Working from home is a luxury not many professionals will experience any time soon. However, there are also a growing number of companies who allow employees to work from home, thanks to the almost limitless options made available by the internet. Suddenly companies can hire remote workers all over the world and even pay them with digital payment options like PayPal.
But working remotely has challenges aside from keeping yourself to a schedule and avoiding at-home distractions. Becoming invisible to co-workers is a very real possibility when you work with a company remotely.
Working for a small start-up wasn’t easy, but it was fun. When I first began my job, I was living on the East Coast in the U.S. and working in an office with all of my other co-workers. We were an online gaming site that reported news and wrote culture pieces around video games and gamer culture; a dream for some people. Some writers worked purely online while the core staff worked in a central office.
About a year in, my boyfriend was offered a position at Amazon headquarters in Washington, almost 1,000 miles away from the office I was so accustomed to. I didn’t want to leave my job, so after a lengthy discussion and with a somewhat firm plan of action in place, my boss and I decided that working remotely would be just as effective. We would keep a tight schedule and catch up with each other through Skype once or twice per day.
But working remotely, even with a tight schedule, didn’t work as intended. It’s easy to fall to the wayside when you’re so far away and only interact with co-workers online; it can be tough to get a hold of people, it can be difficult to communicate effectively, and most importantly, you begin to feel a sense of "out of sight, out of mind."
Though the role I had was an important aspect of how the company functioned, most of the things I did seemed to be "behind the scenes" in a way. To my co-workers, tasks and projects were mysteriously completed; they often forgot I was sitting in another time zone, working alongside them.
I became invisible to most of the people I worked with, besides my direct supervisor. Though we’d agreed to catch up once or twice a day, it quickly became once a week, then perhaps once every two weeks. Eventually, the Skype calls were sporadic and filled with a lot of small talk and awkward updates.
There are certainly things I wish I’d done differently. Being more persistent in communication would have helped the situation to an extent, but there are some companies that don’t do well with remote employees; they often forget to include them in important projects or even less-important morning meetings.
If you’re feeling invisible to your co-workers because you work remotely, consider trying some of the following tips:
- Being honest and upfront with your boss is key. Since your supervisor doesn’t see you on a daily basis (if at all), they can’t read body language or subtle changes in your mood. They’re relying on you to tell them if something isn’t working out for you or if something is lacking.
- Be annoying in your communication. Bug people if you need to; remember that if your only method of communication is through email or Skype, be persistent with those platforms and don’t let daily updates and check-ins fall to the side.
- Ask to be included in more opportunities like projects or tasks that require updates and interaction with several co-workers. Your participation can help them keep you in mind and remember that you’re still there.
- Be direct. When you’re communicating online or only every so often, beating around the bush can waste valuable time that might otherwise be spent resolving problems or issues. Being direct and saying what you mean in a professional way can be the difference in how effective your communication is.
In my case, after six months, I was ready to move on and find a local position, even though I was still passionate about my job and the company I was working with. Working remotely is very successful for some; but it can be the slow death of a career to others.