Success in Working Remotely

August 31, 2023

Now that fulltime and hybrid remote work will continue as the new normal for many employees, it’s important to make this is successful for both workers and employers. This means adopting best practices for maximizing productivity and engagement, without sacrificing health and wellbeing.

Ever since the pandemic began there’s been lots of advice about how to set up a home office to make remote work most effective. Adopting the right technology was paramount as was carving out a quiet space in your home.

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers are actually more productive than their office workers because they are less likely to take time off and quit. Another study found that employees who work remotely save up to $4,500 annually on commuting costs.

However, one of the challenges in working remotely has to do with the loneliness or alienation that comes from no longer being around colleagues. This should not be minimized as two important elements of job satisfaction have to do with a positive relationship with your boss and whether you have a best friend at work. These relationships are maintained and strengthened when you’re interacting in person. Whenever you are in the office, you should maximize face time with these important relationships.

Here are other best practices for success when working remotely:

  • Discipline – Maintain a routine and act as if you are in the office to maintain consistency in your productivity. Although you have greater flexibility, demonstrate that you can be relied upon at the times when your boss and colleagues expect you to be.
  • Boundaries – Intentionally separate work from the rest of your life as much as possible by clarifying with family or housemates when you are working and when you are not. Maintain those boundaries and perhaps take a walk after work to help you transition.
  • Communication – Be more intentional and frequent in your communication with colleagues to ensure you are continually aligned with them. And use the right medium for your messages depending on what works best.
  • Professionalism – Dress appropriately for your workplace and practice online meeting etiquette to ensure your online presence demonstrates you are in work mode. Limit distractions so you can stay focused whether you are on camera or not.
  • Accountability – Ensure that you deliver what you are charged with delivering. And continually seek clarity around what is your responsibility as well as your priorities.
  • Health & Wellbeing – Since you are not commuting, you are likely not moving around as much and you may need to be more intentional about your health. Schedule time at the gym, go for a walk with a friend, eat and sleep right. Be intentional about keeping your mind and body fit.
  • Feedback Loop – Since you’re not in the office as much, it’s vital to know if your virtual presence is demonstrating your value. Continually check in with those you work with directly as well as your boss to ensure you are meeting their expectations.

As a manager of remote workers, you should also seek feedback from your direct reports to ensure they are getting the direction and support they need. Schedule your one-to-one meetings in person whenever possible and focus on maintaining a trusted relationship to drive performance and engagement.

Success in working remotely will ensure you don’t have to return to fulltime work in the office again. It is therefore important to demonstrate your remote work is beneficial to both you and your company.

Conducting Effective Virtual Meetings

May 4, 2012

More and more meetings are now and will continue to be conducted without the benefit of being in the same room together. People are working from home or the other side of the planet, and it’s important to make these virtual meetings effective.

Virtual meetings, which I define as anytime we discuss something with two or more people outside of the same room, can be done over the phone or on the web. And though there are many advantages to meeting with people in this way, there are also obstacles to making them work well.

For example, it is more difficult to fully understand each other because even the use of video can hide a great deal of non-verbal communication. We also interact differently when we’re not in close proximity to one another. Distractions abound and can easily be hidden from others. And the ability to build trust and camaraderie are especially difficult.

As I discussed in a previous post, effective virtual teamwork requires great communication, respect, trust and camaraderie. These are important for any team to be effective, but may be even more important when interacting face-to-face is not an option.

When conducting a virtual meeting, I believe you should be especially vigilante at following rules for any effective meeting and then include additional ones as well.

All Meetings Should Include:

  • Agenda. Nothing frustrates people more than attending a meeting where there is no clear reason for it and no logical progression of topics to be discussed.
  • Check–in time. Take five minutes or so in the beginning for everyone to say something about what’s going on with them—professionally or personally. This gets everyone talking right away and helps facilitate camaraderie.
  • Schedule. Start and end the meeting on time, and keep the agenda moving forward. Don’t meet any longer than necessary. If the meeting is scheduled to be an hour and you’ve finished everything on the agenda after 40 minutes, end the meeting.
  • Focus. Remember that the meeting is taking people away from tasks they would otherwise attend to and respect their time. Recognize early when certain discussions should be taken offline between fewer participants.
  • No multi-tasking. Nothing keeps a meeting from staying on track and remaining effective when individuals are reading and sending text messages or emails while trying to stay engaged. Even though technology enables it, we can’t be nearly as effective when doing more than one thing at a time.

Virtual Meetings Should Also:

  • Engage everyone. At the beginning of the meeting ask everyone to remove themselves from distractions. Keep each member involved in the discussion and call on those who are quiet to get them talking. Give each person a task such as timekeeper, minutes recorder, “parking lot” manager, and rotate these every meeting.
  • Avoid using mute button. The mute prohibits spontaneous contributions to discussions and often encourage multi-tasking as people can hide out. There are exceptions, for example, when someone is in an especially noisy environment that would only distract everyone.
  • Use video whenever possible. Video conferencing can definitely aid communication and make people more accountable for staying engaged. These web conferencing products are easily available and affordable so there should be no reason not to use them now.
  • Build trust and camaraderie. Check in before, during and after meetings to get to know each other better. This is especially important when you are unable to connect face-to-face with members of your team. It can be as simple as a short call or email to ask how it’s going.
  • Check in with the group. During meetings, check in with the entire group to ensure the meetings are an effective use of their time. It’s harder to read cues as to whether people are tuning out when you’re not in the same room together. Ask what could be done differently to make them more effective.

The reality of more virtual meetings means we need to find ways to make them work as effectively as possible. Following these rules can help.