I have been getting up early recently and heading over to Starbucks to try and get some writing done before I head into work for the day. I get there around 5:30 or 6:00am and spend some time sipping coffee and working on several writing projects that I have going on right now. It has been a refreshing time for me.
But, it reminds me of when I used to work remotely. At my previous job, I was a Regional Dean. I oversaw the academics departments of 6 college campuses and so I traveled a lot and didn’t have an office to work from. Some days I would work from home and other days I would work from Starbucks. There are a few lessons I learned early on to make this successful:
- Office time is office time. It didn’t matter where I was, if I was “in the office,” I needed to treat it as though I was working in the office. This included shutting out all distractions (kids, tvs, house chores, etc.) and focusing on the work that needed to get done for the day. Working remotely takes discipline in this way because it’s too easy to get caught up in the things that might distract you and then you look back on your day and realize you didn’t get as much done as you should have.
- Employees need to know when they can reach you. Since they couldn’t see that I was in the office, I needed to let them know when I was in the office. This should be regularly scheduled time and you should try your hardest to not deviate from the schedule. And, I’m not talking about 8 hours each day either. A couple of hours per day is enough. But, they should know when to call or when they can expect a response from you.
- Employees need to see you. Those that we lead need to feel connected to us and need to see us regularly. Interacting with a person, in person, is essential to working well with others. If we never see each other, then it just feels like we’re working with/for a computer or robot – and who wants to do that?? So, you can do this artificially by including a picture in your email signature. Or you can schedule face time with them rather than just a phone call or email. Of course, you should plan regular in-person visits as well.
- Find ways to share your life with them. This, in some ways, goes with the last one. However, this goes more to the reality that when you work along side someone in an office setting, you get to know them…on a personal level. When you only see or talk to those that you lead, you can seem removed, cold, or unapproachable. So, share what you did over the weekend or something that you read. Share your life with them. Also, this should be reciprocal. Ask how their family is or what they did over the weekend. I used to have a monthly report that I used and those I led and I asked them about family, etc. on that report.
Those are the lessons I learned when working remotely. What about you? What would you add to this list?