How To Stay Connected When Working Remotely

Staying connected with all members of a large team can be difficult enough when everybody is in the same space on a regular basis; it is harder still for those members of the team who work remotely. We’ve all heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” and it very much applies here. Remote workers run the very real danger of being forgotten entirely – good for social loafers, bad for upward-mobiles seeking promotion.

Stay connected when working remotely

Avenues for communication between remote workers and the mothership abound (call us biased but we prefer Blrt) but maintaining your status as a member of the team still requires no small measure of strategic finesse. Excepting instances of superior and understanding management, the onus is most likely to be on the remote worker to make their virtual presence felt. To that end, we’ve compiled a few strategies to help you excel in those efforts.

Here are some great ways to remain a part of the team when #WorkingRemotely. Click To Tweet

Learn to manage up

Your manager is going to be busy enough with those employees they can actually see, so checking in with remote workers will often be the first thing to fall off of their to-do list. This is easily solved by learning to manage up and many of the tips that follow are strategies for achieving this.

Seeing as working remotely is still a rather recent phenomena, you may be among the first remote workers that your boss has managed and your boss almost certainly has not worked remotely themselves. This situation creates an immediate knowledge and communication gap that it is in your best interest to take responsibility for bridging. You will need to drive the normal functions of management not only from below but also from afar. Here’s how to do it.

Get specific

In the same way that your boss can’t see what you’re doing all day, you’re also not around to seek face time. When you get those valuable moments of one-on-one time with your manager, make sure to capitalize on them by being very specific in your communication rather than waiting on your boss to flag things with you.

Use wording like “are you happy with my progress on this project?” and “what else can I do to help with that project?”. In doing this you’ll be making life easier for yourself and your boss (spoiler: bosses love employees who make their lives easier). You can also take this advice one step further and ask specific questions that will help you keep your finger on the pulse and track the zeitgeist: “how does the team feel about this?”.

Ask for a clear rulebook

While you’re being specific, take time to outline your boss’ expectations for communication. Ask how they want to be updated, when they wanted to be updated, how frequently, to what level of detail, etc. Some bosses might feel better knowing how you spend every minute, others might just want a digest of your daily activity toward the end of the day.

Along these same lines, establish firm parameters for your autonomy. What kind of things need to go through your boss and what can you handle on your own? Have similar conversations with coworkers with whom you communicate regularly. They’ll appreciate that you’re customizing your work to their needs.

Give frequent status updates

The most effective way to avoid being forgotten when working remotely is to communicate frequently. Now that you know your boss’ specific expectations for your work, communicate to the maximum extent they’ve outlined.

You can’t pop your head in your boss’ door to say you’ve kicked another goal but you can use any of a myriad of tools – chat, SMS, email – to do the same. This may feel unnatural at first – you may feel as if you’re over-communicating – but as with the above tip, you’re actually making life easier for your coworkers. When everybody is across your progress at any given moment you will be a part of ongoing office discussion rather than becoming an item to be chased up. Answering questions before they can be asked is the ultimate way to manage up.

Lose your modesty

Modesty is nice but being forgotten is not. Remote workers must sell themselves every single day because – and here we go waxing philosophical again – if a remote worker achieves something amazing and nobody is around to see it, did they achieve anything at all?

Make sure coworkers and managers alike know when you’re kicking goals. The extra 10% goes a long way in an office setting where your boss can see you having coffee with a coworker in another department as a way of grooming yourself for a promotion. If you’re doing the same thing in a virtual setting you’re going to need to make sure your boss knows it’s happening. If being so blunt intimidates you, try becoming an explainabrag ninja by disguising your brags as routine status updates.

The remote worker can't afford to be modest and must manage their managers. Click To Tweet

Play by the same rules as the office

A constant struggle for some remote workers is a lingering feeling of guilt: do their coworkers think they’re being lazy? Does their boss expect them to be on their email 24/7? The struggle is real.

Fortunately, many of these concerns can be assuaged with a few points of remote working conduct.

The mothership timezone should also be yours

Availability should one of your top priorities as a remote worker and this means you may need to operate outside of your comfort zone. For example, the mothership is going to be up to three hours behind you if you’re working remotely in Sydney but are reporting to an office in Perth. If you start work at 9:00 in Sydney, your coworkers won’t come ‘online’ until 12:00 (9:00 Perth time) and when you wrap things up at 5:00 your coworkers will still have another three hours to go. That’s a total of six hours a day that you’re not available to the mothership!

This is not sustainable for either party. Granted, working from 12:00 – 8:00 may not be ideal for you but compromises can almost always be made. Just remember to make sure everybody is across whatever agreement is reached so as to avoid confusion, frustration, or perceptions that you’re being lazy because you’re nowhere to be found at 3:00 in the mothership timezone.

