CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JUN. 08, 2016
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5 Important Lessons You Will Learn When Working Remotely

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Working from a remote location has revolutionized the way people think about employment. The digital age ushered in new technologies that enable people to work from almost anywhere as though they were inside their employer’s office. Remote teams assembled from individuals that live in various time zones and regions work together in ways never before thought possible. Working remotely brings numerous benefits for both the employer and the workers.

See Also: 3 Ways Remote Working Is Not as Easy as You Think

Remote workers often produce more than their on-site counterparts while helping employers reduce overhead costs. The employment format reduces the environmental impact of work by taking cars off the road during the daily commute. It also improves the job satisfaction levels of employees by helping them maintain a healthy balance between their work and personal life. Still, working as a telecommuter brings a unique set of problems that challenge everyone involved.

The lack of physical face-to-face interaction among employees makes collaboration harder than it was in traditional office settings. Despite the technological tools available, relationship building in the workplace has become difficult, challenging the effectiveness of teams. As a remote worker, you need to deal with such issues well so that you can enjoy a long successful career. Here are five lessons you will learn while working remotely.

1. Communication is Extremely Important

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Good communicators succeed as remote workers. Even in traditional settings, successful teamwork depends on open and efficient communication. In the new model of work, people need to work even harder than before to coordinate their efforts to avoid redundancy and wasted time. Communication must be frequent and vibrant, written in clear language, so everyone understands their role in various tasks. Businesses can’t afford to have hidden information that can affect decision making and planning. 

Communication also involves openly expressing yourself. Remote workers cannot use body language to supplement their words and hope their coworkers understand. Additionally, written communication forms such as instant messages and email need to be clearly articulated so that they have no double meanings. Life as a remote worker means that you sometimes need to bluntly and honestly express yourself.

Good communications require prompt responses to text and email messages. Especially when working with teams, you can't afford to let days pass with unanswered questions sitting in your inbox. Use all available communication tools, to make sure that everyone receives the information they need in the most appropriate format.

2. Remote Work Doesn’t Have to Equal Loneliness

Your experience as a remote worker will likely reverse the experience you had while working in a corporate office. Traditional employees spend their days surrounded by people and anticipate quiet solitude at the end of the day when they get home. Remote workers, on the other hand, spend all day quietly working by themselves and look forward to going out or spending time with friends and family at the end of the day.

Missing the characteristics of your employer’s office should not detract from your experience as a remote worker. Boost the social aspect of your day by working in a co-working space, where remote workers in similar situations to yours can fill the void that opened when you started working from home. Such areas give you a chance to make friends and share inspiration as you work. Places such as a nearby library or café might give you similar opportunities.

Changing your environment periodically can stimulate your senses and relieve feelings of isolation and stagnation. Whenever possible, visit your employer’s office to maintain interpersonal bonds. When you work too far away from your company, schedule regular meetings using video conferencing or chat so you can develop meaningful relationships with the people on your team.

3. Productivity is What Counts

As a remote worker, productivity becomes your biggest metric. Your supervisor will likely measure you by how much work you get done rather than by how well you follow attendance rules. You will need to produce just as much as you would if you worked in your employer’s office.

You won’t have a supervisor or manager regularly checking up on you trying to keep you focused on your job. Without eyes on you all the time, you need to rely on your self-discipline to keep you on the right track. You have to battle procrastination and force yourself to make incremental progress on your tasks, so they get completed on time. Your employer will find out eventually whether you have been fulfilling your responsibilities.

Working by yourself also means that you don’t have people close by who can help you with problems. Similarly, you don’t have the social support of a traditional office setting, so you can’t strike up a conversation when you need a break. You must rely on yourself and your ingenuity to solve most problems as they occur.

People working by themselves can also become more prone to distraction than their counterparts in the company office, so you must use every available tool to stay focused and productive. As a remote worker, you don’t have to deal with as many interruptions caused by coworkers, but you still have to cope with digital distractions and notifications that interfere with your thought patterns and workflow.

Even with all the additional distractions, remote workers usually produce 13 percent more than their in-office counterparts. However, that doesn't mean you should work extra hours. As you learn the new mindset, you will realize that nobody is going to pat you on the back for working late. You likely won't receive recognition as a worker who always goes the extra mile. Getting your work done properly on time will pave the way to success.

4. Knowing The Boundaries is Vital

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Separation from your team can result in the development of negative feelings that can hinder your work. For example, you might think that your colleagues doubt that you work enough. If you begin feeling resentful, you might find yourself working longer hours to disprove such notions.

That is why it is extremely important to balance your work with your personal life. This will keep you happy and satisfied as a worker and household member. Follow your work schedule by starting and stopping work at the right times. Even though your schedule may be flexible, you can’t expect to work odd hours all the time. Schedule your personal time and do your best to stick to that schedule. When you know you have personal assignments scheduled it will be easier for you to finish work on time.

Reminding yourself that the quality and amount of work you finish defines your performance, not the real or perceived feelings of your coworkers in the company office, will help you stick to a reasonable work schedule. If you try working too much or keeping your regular hours, you will likely become tired and frustrated. Scheduling for your personal life will help you fulfill your responsibilities to your family and the community.

5. You Need to Prioritize Your Health

When you work remotely, without the structured environment of the traditional office and the daily ritual of commuting, you can lose your bearing. You shouldn't expect your employer or anyone else to take responsibility for your health. 

Require yourself to take breaks, including lunch, and stop working at quitting time. You will notice that you spend less time moving around than when you were a traditional employee. Schedule times to get up and move around during the day to avoid the repercussions of sitting for too long. Regular exercise helps you maintain a positive mental outlook and relieve stress. It also sets the stage for a long healthy life. 

Working at home gives you the ability to control what you eat, so always choose healthy food. Break up your day to rejuvenate your mind and body when prolonged work has caused you to lose focus. Rather than stubbornly trying to push through tasks, take a short walk. When you return, you likely will have a renewed interest in your work.

See Also: 5 Questions Remote Workers Must Ask

As a remote worker, most of the lessons you learn will pleasantly surprise you. You have a chance to become more productive than you ever thought possible while having more time for your personal life. Still, you need to stay aware of feelings of isolation and negativity while taking full responsibility for your overall well-being. Knowing the benefits and disadvantages of remote work in advance will help you know whether this type of work suits you well. Learning the lessons now will help you have a fantastic career as a remote worker.

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