This spring, obligations required my family to move “back home” and with that decision came the uncertainty of future employment with our current companies. Luckily we were both given the opportunity to work remotely and felt relieved to have one less thing to worry about above and beyond housing, schools and new communities.
Soon after moving, reality set in and the feeling of relief wore off. How was I going to make this work? I’d teleworked a few decades ago (think pagers, not cell phones) and truly missed the social aspects of connecting with people in an office. Plus, my spouse was going to be working remotely as well. Would we share an office, split time at a coffee shop, find co-working space? A little bit from column A? Maybe some from column B? Soon I had created a system that I continue to tweak but has worked out quite nicely so far. I’ve identified four base elements that have been necessary to support my commute down the hallway.
First, ask yourself if you enjoy your work and the people you work with. I have a great team of people working with me at ATP and a fabulously supportive boss. I’ve never felt much like a babysitter which has really been key. If I would have had my doubts managing my team in a physical space, that would have spilled over to our virtual relationship. Trust and communication are key and crucial to success. Having said that, you can’t rely on the organic relationship building that a physical office space affords – you have to make time and sometimes, even schedule it. Use technology to your advantage – Skype meetings, chat, email, phone, project management software...Find what works best for you and stick with it. Some of my best meetings are being able to “see” people and join in on the non-business chitchat through Skype or Google Hangout.
Organization is KEY. I realized the longer I took to get my “office” in order the more disorganized I’d become. When I first started to telework, I worked in a coffee shop for a while and checked out co-working space but ultimately my spouse and I found housing that allowed us to both have separate office space. Sometimes I run into my husband in the kitchen at lunch time. Other days, we barely notice each other until we start to wind down our days. I can’t stress how important it was for me to have a consistent place to go every day that mirrored an office situation and had as few distractions as possible. An added benefit is not having to co-decorate. It’s my little work world and I make it look and feel how I want.
Make sure you have a plan in place to measure performance. This sounds like a no brainer – companies have this anyway, right? Well, not always. We all have colleagues and managers who hold onto the misguided concept of “butts in seats” prove work ethic and productivity. Speaking from experience, it’s not just the Baby Boomer generation guilty of this either. Take the time to sit down with staff and supervisors to identify clear goals and expectations and visit them often. Get to know yours and your team members strengths and recognize successes no matter how big or small and keep a written record.
Lastly, are you the right personality type? Results from numerous personality assessment tools have always landed me on the fence regarding introvert and extrovert. I mentioned my concern of feeling isolated in my initial experience working remote. Technology allows me to feel connected in ways I wasn’t able to when a pager, telephone and email were my only resources. Now and again, I’ll check in with people and sometimes we don’t even talk about work. It’s important to keep the personal as well as the professional dialogues open with your team.
MY transition has worked out well. Remote working is popular these days, but it’s not for everyone and every company. Give yourself time to identify if it’s a good fit for you, make sure you organize your world, keep track of how things are going and have open conversations often. After all, to quote Leonard Woody, “Work is something you do, not something you travel to.”