Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience.
As the percentage of people who occasionally or are full-time remote workers increase we need to identify best practices. Learning from others mistakes can help each of us learn how to work more effectively. Some of these will surprise you while others you might anticipate. Let’s start out with a few questions to get you thinking.
How connected does your remote team feel?
Do you help them structure their work environment?
What barriers do they encounter?
Work relationships are very important. We need to take time and invest in the people we work with. Taking a few minutes to chat about your co-workers new baby is a helpful gesture. Yes, you probably have a few other items to work on, but without the relationships work is not as enjoyable. Find ways to make your meetings more personable. Do you know what your remote co-workers do for fun? I worked with a guy for two years before I knew he liked cycling too. Perhaps you have more in common than you think. Take some time and get to know those you collaborate with every day.
When I was a young boy I would often go to my grandmother’s house. I would help her cook things. She would cook many different items. Before she would start she would get the things out and make sure everything was ready before she would begin. Having everything organized and ready helped her make some wonderful dishes. On the other hand, my mother would try to throw something together many times substituting some of the ingredients. Occasionally it would come out well but most times it was burnt or would taste bad.
Just like cooking, when we get our work environment ready we need to have things setup. For instance, if you like dual monitors but don’t have things setup this way in your home office you are hindering yourself. Make sure you plan and invest in the right tools for your work environment. Without the proper tools, we are not going to do great work. Periodically review what the newest technology is out there. If there is something that can save you time it is best to invest in it.
For many companies adding remote people is something they have done recently. Working in an office there can be many policies and procedures. As you add remote people make sure to reconsider those rules. What made sense in a work office doesn’t always translate to remote teams. One company had to change the development team schedules to allow for people working in different time zones or countries. If something is getting in the way of adding good people or their productivity get rid of it!
Recently my wife and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. Like any relationship, it has had its ups and downs. One mistake I have made many times is not communicating my intentions. Early on in our relationship, I would go out with some friends on a Friday night. I never would let my wife know when I would come home. This started to cause some issues. I started to realize how important it was for me to set expectations. This would clear up any confusion for both of us.
Working with a team of people is quite similar. When you claim you are going to complete a project people begin to depend on you for this. So if you are running late it helps to set expectations properly. In an office setting, people can drop by and ask with a remote team the communication needs to be more intentional. Keep your teammates up to date instead of hiding out. This is better for the relationship and project completion.
Build in fun
The old proverb about all work and no play is quite applicable to those of us who work remotely. We can sometimes get focused on something and not realize the time or the other things happening in our surroundings. Schedule some fun and activities. Perhaps you make time to talk your wife for a walk or meet a friend for disc golf. Play has many benefits to your mental state. Taking a break from intense work can let your mind relax and give you new insights.
I recently vacationed with my brothers family. He has two boys under the age of five. They start the day with a lot of energy. Moving with enthusiasm first and then they begin to fizzle out. One morning we had many activities planned. The two of them were excited for the fun ahead. Once we got close to lunch time they were dragging. The feverish pace they started with had waned. As a remote worker do you know what zaps your energy? When I work from home I find the lack of human interaction dull. So I plan different things throughout the day. Some mornings I work from a coffee shop or in the afternoon I work from our local library. This can keep me fresh and bring my energy back.
In a constant motion, we want to check things off our list. I was recently reading Norman Vincent Peale’s classic The Power of Positive Thinking. In it, he asks us to slow down and reflect each day. Taking a little time to think about what has gone well and what we need to change. Also, it helps to quiet down ourselves. The mind can race endlessly. A few minutes of quiet reflection can bring back our sense of purpose and ensure we are on the right course.
Have you built fun into your work day?
How do you keep your energy up all day?
Do you plan time for reflection?
Remote work is more art than science. We need to find different ways to enjoy our day. Monitor your energy activities. Perhaps you need a walk to get some fresh air. Communicating the expectations are kept to finding success in your remote environment. Try some of these practices out and find some new ways to make remote work successful.