entering your “office” each day allows you to set mental boundaries between home and work (a necessary skill we’ll cover in more detail later).
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working from home. Do you have young children, pets, or noisy neighbors at home? Are you someone who thrives on the regular interactions and banter of office life? If so, you may want to invest in membership in a co-working space that combines the flexibility of remote work with the benefits of an office.
In either setting, make sure you have the tools necessary to do your job and communicate smoothly with coworkers in other locations. A reliable internet connection that can handle videoconference calls is a must, as are a pair of headphones to improve audio quality. If you’ll be accessing the company intranet or other important documents, take the necessary precautions to ensure the connection is secure.
Set up regular check-ins with your manager and teammates, and encourage these discussions to be over videoconference whenever possible. Distance can breed miscommunication. Counteract this by being thorough and organized. If you have a weekly meeting with your manager, keep a shared agenda open throughout the week so you can drop in items to address as they surface. Follow up meetings with emailed takeaways so that everyone agrees on next steps.
Keep your calendar and status updates current. A remote worker also has the right to leave the desk for a doctor appointment or a coffee break, but setting a status update in Slack or sending a quick heads-up to your team prevents any confusion when you can’t be reached.
As a remote worker, solid relationships with your teammates are at least as important as they are when you’re working alongside one another. They take extra effort to build without the daily banter of office interactions, but it’s worth it. Schedule regular visits to the main office. A bit of face-to-face time goes a long way toward cementing relationships and trust, and will make future Slack chats a lot more fun.
One of the biggest potential downsides to remote work is isolation. If the majority of your “office” interactions are happening over Slack, email, or videoconference, make sure that you’re building an equivalent amount of human facetime elsewhere in your day. Maybe this means scheduling a lunch or coffee date with a friend or colleague in the area; maybe it means going for a midday walk. If you’re freelance or geographically distant from your organization, consider joining a professional society or meetups to keep your local network active. Either way, you need regular doses of interaction to keep from getting, well, weird.
Working from home does not have to (and should not) mean “always working.” Set (and keep) to regular working hours just as you would at the office. If you have family obligations, this can be easier: the tempo of a day changes once the kids are home from school or daycare. If you don’t, be the guardian of your own time. This is where it helps to have a discreet office or workstation that you can walk away from at the end of the day, literally and figuratively.
Be clear as well with people your personal life so they don’t unintentionally intrude on your professional obligations. Talk to your partner about your work hours so they know when you’re on the clock and when you should be putting the laptop away. If you have kids, set clear guidelines for them and their caregivers about your availability during the day and alternatives for when you can’t be disturbed. And don’t be too hard on yourself or others in the inevitable times when the line between work and home blurs. You will, at some point, have a BBC dad moment.
There will be co-workers who assume working from a home office means working from your bed, or an excuse to play with your kids all day. (They obviously don’t see your childcare bills.) Don’t worry about them. The best response to remote work skeptics is to let your work speak for itself.
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