Working Remotely? Here’s How to Do It Right

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It’s not news that the COVID-19 pandemic turned the working world on its head. And even now, the rise of digital nomads and companies offering full- or part-time remote work continues. But the change doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Some employees report feelings of isolation and lack of motivation 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 working remotely 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 when working remotely.

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 coworker’s overflowing inbox every day or 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 when working remotely.

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, distractions exist 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’ve worked in an office, you’d know there is a great deal of accountability in just the simple task of plopping down at your desk each morning. Your coworkers and supervisors physically see you show up to and work on your job. But when working remotely, 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 when working remotely.

Email is one of the easiest and most preferred forms of communication between remote team members—according to a survey commissioned by Forbes Advisor, emails were the most popular form of communication among remote workers, followed by video and audio calls. However, it also requires more care in the language you use—as does any form of remote communication—to prevent being misinterpreted. You shouldn’t avoid email, but you shouldn’t use it as your sole mode of communication either. 

  • 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 when working remotely.

Because you’re isolated from the team, it’s easy to feel like a one-person operation. You may 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 coworkers. Make an effort to get to know the people you work with—check out their social media accounts and 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, 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 when working remotely, your coworkers will likely reciprocate.

This article was originally published in June 2015; it was updated April 2023. Photo by DimaBerlin/Shutterstock

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Jessica Velasco is a 10-year business veteran who launched two businesses in very different industries. She shares reflections, observations and tips about leadership and career success on her blog, The Leadership Notebook. She also works as a marketing content specialist for Chargebacks911, a risk mitigation company for credit card transactions, chargebacks, fraud prevention and revenue retention.

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