The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are your strategies for staying effective while working remotely?” is written by Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself and Me 2.0, and research director at Future Workplace.
The advent of collaborative technologies, globalization of business, and desire for flexibility has created the remote workplace. Now with a variety of portable devices, employees can work from anywhere at anytime. This is especially relevant on days like Tuesday, with Winter Storm Stella descending on the U.S. East Coast and devastating work and travel with blizzard conditions.
In this telecommuting culture, work has become less about where you are and more about what you do, how you do it, and the results you generate for your company. A new global study by my company, Future Workplace, and Polycom found that nearly three out of every four employees say their company offers flexible work, and about a third telecommute regularly. An entire 79% of employees said they work with at least one person who isn’t based in the same office as them. In addition, most employees have their closest work friend in a different office location, proving that they are able to maintain relationships regardless of location.
While remote working has its benefits, such as flexibility and lower commuting costs, it also has its challenges. These challenges include the stigma that employees are being lazy, watching TV instead of focusing on their work and as a result having to work longer hours. The lack of structure of remote work can greatly expand your workday and the absence of face time can prevent promotions. In our survey, we found that over half of employees fear being judged harshly by their coworkers and are afraid that it will lead to longer hours.
In order to mitigate the drawbacks of remote work, you need to focus on maintaining relationships, over-communicating, and being accountable for your schedule and goals.
Aim for more personal interaction
While it’s easy to text and email your remote colleagues, you shouldn’t rely on either to communicate with them. Instead of being overly reliant on tech, set up more phone calls, videoconference sessions, or in-person visits in order to build stronger bonds with your colleagues and gain their trust. Our study found that nearly all (98%) of employees say that collaborative technologies make it easier to build relationships with coworkers, and nearly half pick up the phone more regularly after using the technology remotely.
Keep your coworkers up to speed
When coworkers can’t visually see you working on projects, they might not be confident that you actually are. By checking in with them more regularly and giving them updates on your progress, they are more inclined to trust you. Set at least one weekly mandatory meeting with your team so that you can give them updates and learn more about what they are working on—this way you can better support them. Use messaging apps such as Slack to increase team engagement and show that you’re an active contributor.
Make your own schedule and stick to it
When you aren’t working at a corporate office, you need to be accountable for how you allocate your time. Based on my experience as a remote worker for over six years, I recommend that you make a list of everything you need to accomplish in a given day, then order it from the most to the least critical to you and your team.
You should perform the most critical tasks at the start of your day when you are the most alert and productive. You should also take breaks consistently at the same time every day to give yourself time to relax and reinforce your structure. These breaks can include going to the gym, cooking, or coffee with a colleague.
Set specific, achievable goals
As a remote worker, you need to be fully aware of both what your manager expects of you and your personal view of success. When you check in with your manager, make sure you come up with goals that can be measured and attained so that you can actually accomplish them. You should also have developmental goals, since you will be accountable for learning new skills, tracking industry trends, and mastering your current role.
If you aren’t a remote worker today, there’s a decent chance you will be in the future. Following these strategies will help you make the best of that situation.