Remember last year when Yahoo banned employees from working at home?
Despite the recent Yahoo ban, many web agencies are eager to reap the benefits of joining the remote workforce. Agency’s HR departments have increasingly been recognizing that good talent shouldn’t rely on an individual’s co-located physical presence and rather that potential employees should turn their talents loose to be productive in environments they feel most comfortable in. Narrowing your talent to within a 30-mile radius actually sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud -and you can, in most occasions, have talent 3,000 miles away, yet in the same time zone. Sounds like a sweet deal right?
Needless to say, remote agency work has become a HUGE trend. As long as you’re punching in the quota and getting work done it shouldn’t matter where exactly you work, right? Have you read Basecamp’s 37 signals book, Remote: Office Not Required? It’s a short read, but it basically summarizes that as long as you have a good internet connection + collaboration software, being a worldy remote worker isn’t too complicated.
In fact, it’s a win-win situation for both employees and employers if done properly. I bet you are reading this article and have at least ONE remote worker under your belt.
Am I right?
Perhaps it’s you, maybe it’s your brand ambassador, international sales director, or web design freelancer, lawyer, or whoever. It’s now become so common that pretty much every company has a remote worker in one of their many departments.
So you’re a remote worker. You love your job and you love that you can work from pretty much anywhere and so can your team.
There is a BUT coming. Getting work done from a remote work-station is not an easy thing that anyone can handle. You will be faced with a diverse and unique set of challenges, topped by a never ending list of distractions that always present themselves as more fun -than your actual work. Here is a rundown of five best practices to make working remotely a success… For you and your boss.
1. Connect with your team.
Connect and maintain clear communication with whomever it is you have professional working relationship with. I’m not sure what you do, but I am sure who you will be interacting with. Project managers, product managers, UX/UI designers, front and back end developers, consultants, or a client you’re working up a contract with. Set expectations up front. If they are pestering you at 9pm at night and that wasn’t agreed upon, then you need to do some re-thinking. Most importantly, ensure you are always online during working hours, available for your team, and check constantly for allocated tasks and projects. If you’re a remote project manager, man do you have a tough job, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Leveraging the power of services such as Allocate HQ, and ResourceGuruapp makes it easier to manage your team and resources for given projects.
We’ve said it before, and you probably already know, but maintaining perfect communication when you’re working remote is imperative. You can use tools such as Google Hangout, Trello, Basecamp, and Skype to enhance your agency communication.
2. Dial up old school and new school
Another reality of remote agency work is that you will be “the person on the phone or the person on Skype.” Your workmates forget you (physically) exist unless you alert them. What’s worse, without the benefit of reading peoples’ gestures and body signals, it’s hard to figure out the best time to interject or make a point.
- Follow-up emails: Pay attention to what individuals are saying, taking notes and make follow ups later.. If you can’t get a word in the call, writing a follow-up email with notes in your Mac notepad is your best bet.
- Choose your spot breaks: Do not try to break the flow of a talk every time you have something useful to contribute… you hate when people do that to you, so now why would you do it to another person? An interrupting voice over the phone annoys lives attendees. Instead, jot down your thoughts and hold back till a natural break beckons in the flow of the talk. Once you have broken in, lay out your ideas in a single thread and ask for questions. My special rule of thumb? You should only own 1-2 moments during a call with multiple team members; just make them count.
- Identify yourself: When you break in, always give your name. It is hard for all individuals in the room to recognize your voice. In fact, I personally get mixed up with literally any other woman who is on the call. To avoid this I always need to repeat my name.
- Lead by example: If you are a remote web agency director and leader of the meeting, motivate people to dial in rather than pick a conference room. People do not realize that live meetings are key productivity drain. Think about the time you spend walking in and out of the conference room, indulging in small talks, waiting for squatters, etc. Show your co-workers that a well-managed conference calls can be top productivity drivers when done the right way. The meetings that I run, always commence and end on the same time. They have a defined agenda, and allocate time to each participant to contribute and ask questions – without letting them monologue the talk. I conclude with a “CTA” because it’s a terminology that web designers and developers understand. What is the call to action? What are the deliverables, who’s sending a follow-up email, and what actions are they responsible for?
3. Leverage an enterprise social network.
Most great innovations and ideas occur in the seams of the work day; chats in the company kitchen while making espressos and side conversations prior and after meetings or running into a colleague are mine. When you work remotely, you lose that essential connection, and you truly need a way of making up for the loss. Leveraging enterprise social networks such as Salesforce Chatter or Yammer give you a chance to re-create that collaboration. You can participate in any ongoing dialogue taking place every day in your web agency feed. For instance, I get feedback on my ideas, post interesting comments on my co-worker’s comments, and share interesting articles- This beats the occasional forwarded email A TON.
4. Visit HQ once in a while and get your “face in the place.”
Nothing replaces a smile, eye contact, or a handshake. Go at least 3-4 times a year. I travel to my Chicago office once every 3 months, and let me tell you it’s necessary! You really need to enforce your presence with your actual humanness and personality. What to do while you’re in the HQ? Pack your calendar with meetings from workmates, including 15 minutes vignettes, grab coffee catch-ups and more. It’s actually a pretty funny tip, but making an email subject line with “Coffee next Monday?” get’s you some pretty high click rates and conversations with local clients in the area. And don’t be afraid to spend that company CC on dinner and drinks with key influencers- relationships and networking is priceless.
5. Boost your energy by not focusing purely on time management
If the mention of managing your energy and not your time inspires a sign of relief, good news… you are rational.
Managing your energy is the best approach because it is a factor you can manipulate. Time, on the contrary, is an elusive enemy; at times on our side, but at time it’s not.
Also, time is a finite resource, but energy can always be created. So, it narrows down to finding enough energy to get your work done the right way. Sorry for getting all science on you -but it does give some validation.
Here is how you should go about it. Establish simple rituals that give you energy, rather than drain it away. For instance, build 15 minute’s walks into your morning work schedules. And stick to them-during your lunch go outside and get fresh air. Although they might feel like a conflict of interest to tear you away from your work and stop typing that last mail, that short break will get your blood flowing and your mind fresh. Boost oxygen to your brain and fundamentally boost your energy.
So only the few smart ones actually do this… but setting some time aside for meditation and exercise can also boost your sense of wellbeing, let alone enhancing your physical health. Remember that the secret is to stick to your schedule for this energy inducing power time in order to create effective, lasting results in your work lifestyle.
The Bottom Line
Working remotely can be positive if you use some best practices… And it’s not just a trend. You save hours in commuting.. and that alone translates into thousands of hours gained for time with family and personal interests. Remote work also helps modern web agencies access unlimited talents beyond the 50 miles radius of their location.
Do you work remote? How often does you or your team visit your Headquarters?
Talk to me. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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