Tricia Sciortino of remote staffing company BELAY gives some hard-earned advice on how to get the best results if you work remotely.
BELAY is a remote staffing organisation which was set up around 10 years ago and all its employees work remotely. Sciortino set out six main ways to improve the effectiveness of remote workers and combat some of the potential challenges, such as burnout due to a lack of distinction between work and life and distractions.
The first is to ensure you have the right set-up to work effectively. That means the right equipment and tools, including upgrading to the right bandwidth, a good laptop or computer, an effective webcam, printer, microphones, earphones, etc. Ensure your mobile phone plan gives you the data you need and that you have the right video conferencing software and a good email provider. Some means of contacting people immediately such as instant messaging is also important as are social media and collaborative tools such as Slack. You need to be able to hit the ground running.
Second on the list is having a designated office area that is both quiet and motivating, particularly if you will be spending a lot of time there. That means thinking about your surroundings – do you want plants, do you want to sit near a window, do you need somewhere that is clutter free, what colour schemes help you to focus…It all depends on what environment is likely to motivate you most.
Next is creating boundaries. For Tricia that means working out what your ideal work week might be and planning ahead. She believes firmly in making a plan for how you will use your time, mapping out necessary meetings, the time you need to do your work in between, breaks, buffer time, personal time, some free time and factoring in some time at the beginning of the day to review the day’s plan and some space at the end to wrap things up so you have a clear start and finish to your day and work does not run into home time. Tricia also recommends reviewing this rough plan every quarter.
Fourth concerns virtual meetings. BELAY holds all meetings on webcam as Tricia feels the lack of face to face interaction means you miss out on body language and other cues, for instance, you can’t see how engaged people are. Also important is having an agenda that is put out ahead of time so people can prepare. Allotting a particular time to each item helps ensure people don’t wander off the point. It should be made clear who is running the meeting and keeping track of time. It may be a good idea to have someone to take notes and send around action points afterwards. Those taking part in the meetings should be aware of their surroundings and try to find a quiet space so they can fully engage.
Fifth is communication. Working remotely means communication is even more important. Lack of communication can reduce trust. Tricia says important information needs to be repeated more when people work remotely. This is because it will not be reinforced in between meetings as it is in offices. It is important therefore to have a communications plan to ensure everyone is on the same page. That may include email updates, weekly newsletters or monthly briefings, but it is vital to keep people connected.
Lastly, Tricia recommends everyone sharing the big three issues they are working on at the beginning of the week, whether they need additional help and so forth. This can help guide conversations and extend trust and empathy as well as lead to useful collaborations. Also useful are wrap-up sessions at the end of the week with managers on what has been achieved and possible road blocks.