Last week, I caught up with a colleague who also happens to be my brother’s boss. My brother had been a normal employee until recently when he decided to move to a new city. His employer said they’d try letting him keep his job and work remotely.
I asked his boss “how’s the long-distance relationship going since my brother moved away?” and his reply was simple:
“He’s a grown-up. He works when he says he’s going to, and delivers what he says he will on time. Nothing has changed. It makes no difference where he’s located.”
It struck me just how simple that was, and I realized there’s nothing unique about a good remote employee. The same qualities make a good on-site employee or a good freelancer. They make a good partner or a good person for that matter.
The cliche complaint about remote workers is that you can’t look over their shoulders so you don’t know if they’re working hard enough. You can’t trust they’re giving your job their full attention.
What outdated thinking
First, being “busy” doesn’t equate to being productive. You don’t measure a team member’s value based on how many minutes you count them staring at their screen. Employees should be measured by how well they accomplish their responsibilities. They should be rewarded, not punished, for efficiency.
Second, if you need to look over anyone’s shoulder, you have a trust problem. People don’t work better when they’re being big-brothered. If you can’t trust your people to manage their time, you either need more reliable employees or a better management style.
Remote workers can be intimate team members
I’ve been a remote freelancer for all my life. I work on a regular schedule following a consistent routine. I’m easily contactable on email, phone, text, Slack, video, or anything else. I overdeliver on my promises and never let a client down, even if they’re on the other side of the world. My clients tell me I’m more professional and reliable than many of their in-office team members.
In short, I act all grown-up. And people appreciate the trust that behavior earns.
It's part of the reason I get great freelance clients, and it’s the same reason any remote worker excels. My brother freelanced for years before taking this position, which helped him build the capacity for reliable autonomous work.
Want to work remotely?
Be dependable. It’s that simple.
- Follow a routine and work when people expect you to.
- Be contactable. Never go radio silent. Overcommunicate.
- Never miss a deadline. Be unashamedly reliable.
- Overdeliver. Add extra value. Build trust.
If you need babysitting, forget remote work. Forget employment altogether. No matter where you’re located, if you can’t be trusted to deliver, go back to the playpen.