How to succeed as a remote worker

Mar 19, 2020 - Robert Thurston

An artisan's tool bench with various tools laying on it with plans written on paper nearby

Working from a home or other non-traditional office location can offer needed flexibility in an increasingly hectic world. However, in order to be effective in a remote work scenario you may need to adapt the way in which you work and the tools that you use. Further, you need to take extra care to look after your own health and wellbeing, even more so than in a traditional office environment.

Strong Habits

You will need to have strong habits and self-discipline to succeed as a remote worker. Make sure you are:

  • Maintaining a regular schedule of work hours (and make sure you also “disconnect” to avoid burn out when you are off work)
  • Setup a dedicated and distraction free work-space in your home. Not only does this assure you will be undisturbed, but it can also help you more easily define when you are “at work” or “at home” to your family and yourself.
  • Make time for your health by exercising physically, mentally and socially. Social isolation can take a serious toll on your wellbeing, so make sure you have avenues to interact with your colleagues, friends and family.
  • Communicate proactively, when you are a remote worker often times you may find your voice is not heard as loudly in the big decisions, communicate clearly, often and regularly with your team, your management and your customers to avoid being lost in the remote work “island”.
  • Treat your home office with the same security concern as your traditional office. Make sure to lock up confidential materials or high value equipment and try to prevent “shoulder surfing”.

Build your “Toolbox”

Effective communication is one of the biggest challenges facing remote workers. Make sure you spend time talking to (ideally video conferencing with) your coworkers, peers and customers to maintain a deeply human connection. Otherwise you may find yourself unintentionally alienated from your team, which could hurt your ability to perform well or even your reputation.

Leveraging comprehensive collaboration suites like Microsoft Office 365 including Microsoft Teams can enhance your ability to quickly communicate, share ideas and deliver your message with maximum impact. Plus, it can be fun to still be able to share some humor in the new “office”.

Don’t be a “cave dweller”

Most businesses have programs in place to help their employees maintain good ergonomics, from quality of seating to providing sufficient lighting to avoid eye strain in darker environments, most organizations make sure to provide an excellent office environment for their people.

Your remote work environment needs the same consideration. If you find yourself feeling sore or strained after your first day or two of working remotely, consider that you may need to correct the ergonomics of your new remote office to avoid injury and strain on your body.

Distributed Leadership

A distributed team can still be a strong team, but you have to intentionally design your culture for success. If you are not already doing it, make sure you are:

  • Weekly Stand Up Meeting - Holding weekly team meetings to quickly review progress, future plans and impediments.
  • 1:1 Meetings - In a distributed team, individuals can feel adrift or out of sync. Spend time with each person you supervisor to make sure you are both in sync. Also, make sure to spend some time “just talking” even if it is about non-work-related subjects to maintain a personal connection with your employees and co-workers.
  • Enhance Task Visibility - If you don’t have a structured work management tool, consider adopting one of the many available both commercially and for free to keep your group, team or project on track. Utilizing an online Kanban Board tool like Trello can provide a low-cost way to keep your tasks and projects organized. Be transparent with your team about what you are working on as well!
  • Weekly Updates - Get your team in the habit of providing a regular weekly update (even a simple email would suffice) where they tell the group about their wins for the week, progress made, their plan for next week and any issues they need help or a decision on. If you have your people complete these at the end of the week, they can be a perfect agenda for your weekly stand up meeting next week

Like many businesses, AlasConnect is using remote work arrangements to help provide appropriate social distancing for our employees and reduce the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in our communities. We hope that by sharing some of the lessons we’ve learned building a distributed team over the past few years, it may help other organizations and people as they adapt and thrive in this challenging time.

If you have concerns or feel you need assistance with becoming systematically prepared, please contact us so that we can start a conversation and help you move forward.