In this day and age, many of us find ourselves working remotely. Working from a home base can offer a number of advantages — including increased productivity and work life satisfaction. However, remote work does come with its share of challenges. What we gain in autonomy can be offset by issues surrounding communication, lowered visibility and feelings of loneliness.
Whether you are an occasional telecommuter or work exclusively from a home base, you can plan for these challenges. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years, to keep things moving in the right direction:
- Obsess about your communication channels. Before your remote stint begins, leave ample testing time to ensure your network is fully operational (check passwords, equipment, internet connections, etc.) Ensure that everything is up and running at least a week in advance — you’ll avoid “panic mode” later on.
- Stay connected. Be quite vigilant here. There are great tools to help you stay in the loop, other than awkward conference calls. High on the list: Trello, Dropbox and Sqwiggle — a platform that lets you set up an “always open” virtual workroom. (Love that. See more tools here.) As a rule, “over” communicate at the start, until a rhythm is established.
- Establish “check in” times. Nothing is wrong with a bit of structure — as establishing rituals can help you feel more efficient and focused. I’ve known contributors that employ a brief AM check-in concerning what they are up to for the day. Others find a “looser” structure works well. Choose what feels comfortable to you — yet meets the needs of your team. Discuss the options early on.
- Choose a system to keep abreast of deadlines, meeting times, etc. The usual reminders, such as running into your co-workers or team leaders, won’t exist any longer. So utilize a reminder system that really works for you. (This was a must for me, as I get engrossed in my work. Google “alarms” for meeting start times are a lifesaver.)
- Stay visible. If feasible — offer to spend some time in the office. Make an effort to be present at least a couple of times a month, and plan these dates to coincide with staff meetings. You might also consider an “on-site” sabbatical, where you spend a week or so, on premise. Staying visible and available for “face time”, is important for a number of reasons, including future development opportunities.
- Stay visible… project-wise. If your work allows, spread yourself around project-wise. This allows you to not only vary your work — it helps maximize your organizational presence, even though you are not on-site.
- Get the office right. This is a “make it or break it” element in the dynamic. Working remotely does allow the opportunity to “loosen the rules”, but don’t become too lax. Choose a space that has ample privacy for both concentration and sensitive phone calls. In terms of equipment, keep spares handy — if you use a mouse, a spare can save the day (I’ve learned this the hard way). Moreover, a land line can be a life saver, if your home office suffers from spotty cell service coverage (as mine does).
- Curb loneliness. For some, working from home can become somewhat of an isolating experience. If needed, look into a co-working environment to curb loneliness. (Check out Liquidspace for more information). As a target, change up your ambient scenery at least once or twice a week. It helps. If you find you still feel like an “island”, you may need to explore other opportunities closer to home.
Published in collaboration with LinkedIn
Author: Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto.
Image: Igor Skliarevsky, 36, works on a computer at his home in Kiev, December 12, 2013. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko