Remote working offers employees fantastic opportunities. Imagine working from home – no arduous journey into the office, and no internal company politics. This type of employment offers greater freedom, flexibility, and quality of life. Furthermore, it provides balance and allows a person to devote more time to their family and out-of-work pursuits.
Whilst working remotely, however, it is easy to fall into bad habits. Remote working lacks the structure and organization that an office environment provides. Furthermore, it is easy to become distracted and lose your way. This is why it is vital to remain disciplined and work with a high level of professionalism at all times. Just because you are not working within an office, it doesn't mean that your standards can drop.
To help, we have created a useful guide on what not to do when remote working. We have broken this article into three sections – communication, technology, and behavior.
Communication is vital within any business setting. Without effective communication, employees struggle to function and complete simple tasks. Whilst communication is important within an office environment, it is even more important for remote workers. As there is no physical contact or daily exchanges, it is vital that communication is regular and detailed. The following are communication faux-pas to avoid:
1. Have vague communication channels and be difficult to reach
As a remote worker, you have constant open communication channels. Your employer or contractor has to be able to get in touch with you easily and at any time. Imagine if your employer has an urgent message – they need to change your work as the project has altered. What happens if you don’t have any open communication channels, and you proceed to complete the work as originally instructed? This would lead to a disaster.
Due to this fact, ensure you have a multitude of effective communication channels. Instant message, email, mobile phone, and even WhatsApp, for example. Furthermore, ensure you regularly monitor these channels and look for external communications.
2. Have infrequent contact and remain quiet
If you work in an office, it is easy to communicate with your team and managers. You simply walk into their office or use the internal telephone system. Remote contracting can lead to infrequent contact. Remote workers can become figments of people’s imagination as they only remain in contact when necessary – don’t do this!
Make yourself known. Contact your employers regularly with updates. It could even prove beneficial to use a workflow platform such as Trello or Slack which allows message history. The main point is to refrain from staying in the shadows and only contacting your employer when necessary. You must make yourself heard and communicate frequently, even with small updates or just to say hi.
3. Communicate in an unprofessional manner
Communication within an office often involves speaking and verbal exchanges. Remote communication however often involves email and instant messages. To that end, it is important to keep your communication professional. It is easy to let your standards slip and use poor grammar and spelling, just because you are not in a working environment.
Ensure any form of written communication is proofread. Use an automated tool such as Grammarly to spell check your work. Basically, your communication should remain professional regardless of your working location. Furthermore, ensure that your written communication is concise and to the point. Don’t use complicated sentences or include unnecessary information.
When working remotely, different technologies are used. You utilize a range of communication tools and software that enable you to work remotely in an effective manner. Ensure that the equipment you have is adequate and refrain from this technological faux-pas:
4. Share inappropriate items when engaged in a video call
When making video calls, there is often a need to share your screen or give remote access to an employee in the office. It is therefore important that you look at what is displayed on your screen beforehand. Firstly, refrain from sharing personal information and documents. This is for your own security as well as the company you are working for.
Secondly, ensure that there are no inappropriate items on your screen. This could be sensitive items such as online banking, or personal items such as photographs, etc. Again this is a security measure to protect both yourself and the company. Furthermore, it also looks unprofessional if you have inappropriate items displayed on your screen. It could give the wrong impression to your employer and cause them to doubt your work ethic.
5. Take videos calls in inappropriate locations
As you can see from the above, video calls when working remotely can lead to some sticky situations. The fun doesn’t stop there, however. When taking a video call, the location, and what your employer/client sees in the background is hugely important.
Consider this, what impression would your employer get if they saw you were sprawled out on your living room sofa with the television on whilst taking an important video call? This would seem highly unprofessional. Moreover, it would create a poor impression of your discipline and working environment. Always take video calls in an area that looks professional – your personal office, for example. This creates a better impression to your employer/contractor.
6. Have inadequate equipment to perform the job
Working remotely requires an adequate set of technological equipment. This includes a strong wi-fi connection, a powerful laptop/computer, and even an office phone or work mobile. If you regularly work remotely, it is advisable to invest in your equipment. Ensure that you have adequate tools to perform your remote work effectively.
Imagine this scenario – you have an important video conference and part-way through, your cable internet suddenly breaks up – the connection is lost and you cannot reconnect. If you had internet tethering or had invested in high-quality fiber optic broadband, this situation could have been avoided. This is why having inadequate technology can damage your ability to work remotely.
Discipline & Behavior
Aside from communication and use of technology, behavior is also important. Working remotely often has a negative impact on a person’s behavior. It is assumed that the same levels of discipline and work ethic do not apply, simply because there is no management present. This is certainly not true. To become a quality remote worker, you must have discipline and maintain high standards of behavior. The following are several behavioral faux pas to avoid:
7. Lack of boundaries and structure
Remote employment or contracting does not have a set structure. You have to create that structure. Furthermore, you also have to create boundaries. It is quite easy to have an unstructured working schedule. This can lead to working much longer hours than required. You may end up simply working every hour of the day and never having a break.
Whilst this may ensure you get the work completed, it could also lead to health issues. Our bodies have a breaking point. Working constantly for long time periods can be detrimental. This is why clear boundaries and structure are vital. Set standard working hours and stick to them. Furthermore, take regular breaks and allow sufficient time for lunch.
8. Make no effort with your appearance
It is quite tempting to get out of bed, keep your pyjamas on, and start working. When working remotely, appearance doesn't matter, right? Surely this is acceptable – it's your own home, you can dress how you want? Whilst this is technically true, it is not the best practice. Making little to no effort with your appearance can instil a sense of laziness. Furthermore, it can promote low self-esteem and encourage you to make no effort in your work.
When working remotely, maintain a set routine. Get up. Have a shower. Dress as if you were still going into the office. We don’t mean wear a shirt and tie, or a formal dress – but make an effort to look presentable. This acts as a tonic for your own attitude and efforts. Furthermore, if you have a video call, being dressed appropriately and looking smart creates a better impression for your employer.
9. Leave tasks until the last minute
Workload management is a key aspect of remote working. When in an office environment you are surrounded by people who can give reminders and help keep you on track. On the flip side, when working remotely you rely solely on your own discipline and organizational skills. There is a tendency to leave tasks until the last minute or fail to devote sufficient time to different jobs.
If this is the case, you will inevitably end up falling behind or even missing deadlines. Refrain from poor time management. Ensure that you have a clear schedule and that you understand what is expected, and when it is required. This will prevent any mishaps and ensure you do not miss deadlines.
By following these guidelines, remote working should prove fruitful. The main point to remember is that you are still representing a business and engaged in a contract of employment. This means that the same standards apply regardless of your physical working location. Working from home, or from a co-working space for example, should be treated no differently than working in an office environment. Look at your communication, use of technology, and behavior, and ensure you are professional at all times.