5 Ways to Work Remotely Without Being Overlooked
We've all heard about the benefits for employers and employees about working remotely: greater productivity, lower overhead, flexibility in work hours -- and that is all true. However, for remote workers, not being physically present on a day-to-day basis has its challenges.
Consider hallway conversations, impromptu meetings where information is shared, for example. As a remote worker, these interactions are not available. Unfair as it may seem, remote workers have the responsibility of maintaining visibility to the centrally located team.
For the last three years, I have been a remote worker based in California as part of a marketing team that is located in the Czech Republic. For the last two of those years, I manage one team member who is located in Prague. Staying visible and available as a team member or as leader in these circumstances has the extra challenge of different time zones. Here are a few tips to help you stay visible with your team and other colleagues:
Connect by phone/Skype at least once a week.
Our team meets faithfully once a week by WebEx. This gives us the ability to share what we are working on, celebrate achievements of the previous week and raise any concerns about current projects. For the remote worker, it is important to be prepared for these meetings by being succinct and outlining where you will need assistance and the timelines for the project.<;br />; As a leader, I also meet individually with the team member I look after giving us both time for deeper dives into current projects, brainstorming and tackling any issues. It's also a time to periodically check on individual work goals and caring for the person on a personal level.
Don't rely on email.
Knowledge workers today often collaborate with people outside the immediate team. There is a need to get or share information with other departments and teams in order to be successful. Because of this, email is not always the way to go. Email is impersonal and a quick response, humor or the most benign response may be not be well received despite best intentions. To avoid misunderstandings, it is best to use the phone (skype, WebEx or similar) to hear and see the person especially if you don't know each other well. For me that means early morning calls due to time zone differences but it is worth the trouble that email misunderstandings can cause. Many companies are adopting "360 reviews" where your performance review considers feedback from those around you. Ensuring that you have smooth interactions with colleagues who may be asked to comment on your working relationship can help in this regard.
Don't be shy about your accomplishments.
Most people like to be acknowledged for good work. A word of praise or a small gesture of appreciation goes a long way. Not every manager takes the time to do this so it is up to the remote worker to make sure the accomplishments are shared broadly across the stakeholders you interact with. If the company has an internal newsletter or way to post stories about what you are working on or have achieved, it is useful to contribute to these communications. Initially I was hesitant to do so, I don't like to 'toot my own horn' normally but the occasional sharing an accomplishment without overly bragging has been welcomed and people are generally interested to hear the story and hear from you.
Raise your hand.
Sometimes volunteering on a project or task gives you the opportunity to be visible to the team or others you might not otherwise have an opportunity to work with. Going the extra mile comes easy for some but for the remote worker learning to do so can pay dividends. Building relationships is always a good idea and in the future those relationships may help achieve your goals in other areas.
Travel? Say yes.
If offered the opportunity to spend time at the central office (or in my case, any company office, since I work from home), say yes. Usually these opportunities come about because of important annual team meetings. Try to spend an extra day or two if possible. Those extra days can help you meet with people from other departments. Use the time to learn what other departments are working on and what you can learn from them. Remember point #2 as those from other departments may be asked to contribute on your performance review.
While it may seem that remote workers shouldn't have to take on the burden of being visible to others, it is not unusual for people to have an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality. Don't take it personally. Instead use available technology and tools, adapt and stay positive.