by Chuck Chapman, Content Strategy Coordinator
I worked for over 20 years before embarking on a career working from home. There were many times when getting dressed every morning, enduring the rush hour commutes (and sometimes the co-workers) made me envious of those who were able to earn a living from the comfort of their own home.
As technology improved, becoming a full-fledged member of the “Pajamas Media” became more realistic for writers. While having the right technology to do the work is important, it’s not the reason I’m a good remote worker. Those are actually characteristics I developed during my office years. They’re the traits you’ll need too if you’re going to have a successful career working from home.
When you’ve got to be at the job site by eight to punch the clock or you don’t get paid, or if arriving at the office 15 minutes later than everyone else gets you the “stink-eye” when you walk in, it’s easy to get to work on time. One of the great ironies of working from home is that even without traffic and the morning commute, it’s hard to get to work on time.
The truth is, unless you’ve got some remote time punch system, nobody on your team is going to know when you start working. They mostly just care that you’re getting your job done and done well. That doesn’t mean punctuality isn’t important though.
First, if you’re not disciplined about keeping “regular” work hours, you’re likely not to get your work done on time and done well. You’re also likely to find yourself working more and later hours than if you’d been more disciplined about getting started on time.
Have that second cup of coffee at your desk. Catch up on your Twitter feed when you break for lunch. It’ll still be there. Hold yourself accountable for the time you put in.
This is one trait I sure didn’t have enough of to have been a successful remote worker when I was younger. If you’re a person who needs constant reassurance, if you need those “attaboys” and pats on the back from your boss and co-workers, working from home might not be for you. You’re not going to get nearly the level of external praise and encouragement you would get in a face-to-face office situation.
That doesn’t mean your remote team doesn’t care about you, or that they’re cold or unresponsive. The team I work with at KEG is an awesome collection of people. The nature of our remote work, however, doesn’t give us the same kind of opportunity to encourage on a daily basis as co-located colleagues have. It takes more intentional effort to offer praise when you work remotely. It happens, just not as frequently. We also miss out on the non-verbal “thumbs up” or simple smile that can brighten up your day.
Make sure your confident in your own abilities and secure in who you are as a person before you start working from home.
At my age I’m considered a “digital immigrant.” That means I graduated with a college degree before the internet was even born! I’ve had to learn the equivalent of another degree (and then some!) to be able to compete in today’s digital marketplace. If I was afraid of technology, I’d have been dead in the water.
Even if you’re a millennial born with a smart phone in one hand and a mouse in the other, you’re going to have to constantly adapt to changing technology. Those who have a stubbornness about learning new technology or a complacency about adapting won’t make it very long working from home.
There’s a lot more “hand holding” that goes on with co-located teams, especially when a new person is going through the on-boarding process. That’s easier to do when two people can be working on a task, one in the role of mentor and the other learning the ropes. In the remote work world, you’re going to expected to work more independently.
Again, that doesn’t mean your remote boss is going to put you on an island to fend for yourself. If your boss is a good coach like mine, he/she will be available for questions and coaching. Even so, the nature of the work means you’re going to have to take the initiative to ask them. Your remote leader isn’t going to see your puzzled looks or you wandering around the office looking for an answer.
If you’re going to work from home, you have to take the initiative to search and find answers and solutions.
At the Remote Leadership Institute, we’re in the business of helping to develop remarkable remote leaders. That starts with helping to develop productive and valuable remote employees. If you’re contemplating a move to the remote work world, or if you’re new to it and want to get better, we’ve got some courses like this one that can help you in your transition.