Remote work can be awesome but how do you convince your new employer that you’re pulling your weight when they’re not around to see how hard you work? Well the good news is that you don’t have to chain yourself to your desk and be online for 24 hours.
What you have to do to demonstrate that you’re the perfect remote employee is track the details of everything that you do, communicate more than you ever have before, keep up to date with your business and the industry it’s in, be clear about the value you bring, show accountability and reliability and most of all demonstrate self-motivation all the time.
Let’s take a look at each of those traits in a little more detail:
Tracking The Details
Why do we want to track the details of what we do? Because when somebody asks, “just exactly what is that you do?” You can then show them.
It’s good to keep a record of two things:
- The time that you spend doing things. Don’t track time in 1-minute blocks but do keep notes of 15-minute blocks – just quickly note the main task you were working on in those times. You’re keeping a record not a diary, this ought to be a brief note.
- The outputs that you have delivered in any given week. This is more important than accounting for time, what is it that you’ve delivered? Why should this matter? Every week tally up the value you’ve created and write it down.
Note: you can also create a portfolio of work from the work you do in a remote work position that can then be used if you decide to go freelance or seek other employment. That portfolio can be part of the work that you do for tracking outputs.
In an office, it’s easy to become irritated with the endless cc’d e-mails that do the rounds. You know what they say, you were right there in the meeting when the decisions were made.
When you work remotely, you weren’t there in the meetings, nor was anybody else. You cannot over-communicate when working remotely.
You need to let people know on a regular basis what you are working on, what you’ve delivered, if you need help, what help you can offer other people, etc.
It’s also a good idea to schedule regular brief meetings with other remote worker colleagues to discuss your working relationship and see what you can do to help improve work between you.
Slack, e-mail, Trello, Skype, etc. are all designed for this. Spread your net as widely as possible. Copy anyone in who ought to know about something. Don’t be shy.
Sure, you’ll feel like a crazy person when you start doing this, but you’ll quickly come to see the value in this.
From everyone else’s point of view: this is what keeps you visible. If you’re not talking when you’re not in the room, then maybe you’re not there at all?
Keeping Up To Date With Your Business And Industry
This is one area where life is definitely easier in an office than when working remotely. Why? Because in an office you tend to keep up with industry and business developments through a sort of osmosis. The grapevine is covered in delicious industry-related tidbits.
Sadly, when you’re not in the office, you aren’t going to get all that gossip and that means taking responsibility to check-in and find out.
You need to read the latest industry news and attend networking events to stay on top of the big picture. You also need to identify the key people in your organization who can keep you updated with things you need to know about the business.
Check-in with these people regularly. Schedule time with them and be prepared to ask a ton of questions if you want to get the most out of these meetings. Don’t be shy about this – if you lose touch with what’s going on; you’re going to quickly become an irrelevance to your employer.
Most of all, make sure you stay in contact with your immediate superior about their goals and priorities and ensure the work that you do reflects well on them and helps them achieve their career objectives. Nobody’s indispensable but it’s much harder to fire the guy who gets you promoted than the invisible guy who you forgot about that works from home.
Be Clear About The Value You Bring
If you remember, just a little earlier, we talked about the importance of tracking your outputs? Well, that’s half the battle.
The second part is turning those outputs into money. Remote workers, just like every other worker, need to justify their paycheck. If you know what you create and what it’s financial value to the organization is (you are either creating money or you’re saving it when you do this exercise – that’s the value to your business) and you can communicate it – you know whether you’re doing enough to justify your paycheck.
More to the point, when you tell the world about it – they know you’re worth the money too.
You almost certainly won’t be there in the meeting where your boss meets with his boss to justify his headcount and budget. But your communique on your value? That’s the kind of thing that managers take to those kinds of meetings. It’s hard to argue with things that make sense in dollar values.
Being Accountable and Reliable
The bane of every manager’s existence is not the guy who makes mistakes. It’s the person who fails to deliver on time and who never lets them know that there’s a problem until it’s too late to do anything about it.
You can forgive mistakes. They’re a learning experience. In fact, Lou Gerstner, in his book Elephants Can’t Dance, recounts the day that a senior manager at IBM offered to resign over a $20 million error that he’d made.
Lou refused the resignation. The manager asked, “why?” Lou asked, if he intended to make the same mistake again? The manager said, “no, of course not!”
Lou said, “Well then we just spent $20 million educating you. Why would we want you to go elsewhere?”
You can’t forgive people that let you down and won’t take responsibility for their actions.
Accountability is understanding that the buck stops with you.
When you say you will do something, you need to do it, if there are problems, you cannot bury your head in the sand, you have to own up to the issue and seek help as soon as you realize you can’t tackle it.
The idea is to get the job done. Not to pretend that you’re perfect.
Mistakes happen, people can forgive that. But deliberate incompetence? That’s not a mistake. So:
- Write down everything you agree to do.
- Write down when it’s supposed to be done.
- Plan the time to get it done.
- Signal if you have too much on your plate or if you just can’t do something.
- Get help.
- Make sure that you contribute as much as you can.
- Get things done on time every time.
- Don’t panic if you make mistakes.
- Acknowledge them.
- Explain what you’ve learned from them.
- Then move on.
It’s not hard to be accountable and responsible even though so many people seem to make a hash of it.
Show That You’re Self-Motivated
This bit ought to be easy. If you can do the first 5 things on this list then the fact that you are self-motivated ought to come through very clearly, indeed.
In fact, the only thing you can add at this stage is to remember to focus on personal development too. Undertake training, read books, do online courses, attend events, etc.
And tell the world about it when you do. Let your management know that you take your job seriously and that you intend to be the best at it.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your employer to pitch in with the costs of your development too; an investment in you ought to be an investment in your work output.
Being the perfect remote work employee is not as hard as it seems. The key is to remember that when people can’t see you, they need reminding that you’re there, that you add value and that you care about the things that they do.
These 6 simple steps will help you demonstrate to your remote employer that you’re the best remote employee there is and heck, they may even win you a nice pay rise come your annual review.