Working Remotely: Lessons from the Road

By | September 2, 2014
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Working RemotelyThe American workforce is increasingly mobile. By one estimate, telecommuting has risen 79% between 2005 and 2012, with 2.6% of the workforce, or 3.2 million Americans working remotely at least some of the time.

Working remotely, whether temporarily, intermittently or full-time, can stem from a variety of reasons:

  • You need a modified work schedule to care for a young child or sick relative.
  • You live in a different city or state than your employer.
  • You live in the same city as your employer, but your significant other needs to move.
  • You occasionally need to go to the doctor, take the cat to the vet, or wait for the cable guy to arrive.
  • You have a case of wanderlust and a spouse with summers off.

In addition to accommodating employees’ work/life goals, offering flexible hours or telecommuting options opens up the available talent pool, and has proven to make some employees happier and more productive. If you are considering telecommuting, below are strategies to set yourself and your team up for a successful arrangement.

4 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success

1. Be Honest with Yourself.

As Jolie M. points out, working remotely is not for everyone. This poses its own set of challenges for managers, who may want to bestow the same freedoms on their employees but realize not all will find the same success. As the employee, it is your responsibility—and ultimately, in your own personal and professional best interests—to be honest with yourself. Consider:

  • Are you intrinsically motivated, or do you need external forces to keep you on task?
  • Are you easily distracted? Do you find it hard to focus when removed from your day-to-day routine?
  • When are where are you most focused and productive? Does this vary widely based on external factors?

Before approaching a manager with an alternate work schedule, have an honest self-assessment of your work habits, and decide if you believe you can work remotely without your work (or your sanity) suffering.

2. Set Expectations.

This is paramount. Expectations and accountability are the most important aspects of any alternative work relationship. Be clear with your expectations for yourself, and ask your co-workers to be clear with theirs.

  • Is this a short-term or long-term arrangement? How long will it last?
  • What hours will you be available to co-workers or clients? How will you be held accountable? Will you be available during your company’s standard business hours?
  • How will you stay in contact with co-workers and clients? How and when can they reach you, if needed?
  • Will you be able to fulfill all of your usual responsibilities during this time? Will any special accommodations need to be made?

3. Secure the Right Technologies.

Thanks to email, instant messenger, cloud-based storage, online video conferencing and a host of other solutions, working remotely is easier than ever. At PR 20/20, we’ve found success with the following solutions:

  • For communication: Gmail, iMessage, Google Chat.
  • For meetings: GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, Google Hangout.
  • For file sharing: Google Drive, virtual private network (VPN).
  • For project management: Basecamp, Podio.
  • For time management: TimeFox.

But don’t take it for granted: Set up and test any needed technologies in advance to work out any glitches before you’re out of the office.

Because all of the above technologies require internet, confirm that you will have stable and secure internet access during working hours. Be prepared to hardwire in if needed.  

4. Create Feedback Loops.

Regardless of how smoothly you think telecommuting might be going, you’re only seeing one side of the story. Be honest about any challenges you ran into, and ask your teammates how they think it went.

Make sure you’re doing everything you can to be fully available to your team and that work can continue uninterrupted when you’re out of the office. While it's never going to be exactly the same, make it your goal to make it feel like you’re still right down the hall. 

To learn more, these are some great reads on the subject:

Does your agency have a telecommuting policy? What tricks to you have for working remotely?