It’s not news that the COVID-19 pandemic turned the working world on its head. But even before that, the rise of digital nomads and fully remote companies continued. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Some employees report feelings of isolation and uncertainty in their careers, such as the following:
- If I don’t go into the office, how am I supposed to have valuable face time with my supervisor?
- If I’m not part of the day-to-day company culture, how will I feel engaged?
- How will I stay motivated?
- How will I prove my worth?
- How will I ensure my contributions get the recognition they deserve?
One of the biggest drawbacks of remote work is the strain it puts on collaboration. But there are ways to do it successfully. Staying connected in a virtual environment is more than doable. Here’s some tips.
1. Work the same hours.
Part of the appeal of working remotely is setting your own schedule, but it is difficult to feel like part of the team if you aren’t involved in at least a little real-time conversation and collaboration. You don’t need to work a traditional 9-5 shift every day, but it is a good idea to log at least a few hours while the rest of the team is engaged.
2. Understand everyone’s workload.
If you don’t walk past your co-worker’s overflowing inbox every day and don’t observe your supervisor running around frantically, your teammates’ workloads can easily fall “out of sight, out of mind.” Know what team members are working on. See if you can pitch in or help out with tasks you don’t normally manage. Likewise, make sure everyone knows what you’re dealing with. You’re out of sight, out of mind, too.
3. Set realistic deadlines.
As a virtual employee, you don’t have access to all the office-life perks. If your computer crashes, someone from the IT department probably won’t immediately come to your rescue. Plus, there are different types of distractions both in the office and out. Be realistic about your productivity and when your contributions will be available to the team—and accept the timeline your teammates lay out for their portion of the work.
4. Have an accountability partner.
If you worked in an office, you’d know there is a great deal of accountability involved with just the simple task of plopping down at your desk each morning. Your co-workers and supervisors physically see you show up to your job. But as a virtual employee, you don’t have the watchful eyes of team members to help keep you on track. If you don’t ask someone to hold you accountable for your actions, you might stray from the path you want to take.
5. Use various communication styles.
Email is probably the easiest form of communication between team members; it’s also easily misinterpreted. You shouldn’t avoid email, but you shouldn’t use it as your sole mode of communication either. Try…
- Chat rooms are great for real-time communication and leaving communal messages for each other.
- Get some face-time with everyone on the team with video conferencing.
6. Keep your projects organized.
Collaboration usually involves a lot of revisions and file updates. Without proper management, important stages can get skipped or ignored.
- Create a file management system. If possible, put it on the cloud so everyone can work together.
- Consider using a screen-sharing program, or let team members have access to each other’s computers remotely.
- Create video tutorials to explain new projects.
7. Track your productivity.
Because you’re isolated from the team, it’s easy to feel like a one-person operation. You’ll probably start to feel overworked and under-appreciated. So measure your productivity—know how much you are really accomplishing. Keep track of how many hours you work each day. If your supervisor doesn’t regularly conduct reviews, do your own quarterly analysis. Naturally, your review will be biased, but taking a critical look at your work is important. How do you feel about your contributions, the team, your workload and your accomplishments?
8. Join the family.
Create a feeling of family with your co-workers. Make an effort to get to know the people you work with—check out their social media accounts, ask personal questions when you get a chance. It’s easy to throw people under the bus if you don’t know them that well. Be physically involved, too, not just virtually connected. Attend any non-work activities and visit the office every once in a while.
If you make the effort to stay connected to the team, your co-workers will reciprocate.
This article was published in June 2015 and has been updated. Photo by