11 Tips for Working Remotely
It’s been well over a year since I joined Telligent as a Remote employee. I wasn’t sure I’d last six months working outside of the main office. I’m sure these aren’t the only tips, but they are the ones that work for me. Maybe some of the other remote peeps at Telligent can offer their 2 cents after reading this.
1. Get face to face
There is nothing like actually meeting the people you work for and with in person on a regular basis. Before I started at Telligent I made sure I had met several of my co-workers in person during the interview process. Shortly after was a well timed trip that took us all to Dallas for some face to face meetings. This time isn’t always the most efficiently spent for us remoters, but it’s highly valuable social capitol. Simply energizing.
2. Get Visual
If you can’t meet in person you can use a number of applications for 1-1 & many to many video chats. Joe would tell you that it’s landlines FTW, but our teams have spoken. Despite the choppy audio, the glitching, CPU usage, and comcastic outages nothing beats video for knowing when your co-workers are rolling their eyes at what you are saying. So far tokbox & Oovoo have been the most used by our teams.
3. Find your water cooler
It doesn’t matter if it’s twitter, facebook, or IRC… it’s important to have a virtual water cooler with your team. You need a place to talk about things that aren’t precisely what you are working on with your team.
4. Get out of the house and be "that guy"
You need to get out of the house when you start to feel the walls close in around you and productivity drop. Some of my most productive afternoons have been at the local coffee shop with Wifi, music, and good headphones. It’s extremely energizing just to be around people.
5. Shower and get dressed slacker!
Based on our daily video calls I’m not sure if all of my co-workers agree with this one, but the couple of days I’ve broken this rule it’s cost me in productivity. I just don’t feel ready to work unless I’m showered and dressed well enough to appear in public. You are already saving yourself the 15-30 minute commute you can afford a 10 minute shower.
6. Work a regular schedule
This is another one that may just be me, but just because you work remote doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the fact no one will notice you golfing, shopping, or visiting your out of state girlfriend in the middle of the day. I never realized how important my online status was until last year.
7. Take breaks
Just because you don’t take off golfing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks throughout the day. I’ve found myself, too often, speeding through lunch at my desk while doing e-mail only to realize I hadn’t moved much in hours. That’s not an effective break. Use this time at the virtual water cooler, take 5 minutes to clear the dishes around your desk up, or go outside and get some fresh air.
Update: This was published as a draft before I wrote the last few so enjoy. No sense putting the cat back in the bag… that’s painful.
Update 2: Scott posted a list that included some that I hadn’t written up yet here: http://simpable.com/life/working-remotely/
To 2nd two of his and add more…
8. Work in a remote culture
If the rest of your team sits in a cube with one another and doesn’t leverage shared communication protocols you’ll probably find yourself on the outside. Like Scott said… drill them about their culture before you sign up.
9. ALL COMMUNICATION IS MAGNIFIED
Since you don’t see each other every minute you need to realize that every time you do talk to each other the messages you send are amplified to a degree. E-mails may be read more carefully and hints of sarcasm that go over well with people you see in person don’t travel through the series of tubes well.
10. E-mail etiquette… know when to drop out of mail
Related to 9 standard e-mail etiquette rules apply, but my addition is that I’ve seen too many threads carry on when it would just be faster to grab everyone and hop on a sharedview, call, or chat. Maybe something to apply is if there are more than 2 replies from 2 unique people… it’s time to drop out of e-mail before more people get sucked into the vortex.
11. Evolve your thinking and your Intranet
I know I’ve personally felt a lot more connected to remote and non-remote employees since we, as a company, started using our own Evolution product. That’s my biased sales pitch, but the idea is the same no matter what software you use… get people using the social media tools on the intranet that they use outside of work to stay connected. Get people blogging, creating groups, sharing ideas, posting status messages, etc inside the firewall.
Bonus: Forward thinking
I believe that the tools that enable truly collaborative online working experiences are in their infancy. Things have evolved so quickly in the last 5 years that the innovations of the next 5 years are going to reshape how people view the need to be sitting next to each other. They are going to continue to enable you to hire the best people for the job regardless of geography. It’s going to make us all more efficient. I think we’re only 10% of the way there today and there is significant room to grow & improve.