How to Be a Team Player When Working Remotely

Is working from the office necessary anymore? Due to advances in technology, and the rapid adoption of connected devices, telecommuting now fits into the growing idea of work being a thing you do, not a place you go. According to a report by Forrester Research, 34 million Americans already work remotely, and this number is expected to rise to 63 million by 2016. That’s 43% of the U.S workforce!

As telecommuting becomes more attractive to businesses, how can you make sure you – a remote worker – aren’t seen as a ‘slacker’, and demonstrate your value to your team? Here are some tips for being a wonderfully productive remote worker:

1. Build Trust Amongst Your Team with Regular Communication

According to Kenexa Research, telecommuting is a privilege mostly enjoyed by those who have been with a company for 3-5 years. So chances are, you are already a trusted employee, but failure to keep in touch with your team can result in mistrust. Make sure your team hears your voice, and sees your name or face everyday, just as they would in the office. This doesn’t have to be direct contact, it may be through your avatar while you are editing a document, or seeing you are ‘online’ in chat. This way, you will appear to be contributing to daily operations, your manager will be happy to be your advocate, and you will be at the top of their mind for future opportunities.

2. Push to Include Yourself in the Company Culture

As a remote worker it’s easy to become isolated from your team and company. Push yourself to interact with people you don’t directly work with. Go to the training programs, conferences, and company offsites. If regular visits aren’t possible, make annual or quarterly visits part of your contract. This is just as important for your own fulfillment, as it is for the company culture.  

3. Use a Range of Communication Tools to Make Collaboration Seamless

Be sure to implement communication solutions that are efficient, and fit your team’s working style. Your team leader may start doubting telecommuting if it takes several exchanges to complete a simple task. Make sure the collaboration tool allows for multimedia conversation, as well as the ability to work across devices and networks. As a flexible workers you will need a solution that works on all your connected devices, wherever you are.

4. Focus on Results, Not Time

In some offices clocking in hours is secondary to what you actually accomplish. As a remote worker, you may not be working the same hours as your team, but your success will be determined by your results.  Make sure you still outline quarterly KPIs with your team, and send weekly emails on your completed deliverables.

5. Work in a Productive, Clean Space

Telecommuting  is a commitment, not all work environments are going to be suitable. Experiment with different spaces and find what works best for you: a spare room in your home, your kitchen, your neighborhood coffee shop, or even a co-working space in your area. Just make sure the space is both not too distracting or boring, and that you are actually getting work done!

6. Take Breaks

Equally as important as measured productivity, is the idea of emotional productivity. In a recent article by Fast Company, this was described as taking mental breaks to refocus the mind to allow for renewed perspective, and inspired efficiency.  The beauty of working from home means you have control of your working environment and schedule. Try to take walking meetings over the phone, have 10 minute breaks every hour, and eat your lunch outside. These are great ways to refresh the mind, and see ideas more clearly.  Don’t feel guilty about this, these breaks mimic the natural pace of the office, and will help you share more creative ideas with your team.

7. Leave Work at the End of the Day

“The good news is that now you can work anywhere, and the bad news is that now you can work anywhere,” Susan Seaburg, Field Development Manager for the Americas for Hewlett-Packard tells Santa Clara University. Working from home can cause your personal life and professional life to blend together. Make sure you outline your working hours and stick to them. This will ensure you get all tasks completed for the day, and avoid feeling guilty when you aren’t working during your off hours.

While there are many benefits of working from home, telecommuting is difficult and is not for everyone. Success in this role is a team commitment that requires effective communication, and strong organization skills.

Do you work remotely or use a home office as your primary workspace? Tell us about your experience and if you have a tip that works for you.