What if you are one of the few employees who have chosen to stay remote? How do you stay relevant, engaged, and productive?
As offices around the world reopen, myriad organizations are planning for a hybrid workplace. Some employees will head back to the office, while others will work remotely, and still others will combine the two.
For those who are fortunate enough to choose, it could be a very sweet arrangement. You get a work/life balance that compliments your personal life, rather than having work dominate your time and family life. With that said, what if most of your fellow team members are returning to the office while you are one of the few to stay working from home? You will more than likely feel that:
- You are missing out on key information, training, and events at the office.
- Your professional development and promotion possibilities will be hampered.
- Your productivity and effectiveness will be adversely affected.
- You will miss your coworkers and feel lonely and isolated.
- You will not have nearly as much fun as your colleagues at the office.
That is exactly why it is imperative that you plan ahead in order to ensure both your professional effectiveness and your ability to successfully work from a remote location. Here are five proven tips for doing so:
1. Proactively engage your fellow team members.
Strong coworker relationships are equally important as impressing your manager; this is especially true if you work on team-based initiatives where the rest of your colleagues are working face-to-face. Rather than choosing remote victimhood, embrace your remote status as a key asset instead of a debilitating liability.
For example, make it a point to be the first to post a game plan on your organization’s intranet or communications platform, while the rest of your team is still getting dressed for, or commuting to, work. Alternatively, you can send an email outlining how you solved a late-afternoon client challenge yesterday, while everyone else was commuting home from the office. These are just two examples of exhibiting that you are online, engaged, productive, and available, even when you are not “just down the hall” at the office.
Also, keep in mind that you are much more likely to be more productive than your office-based colleagues because you are not subject to what I call “The Thief Of Office Productivity,” that being interruptions. In fact, the average American office worker is interrupted 60 times each day and is only able to back to the task at hand 40% of the time after the interruption.¹ This means the average American worker has to start all over at ground zero 60% of the time after the interruption.
In short, make a concerted effort to go “above and beyond” when working from home, transforming yourself into the uber-collaborator your coworkers want to call first, and showing them that you do not have to go to the office for them to appreciate that they have your support.
2. Schedule more time with your boss.
More than likely your manager will be working in the company office, and thus, will have consistent “face-time” with your in-office colleagues. As such, you need to compensate for this by ensuring that you have enough interaction with your boss as well.
By far and away the best way of doing so is to set regular weekly phone or Zoom meetings with her/him. These meetings should be scheduled for at least a half-hour and no more than one hour. During these interactions, you can:
- Give regular updates on your work activities and achievements.
- Obtain your manager’s advice on any challenges or obstacles you are experiencing.
- Leverage and get your boss’s input/advice on the top three drivers of Employee Engagement: Recognition for your job achievements, your Career Development and possibilities for promotion, and how to strengthen Your Relationship With Your Manager going forward.
- When discussing promotions with your manager, specifically ask them how or if your remote status will affect your place on the team and likelihood for being promoted. Ask them for the clearly defined goals and objectives you will need to achieve in order to get promoted.
3. Be the first to respond.
Proactively adjust your communications toolkit to become/remain a responsive and dependable team member. A successful trick to being the first to respond to your boss’s email is to set up a mail rule to forward any email from your boss to your phone via text such that you immediately get notified about the boss’s communication. That greater online presence will eliminate any perception that you are less responsive when you are working remotely; in fact, it will highlight exactly that you can be, and are, more responsive than your colleagues sitting right down the hall from the boss.
4. Build a brain trust.
Being a remote worker makes it easier to avoid the “Groupthink” you witness at the office. It can also inspire you to create a wider brain trust than what is available in the office. Start by identifying the friends, family, and coworkers who can be useful to your own work, and regularly set scheduled meetings with them in which to brainstorm. Truly make it quid-pro-quo with all members committed to helping one another. Building a brain trust works especially well if you select group members who have diverse and different characteristics than one another, as well as more experience and expertise than your colleagues in the office.
5. Leverage your remote advantage.
Your remote work arrangement can and will be a tremendous asset that your colleagues will fully appreciate when they see you turning your remote status into a benefit for the entire team.
Some of your biggest potential gains can be realized by taking on deeply-focused and complicated projects that are difficult to do when you are in the office. In addition, proactively offer to work on the relatively solitary tasks that benefit from a more quiet and reflective work environment. As such, you can and will become your team’s “go-to” person for long, deep, and complicated research or work projects.
In summary, “wowing” the boss, engaging your coworkers, and exploiting the benefits of remote work can all translate into making you an exceptionally valuable team member. While you may still miss out on team lunches and office gossip, you will still be creating a reputation for delivering phenomenal results outside the structure that contains the rest of your team.
Ironically and poetically, you will know that you have fully succeeded when none of your other team members want you back in the office.
1 Spica International Ltd Study, October 2020.