10 Tips for a Successful Remote Work Culture
Working in a remote capacity is not as simple as taking home your laptop and doing everything you’d do in an office. In my nearly thirteen years with The Nebo Company, I have spent five of those years working remotely from both New England and Austria. Below are my tips for a successful remote work experience.
Take time to create a work space that works for you. It is important that you are both comfortable and productive in your workspace. Make sure you have enough light, pens, notebooks and other supplies you might normally use when working in an office. If you plan to use video-conferencing, use a hard flat surface for your laptop to ensure the best picture and sound quality for those with whom you are meeting. Also, notice your own surroundings and what others will see when speaking with you. Choose the background you most want for your virtual meetings.
Notice the noises that affect your space throughout the day/week. Does the neighbor’s dog walker arrive each day at noon to excited howls? Do your children get out of school each day at 3:30 and barge into the kitchen looking to raid the refrigerator? Notice the patterns of noise in your space and schedule important meetings and phone calls around times of typical disturbance.
Note your tone, and be gracious with others. E-mail is quick and efficient. E-mails, however, don’t come with smiles nor a chance for clarification. E-mails written in hasty response and in the spirit of efficiency may result in misunderstanding. Take an extra moment to reread your messages and make sure the tone matches the spirit you are trying to convey. When reading e-mails from others, always assume the best of intentions and reach out to clarify before making assumptions.
Pick up the phone. Don’t default to e-mail for all non-meeting communications. E-mails don’t often include enough context, and what was intended to be a quick question turns into an epic tennis-inspired match of e-mail communications. A good rule of thumb here is that if you could walk down the hall to ask a colleague a question rather than send an e-mail, pick up the phone and call them.
Use video to connect more deeply. Video is a great way to enhance meetings as you are able to pick up on visual cues and facial expressions. When working in groups, video is especially useful to get a sense of how all participants on the call are responding and reacting to the current speaker. The visual cues provided by video make it easier to notice when others are trying to speak and prevents one or two people from dominating the conversation.
Set your default video settings for meetings to “Off.” Meeting by video is great, AND you don’t want your boss to join the call in her bathrobe, or your client to join amidst a pile of unfolded laundry. Do invite people to join by video by turning it on at the start of the meeting, rather than assume that all of your contacts are ready for video from the start of the call. Set expectations with your colleagues regarding whether or not you will be using video or voice as your main form of meetings so that no one is caught off guard.
Dress for your audience. While working in your pajamas and sweats is tempting, do keep in mind the expectations of your industry, clients and colleagues. If you are expected to maintain a professional appearance when in the office, do maintain one when working remotely if you will attend meetings via video conference. Your regular work attire might be overkill, though you still want to give the impression that you made the effort to get dressed, brush your hair and look like you are prepared for work and not for a day of binge-watching on Netflix.
Move around. When working in an office, you frequently get up each day to walk from meeting to meeting, to the bathroom down the hall, to get water, and to get lunch. The chance to move your body and the change of scenery help with your energy and your ability to remain engaged. When working remotely, it can be easy to get settled in one spot at your computer and not move throughout the day. Establish routines such as walking to the mailbox after the virtual morning huddle, watering your houseplants for a 10 minute break, and setting an alarm every 60 to 90 minutes to get a drink of water.
Make your new mantra, “Who else needs to know?” A lot of information spreads organically in an office setting. Information is passed from one person to another in hallways and open spaces. Others may overhear and jump in for more details. Access to information in a remote setting only happens intentionally. When remote, continue to ask yourself, “Who else needs to know this information?” Work with your supervisor and direct reports to develop expectations for sharing information and your work products. Be sure ask yourself what you might be missing from your point of isolation and check-in with colleagues for feedback and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Make time to connect. Work is simply more fun and much easier if you know your colleagues. You will also be much more willing to pitch in to help your colleagues – and they, you – if you feel connected. When working remotely, you lose the impromptu office banter, the lunchtime outings, and the joint misery of complaining regarding the morning commute over coffee and bagels. Plan to spend the first three to five minutes of meetings connecting with your colleagues and asking the important questions regarding their weekend activities, how their kids are doing, and about the no hitter baseball game the night before. You can even plan virtual lunches and breaks to connect and catch up.
The Nebo Company offers coaching and leadership development programs to support successful virtual work for both individuals and teams. Contact us to learn more about how we can support your organization.