I’ve been working remotely for nearly 7 years now. When I moved from Oakland, California to Boulder, Colorado I wasn’t 100% sure remote work was for me. I was running a team in a very busy office and I’m a social being that thrives off of co-workers energy. On top of that my career was just hitting stride. How was I going to adjust to this big change and still be successful? Flash forward to today. My career took a big turn for the better and I picked up some great remote working tips along the way. Here are my top 10 tips which made remote working a success for me.
1.Always use your web camera: This is something I’m diligent about because seeing people’s expressions is how I feed off their energy and make a connection. I was taught two great sayings that I live by about working remotely and always using a camera. ”Bad hair don’t care” takes the pressure off of having to look fully done up for every call which is called “camtastic” (Thanks Jazmin for introducing me to this great term!). It’s also important to have the right lighting for your camera. Don’t position yourself with your back to a window as it will make you look like an anonymous shadow. Test this out with a friend first to pick the right spot for your camera lighting.
2. Make sure you know who’s in the room: If you’re having a meeting with people that are onsite sometimes the room setup isn’t perfectly suited for remote cameras. People can be cut off from view, so make sure you speak up and ask who’s in the room before kicking off the meeting. Hearing a voice out of the blue that you didn’t see on camera is very disconcerting. This goes for a new person that you hear walk into the room too, ask who that is so you get a full picture of the meeting.
3. Get dressed everyday: (and not just from the waist up): When my official work day begins, I get out of my PJs and get dressed for the day. I can’t quite focus on work unless I’m dressed with one exception…my slippers. I often wear them all day and yes that means I also often don’t leave my house.
4. Get good headphones: I have marathon meeting days and I was finding my earphone situation quite frustrating. Cords drove me nuts and wireless ones were dying quickly and had bad microphones. So I turned to twitter for some help. Check out the incredible input I got and I ended up choosing Jabra Elite 75t. It worth the investment as a remote worker!
5. Have a designated workspace: Working from home occasionally versus working remotely from home is a very different distinction. One implies that you work in an office most of the time and chose to work from home every once in a while. The other implies you work permanently from your home. You can get away with more when working from home occasionally like where you work — from the kitchen table, from the living room or even outside on a nice day. When working remotely from home, I recommend having a designated workspace or ideally an office if you have the room. It reminds me of a post I wrote a while back about how important my office set up is to my productivity. It’s also critical for focus and professionalism.
6. Be bold, speak up and don’t fold laundry: I felt that being given a chance to work remotely was a gift from Salesforce 7 years ago. It was not as common place back then so I wanted to be taken seriously. I was committed to keeping my career trajectory going in the right direction. As a remote person (especially if using a web camera is not possible) you can fade away on meetings. It’s important to be bold, listen intently, and interject with input when you have something important to say. This means NO multi-tasking such as folding laundry during meetings. If you can’t hear what’s being said, ask for it to be repeated or for them to get closer to the mic when speaking. Don’t consider this annoying as this will teach everyone a lesson to adapt to different work situations. It’s also your right to call out side conversations because this makes it nearly impossible to hear when you’re remote and everyone else is in a room.
7. Don’t forget the chit chat: My former Sr. Director of Community (and great friend), Holly Firestone, taught me a lesson when working remotely. Often people that are remote jump right into the guts of the meeting without any chit chat exchange. In an office setting that’s done as people are coming into the room, but it’s not as easy when you’re remote. Either way chit chat is an icebreaker of sorts and sets the meeting up for success, so make time to do it even if you’re remote.
8. Embrace the quiet: I was very worried I’d miss the hubbub of an office environment but I feel like quiet is my new best friend. My career took off when I moved remotely and I reflect back on why that might be the case (besides all these great tips!). I think that having some quiet time was what I needed to kick start my strategic brain. I was at a juncture where I needed to take my role beyond tactical. I needed to really get into my head to determine the next steps for my programs and team. I attribute the quiet time as one of the things that helped make it happen.
9. Tell people you have a dog: I don’t mention this in every meeting, but for the larger more important ones I do. Why would I do this? Working remotely from home you can’t always control who comes to the door and when. You also can’t control if a fox runs by your office window. In both cases my dog (and I’m sure yours) goes berserk and barks her head off. I am pretty good at creatively muting but that can’t exactly happen if you’re running the meeting or speaking at the time it happens.
10. Dealing with your kids: My kids are no longer at the age they need a babysitter/nanny. Hallelujah! This does mean that we need to have signals in our house for when I’m in a meeting or need focus time. Doors shut is one of them but you may not have the luxury of doors. You may also have kids (like mine) who ignore the doors and come in anyway. To help with this situation, I’ve put post-it notes on my desk so that if my kids really do need something (they always think what they need is urgent!) and I’m on a call they can write it down and I can answer without stopping the call.
What are your top working remote tips?