Working Remotely — Do’s, Don’ts and Everything in Between

I love my job at Lessing-Flynn and being part of the Flynnie team. We’re out-of-the-box innovators, collaborative thinkers and down-right hard workers. When my husband, Jake, was offered a promotion in Omaha, Nebraska, this past January, I was incredibly relieved to have Lessing-Flynn’s full support to work remotely.

The way in which we work today has certainly evolved. With the availability of Wi-Fi on any corner, the space where we work can be just about anywhere. For many companies, working remotely provides an opportunity to keep employees if they encounter a life change (like myself), or to offer more autonomy and flexibility.

So here we are, five months in since my remote adventure began, and I’m ready to share what I’ve learned so far — because it has certainly been a learning experience. I’ve worked hard to explore new tools and improve communication with my co-workers and I’ve got a few tricks of the trade that I want you to try:

1. Communication is Key

Company to Employee — Before jetting off to Omaha, our team established expectations and a formulated a plan in advance to help Lessing-Flynn and myself stay successful. With a formalized document outlining travel commitments, work space etiquette and identifying check-ins along the way, I knew what to expect and they did, too. Overall, we established a positive energy and commitment that has enabled us to figure out what processes work well in the office and what needs improvement for those away from Des Moines.

 

Co-worker to Co-worker — Communicating online has never been easier, but it takes skill to communicate well and keep everyone on the same page. Email is a great tool, but a human conversation is warranted to make sure the message is clear. My philosophy: If I would have previously walked over to their desk to chat, then it warrants a video chat or phone call. (My top picks for video and messaging apps are coming up below.)

 

Project Team Involvement — This aspect of my job was a bit of a challenge. When collaborating on a project, it’s easy to feel a bit out of the loop on certain things when your team members meet casually while stealing some snacks from the kitchen. To mitigate this, we established regularly scheduled check-ins — we call them “Stand Ups” — to keep everyone on the same page.

 

2. Be Resourceful

Communication is key, but when you’re in the remote working world — you’re on your own (not really, but sometimes people don’t answer their phone when you need them to). No longer is your cubicle buddy sitting an arm’s reach away or do you have the ability to pop over to a team member’s office at a moment’s notice to answer a question. So, guess what? You’ve got to figure it out.

 

Google it. Find a podcast. And if things really get bad? Call your mom. If something wasn’t my strong suit, I jotted down notes into my development plan to make it a priority to learn more. Being independent is a must-have skill, so it’s important to be able to figure out how to be a problem solver.

3. Find Tools That Work For You

Online tools are your best friend when you’re working remotely. Here’s my top finds:

 

Video Conferences — Try Appear.in. This handy (and free!) video conferencing site allows you to quickly set up chat rooms for anyone you’d like to meet with. Send them the custom link and you are “in” with screen-sharing capabilities and high-quality video and audio quality.

 

Messaging — Lessing-Flynn began using Slack, an online messaging application, long before I was out in the land of Nebraska. It truly changed the redundancies of email like sharing quick resource links and files or asking one-off questions. Plus, it’s a great way to integrate fun into the culture with GIFs and other interactive features.

 

Sending Documents There’s really no need to buy a high-tech scanner anymore. Go to your mobile application store on your cell phone. There are a plethora of apps to convert documents from your camera. I like Scannable by Evernote — you can create both color or black and white documents with the touch of a button.

 

Miscellaneous Culture — At Lessing-Flynn, culture is one of the key reasons I wanted to stay. For our group, it’s simply staying in touch with our ongoing Snapchat Group and other events (Murder Mystery Parties are my fav). I make it a priority to plan out my schedule to be in the office on days when fun events are happening.

 

4. Get Into a Routine

A remote position is like transitioning to a new job in some ways. Developing a normal daily and weekly schedule is part of establishing a new norm and a huge key to success. Just like anyone else, I’ve established regular office hours and had to keep myself accountable to stick with them. It can be tempting to finish up a couple emails late at night when your desk is steps away from the couch (or maybe the couch is your desk), but keep expectations realistic. Both for yourself and those you work with.

 

5. Find a New Work Hub

Even though being able to hang out with my dog, Beau, is amazing — #DogMom — at some point you need to establish a definite work/life balance. For some, this may be a formal home office in the spare room that you can close the door to at the end of the day. For others, this can be getting out to a new coffee shop a couple times a week. For me, I crave the much-needed human contact and focus from an energetic office space away from home. Luckily for me, I found a co-working space that offers a dedicated desk for me to work from daily.

 

Co-working spaces have emerged all over the place and offer an atmosphere filled with quickly-growing startups, independent freelancers and other remote employees. They include conference rooms, refreshments and networking events that get you to meet other folks you wouldn’t have invited over to your office space located conveniently in your living room.

 

The Nitty Gritty + Questions to Ask

Maybe you’re a company contemplating offering remote options for your employees or you’re an employee exploring the option. It’s definitely not for every industry, company or individual. And it isn’t as simple as setting up a desk in your house. Consider these questions — and make sure you get the answers before making the move.

 

  • Are you moving to a new state?
    That means your income taxes and state withholdings change. In addition, coverage from your benefits may be altered. Make sure your HR department does their due diligence to get this squared away.
  • What type of office needs do you need to succeed?
    Being away from the office means you’ll need to invest in (or have access to) adequate internet speed, a quality phone connection and other supplies. Consider what you use on a daily basis and talk with IT for their recommendation.
  • Is your company able to adapt processes for those out of the office?
    Some tasks just need to be done in-person and that’s okay! Take a look at your to-do list and identify what must be done on days you can meet and establish if those things can wait until your back at the office or if another person needs to be assigned that duty.

Do you work remotely? I’d love to chat! Let me know what tools and tricks you’re using to make remote-working a success.

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