The Right Ways to Work Remotely

Forests full of trees have been felled printing articles about the pros and cons of working remotely. Maybe that should be scores of gigabytes have been consumed on the issue. Regardless, it may be time to move beyond the pro vs. con debate, accept that it’s here, and figure out the best way to do it.

Web developer Alex Ivanovs has some good advice at The Huffington Post. He says it’s important, above all else, to be flexible. As he puts it, have an open mind about everything. Do you sweat the small stuff? (I’m not talking project details – more like minor irritants.) You may find it difficult to work remotely without constant support around you.

He also talks about keeping your sanity. That also dovetails with openness. As he says, you need “the ability to stay sane when situations start becoming stories to tell.” A little mediation may not be a bad idea once in a while too. tackles the issue in a post called, Working Remotely? Three Tips to Maintain a High Profile. It lists these tips:

Over communicate
Be Seen
Change Your Method, Not Your Tone
Do we necessarily agree with all the tips? In theory but not necessarily in practice. However, just because my approach might be different doesn’t mean what PMStudent has to say is wrong.

In terms of over communicating, the site suggests daily communications. This might be important at the beginning, but on a sustained basis? Sending emails just to send emails can eventually be seen as a sign of insecurity. Of course, you might have a supervisor who expects it.

There’s no disagreeing with this advice, though: “Set an auto responder on your email when you are out of the office, make sure your voicemail states your normal hours and when you deviate from those hours make sure everyone knows.” I would add to that: don’t forget to adjust your auto responder and change your voicemail daily. Nothing worse than a voicemail stating you will be returning to the office by a certain date – and that day was three weeks ago.

Be seen also makes sense because it dovetails well with over communicating. PMStudent says to consider including your photo with communications. Or maybe set up a intraweb site where you can post pictures showing you and your project.

It should go without saying that the photos should show you are your most professional. People connect more quickly and easily with faces, as PMStudent observes, but you don’t want to be recognized for the wrong reasons.

The site’s third point deals with changing your method and not your tone. This is probably the strongest piece of advice of the three. It recognizes one of the huge difficulties of working remotely: access. People just aren’t going to be available when you need them. Sure, the same thing happens when you are in an office but it’s too easy to go off on someone you don’t deal with on a daily basis.

It’s kind of like road rage. People feel stronger in the relative anonymity of their vehicles. You might feel emboldened when you leave phone messages. As PMStudent points out, “Do not let others sense your frustration. Do not change your message so that it becomes threatening or hysterical. Remain calm polite and professional.”

PMStudent has a good video you might want to watch to reinforce the message:

Ryan Wilcox, a software developer, has some real practical advice at Toptal. Get a good, wired headset that runs off your computer’s USB ports. It will make you sound better on conference calls. He also recommends AwayFind, which sends urgent emails to you as texts. Sounds simple but often you can get texts when your cellphone signal may not be strong enough for web access. It can be as little as $5 a month not to miss important emails.

His advice echoes what the others said. Wilcox also reinforces how important communication is, especially daily check-ins. He suggests it could be particularly effective in the morning and does not always have to be work related.

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