These days, there are more and more positions opening up that allow you to work from home, either full-time or as part of your benefits package. Working remotely can be a real treat (who likes to wear pants with real waistbands, anyway?), but it’s also a lot more difficult to prove your worth to your boss and colleagues when you lose that valuable face time, which makes getting a raise or promotion that much harder. But have no fear! Here are four tried and true strategies that can help you excel at your job when your office is less of an office and more of a Starbucks.
1. Communicate regularly.
Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. Make sure you communicate with your supervisor regularly, especially if you work remotely full-time. You don’t want to send an email every time you complete a task, but you can send daily or weekly recap emails depending on your supervisor’s preference. These emails should include a very general overview of your day and any exciting highlights. If you’re working from home for the day or for a week when you’re traveling, you don’t need to send a recap, but it’s a good idea to check in once or twice so your boss knows you’re actually working. Make sure you reply to any emails that are sent your way in a timely manner and feel free to ping your boss when you complete a big project.
2. Meet all deadlines...early.
When you work remotely, it’s critical that you deliver all of your work on time. Meeting a deadline is the sign of a diligent employee. But if you truly want to impress your boss, do your best to turn big projects in ahead of schedule. Without the distractions of officemates, it should be easier to focus -- and there are some household chores like cooking and laundry that you can do while you work, so you'll have more time in the evenings to dedicate to a major project. Since you can't pop into your boss's office and let her know your ETA for a deliverable, turning work in early will ensure she never even suspects you may be late. Of course, some assignments take the full amount of time allotted (and some deadlines are unreasonable), so you won’t always be able to turn your work in early. Don’t worry -- just shoot your boss an email along the way confirming you’re on the right track so she doesn’t get nervous, especially if she’s a micro-manager.
3. Don't ghost your boss.
This one seems obvious, but trust us: It’s not obvious to everyone. Remote freelancers sometimes move on to new projects and assume no one will notice that they’ve stopped turning in work. Well, your boss does notice, and if you ever want to resume freelancing at that company -- or if a future employer calls for a recommendation -- your ghosting will come back to haunt you. It’s totally okay to quit a job, but you should do so courteously. Email or call your boss and give your notice. You may not need to give a full two weeks if your position was on a rolling basis or freelance, but you should still give your boss a heads-up and offer to finish up any outstanding work. Make sure your boss knows exactly what you’ve completed and what you haven’t, and turn in any documents, data, or login credentials that your replacement might need.
4. Keep to a schedule.
This tip is more for your mental health than your work output -- but a happy employee is a good employee! It’s easy to let your time slip away from you when you work remotely full-time, and you may find yourself lazing around for longer than you should be or overbooking yourself because you have the freedom to make appointments whenever you want -- suddenly, it’ll be 9:00pm on Thursday, and you won’t have started on the big project you promised to turn in by the end of the week! To avoid this pitfall, make a schedule and establish a dedicated workspace. Maybe you’ll feel most comfortable working from a co-working space from 9-5. And maybe not -- there’s nothing wrong with embracing your flexible work life! If you can get all of your work done in five hours a day, there’s no need to work for eight, and as long as you’re available during normal business hours for emergencies, you can build whatever schedule suits you best. The important thing is to block off work hours in your calendar and find a place to do your work that’s free of non-work distractions -- whether it’s a different coffee shop each day or your kitchen table. Bake some exercise into your day too -- it’s easy to be completely dormant when there’s no real reason to go anywhere, and your mental health will suffer if you don’t move around. You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing, but you should at least let yourself outside for a walk like you would a golden retriever.
Working remotely is a great privilege and, as the saying goes, it comes with great responsibility. Remember to be professional, diligent, and visible and you’ll succeed in and out of the office!
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan