The possibilities that remote working bring to the business table are very exciting. Now, people with similar interests no longer have the barrier of location to keep them from collaborating together.
I’ve been working remotely for over 6 years and I used the opportunity to move overseas and travel. In addition to the flexibility remote working offers, I have been able to experience first-hand the success of collaborating with various remote teams.
But don’t let me make it sound easy. There are a number of things to take into consideration before jumping on the remote working bandwagon. I’ve broken it down into 3 categories: technology, communication, and personality.
The #1 essential ingredient for remote working is having internet access. If I’m giving a webinar or moderating a meeting, I need a high-speed connection. However, if I just need to respond to emails or write, my low-speed USB dongle is enough. If I’m traveling in a big city, internet connection is relatively easy to find. However, in more remote locations, it becomes a problem. Getting internet connectivity while traveling through the US is relatively easy. In Europe, each country has it’s own system. Consider the type of work you need to get done and make sure you have the right internet connectivity for the job.
Agree on collaboration software and commit to using it. Collaboration software will give your team a place to track tasks, store files, schedule meetings and document decisions. There are a lot of great tools out there. For example: Slack is great for ongoing group conversations, Pivotal Tracker is great for scrum teams, Google Docs is great for collaborative writing. If you need help choosing a tool, please contact me. I’ve done a lot of research and I have opinions :). I say “commit to using it” because it’s exponentially less efficient when portions of the team don’t understand how the software works.
Make sure your workspace is appropriate for the job. When I’m giving presentations, I need an external monitor for my notes, a separate telephone line to ensure a clear connection, and a quiet location. If I’m answering emails or writing, it’s fine to be sitting on a train with my laptop and USB dongle.
Good communication is essential. As well as the usual phone and email correspondence, I use a combination of instant messaging (IM) and Skype to keep in contact with my colleagues. I keep my status accurate so everyone knows my availability. I also bought online numbers for both the US and the UK to make it easy for my clients to reach me.
Be sensitive and accommodating to time zones. Because many of my clients are in the US, I choose to work until 10pm CET (1pm PT / 4pm ET). With this arrangement, I have a good amount of “face time” with my colleagues and it’s easy to schedule meetings with clients.
However, as accommodating as I am, I also focus on having a good work-life balance. I do my best to be offline by 10pm so that I get enough time to decompress before going to bed. Of course, there are nights when I’m on a roll and I work later, and I also take occasional nights off to go out.
Work in an environment most conducive to your personality and productivity habits. Working remotely is generally not something you can fake doing well. You either thrive working on your own, or you don’t. You either have the discipline or you don’t. It’s not a judgement one way or the other, but rather, it’s important to recognize where your strengths lie.
For me, having a quiet workspace where I am by myself, is ideal. I’m often on the phone, giving presentations, or writing… additionally, I simply like being in a quiet environment. However, there are a lot of people who need to work with others around them. If you’re one of those people, working remotely can be too isolating.
And as much as I like working alone, it’s important to me to build relationships with my clients and colleagues. One of my colleagues and I begin every work session with a quick status update via video chat. Another colleague and I “talk” via IM at the start of her workday to go over any outstanding issues from the night before.
For businesses and organizations, learning how to work remotely can add a lot of value: the best person can be hired for the job regardless of location, employees and members can have a more flexible lifestyle, and a lot of great work can be done! The key is finding the right people and the right tools for the job.
What is your experience with working remotely? What tools do you use?