Every hour of time zone difference for remote workers represents two hours of #communication lost. Click To Tweet

Always attend meetings

Again, moments of communication are rare for the remote worker. Make sure you are available for any and all meetings and make it very clear if you have something to contribute so you’re not forgotten in the discussion.

Participate in team building

For some, the possibility of getting out of team building activities at work might be part of the appeal of working remotely – but it shouldn’t be. Never miss an opportunity to be front and center in your participation in team building exercises. This is true of both parties and gatherings at the mothership as well as team efforts like wellness initiatives that you can still participate in from a distance. You won’t be forgotten around the office if your name is on top of the leaderboard!

Stay connected when working remotely

Communicate by any means necessary

Working remotely doesn’t have to leave you out in the cold but as with managing up and adjusting your routine to match that of the mothership, your communication game will take a little extra effort.

Leave no tool unturned

There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to communication tools available today and you’ll need to be a master of as many of them as possible. Being available during business hours and knowing how to manage your manager doesn’t do any good if you can’t communicate via the chosen technology. The hidden bonus of this expertise is that you’ll be ready for those moments when the technology doesn’t work on one or both ends. You don’t want your name to become synonymous with ‘technical difficulties’.

Of course, you could just download Blrt and talk, point and draw your way to clearer communication:

Get

Don’t put off returning correspondence

Coworkers in an office can see that you’re swamped and so they will understand (to a point) if you haven’t responded to their email immediately. Unfortunately, that courtesy doesn’t extend to a remote worker who can’t be seen. Putting off a reply to that email might seem harmless but it can be perceived on the other end as wilful and lazy. Even a quick reply along the lines of ‘message received – have to prioritize project X today but will get back to you first thing in the morning’ will go a long way to remind your coworkers that you take them seriously and are on top of everything.

Don’t be all remote work and no remote play

Just because you work remotely doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the personal aspects of being a part of a team. The moments before a meeting commences are often spent by early arrivals on personal conversation. You, too, can ‘arrive early’ by dialing in a few minutes before the meeting and participating in that chit-chat. It’s a nice way to not only maintain your presence on the team but will also go a long way toward helping you feel a little less lonely.

Tell, don’t show

One key way to overcome the fact that you can’t be seen is to verbalize and emphasize your actions. Your boss can see you taking notes in person; you’ll have to say things like “I’m making a note of that” when working remotely. Your cheeky smile can be seen around a conference table but when you’re a voice coming from a speakerphone you might need to laugh out loud to indicate you’re being sarcastic. Nodding becomes “that’s a good point”, a pat on the back becomes “good job!” – silence, meanwhile, gets ignored and is forgotten.

Remote workers can still have chats around the #WaterCooler... just without the actual cooler. Click To Tweet

Utilize your remote status

All of the above tips will help you overcome the challenges of working remotely and help you stay connected to the team. There are, however, positives of working remotely that can also be maximized.

Take notes you wouldn’t want people to see

Most of this article has talked about how to overcome the fact that nobody can see you but this tip is a valuable way to embrace the fact. Taking notes in itself is not a new concept but the fact that you can be sure nobody will ever accidently stumble across your notebook in your desk drawer means you can take notes to a level you wouldn’t consider otherwise – especially about your coworkers who you might have a hard time remembering details about since you don’t see them that often to keep a face associated with a name.

If you know you have a call with Joe from accounting coming up, you can have your notes about him right in front of you and know to avoid filler words and ask about his kid’s progress with learning guitar. He’ll never know that you’re keeping these notes but he’ll certainly appreciate your concern.

Be the mothership’s local person on the ground

Being located far away from the mothership may create opportunities for you to represent the company at events such as conferences and exhibitions in your local area. Not only will you save the company money as they won’t have to fly out somebody else, you’ll get a chance to experience something you might not have otherwise. Add further value by scouting out such events and making them known to the mothership. You’ll be advancing your own career while providing a real benefit to the company at no extra expense.

Drop by when you can

While all of the above advice will help you stay connected when working remotely, it remains true that face to face communication is the most valuable for a team. Take every opportunity to drop by the mothership in person and remind them that there’s a friendly, smiling face on the other end of those conference calls. Just don’t forget to review your notes before you go!

About Blrt

Blrt helps you get your point across quickly by allowing you to talk, point and draw over images, documents and websites. The resulting video-like recording is called a Blrt.

Your Blrts require much less bandwidth than video and can be shared with anyone on mobile or desktop. This makes Blrt ideal for both collaboration and the creation and sharing of dynamic content, as public Blrts can be embedded into any webpage.

Once recorded, Blrts are stored in the cloud and are exchanged with others in a conversation-like fashion. A record is kept of the exchange, and new parties and media can be added at any time.

Blrt shifts time and place, allowing users in a conversation to participate in their own time. In an era where activity-based working and distributed teams are commonplace, Blrt is revolutionising the way people interact to get things done.

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