Congratulations – you’ve scored the privilege of working remotely!
While working remotely comes with a whole slew of personal benefits (wearing sweatpants to work? Check. Being home to answer the door for UPS? Check!), it can be perilous professionally if you don’t handle it well. If you’re not visible, you’re replaceable.
But there are ways to make yourself visible. While your boss or clients might have mental images of you scarfing bon-bons in your boxers on the couch, you’ve got the extra responsibility to prove that you can perform similarly (if not better) from home.
When working from home, communication is paramount. You need to be as available and easy-to-reach as you would be if you were sharing a cubicle. Building mutual trust and respect is essential – and even more difficult – when you’re based in a different location than your team or client.
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“Reach out as much as you can to the extent that it adds value to your working relationships. For example, let your manager know when you’re working on a particular assignment and offer updates. In a remote setting, your supervisors (and teammates!) will not know when you’re working on something unless you tell them.” –Maren Kate Donovan, CEO of Zirtual
Instant messages, texts, and emails are of course key tools here, but they are often not enough to get the point across. When you’re working at home, you may miss a social cue or tone that can’t be replicated via text. You might feel disconnected socially or miss impromptu meetings. And sometimes written summaries and file attachments can’t reflect brainstorming something together in real-time. Collaboration needs to be an active, engaged process and can only go so far when communication is delayed or static. More and more companies are going partially or fully remote and you’ll need to help yourself stand out when your company is scattered all over the world.
That’s where conference calling, online meetings, and video conferencing come in. If you’re on the road or at your home office, a personal conference line can be a lifesaver to make sure you’re on those necessary calls. That way, any time you need to hop on the phone with someone, they have the same contact number and code for you every time. You don’t have to worry about using a different phone now and then or giving out a new code each time you need to speak to someone on your team. It’s simple to add extra callers or schedule future meetings.
Screen sharing can help you and your colleagues get on the same page faster. Reviewing a document, new design, or sharing presentation or demo? Avoid a long email chain with a quick web meeting.
Video conferencing takes this process a bit further. Chatting with a colleague over video can help build bonds and understand body language and context (just remember to move your dirty dishes out of the frame – we’ve all had a video chat mishap or two!). You can even video conference into company social events or big meetings to make sure your presence is known.
Make sure you’re equipped with digital collaboration tools too. Project management services like Asana can be great for keeping your team on task and apprised of your progress. Google Docs can serve as an in-the-moment collaboration tool (you can see someone edit a document or spreadsheet in real-time). Sharing files with a service like Box or Dropbox helps you monitor versions and updates anywhere you go. Lastly, messaging services like Slack help limit email volume and integrate with many of your existing tools for expanded functionality.
5 ways to stay in touch while working remotely
- Have your own dedicated conference call line
- Schedule regular check-in calls and web meetings
- Don’t rely only on email or text message alone for clear communication
- Try video conferencing for that extra personal touch
- Equip yourself with the best productivity and collaboration tools
- Be easily available and respond quickly to any calls or messages
- Send progress updates (whether you’re prompted to or not) to show how much you’ve accomplished
If you go the extra mile and communicate well while working remotely, you’re going to gain the respect of your colleagues, which can go a long way. Ease their minds by being present at all times – even when you’re not in the same place.
For those of you that work in an entirely remote workforce, these tools are imperative to your team’s success every day. For those of you that work out of the office, perhaps you can have your cake and eat it too.