4 Tips for Becoming a Great Remote Employee

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Curious about taking a remote role? Already working virtually but want to improve your success? Check out my latest blog on VentureFizz for some tips!

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Virtual Employment for Attraction and Retention

You belong somewhere you feel free

During the HCI event last month, several employers expressed the changes they’re seeing in employment trends. More employees and candidates are aggressive when attempting to progress in their career path and many are willing to make risky moves to get there. Additionally, it was noted that more people are becoming mobile in order to reach their career objectives. Because of this, employers are seeing an influx in voluntary turnover and shorter employment tenure. So, why aren’t employers considering telecommuting or virtual work to help retain their employees?

Over the last two years, I’ve been a full-time virtual employee. I typically receive the same responses whenever mentioning this to new acquaintances, ranging from curiosity, skepticism, envy or disapproving. Many people ask me if I feel isolated or if the lack of face-to-face time has prevented me from moving up within the company. Surprisingly, I’ve progressed faster in my career, learned more and had stronger development opportunities in a virtual setting than I ever had in the office.

Virtual work requires a person to hone in on specific skills or build new ones. It’s all about adaptability and identifying resources to use to your advantage. You learn to be independent due to the lack of “crutches” (aka constant coworker/superior feedback) or validation. This forces you to rely on your own decisions. Also, accountability is a must. The lack of micromanagement allows you to focus on producing results and perfecting processes. Of course, this only can happen if an employer has the infrastructure, processes and leadership to allow employees to succeed. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools are necessary to understand employees’ skillsets and help develop them for career succession.

Over the last week, I spent some time researching if more employers have embraced virtual employment options. Much to my dismay, the majority of the positions I’ve come across dealt with customer service (contact center, reservations, etc.), sales, consultants for software development and recruiting. Many of the positions were contract or freelance opportunities. I was surprised that more employers aren’t opening up to additional full-time positions that can be virtual, nor creating opportunities for internal mobility to higher-level positions. I’ve been someone who’s experienced both… and I continue to be successful this way. Sky’s the limit for my career potential as long as my employer has opportunities to support it.

Virtual employment can help retain employees for a couple of reasons:

  • It allows them to have better personal opportunities: We all hear about work-life balance or work-life blending. The point is, people have other needs outside of the workplace. For example, my fiancé recently got a fantastic job promotion that would require us to relocate 1,000 miles away. There were no second thoughts about accepting it. All I did was take a couple of PTO days to move and I was set. I didn’t have to worry about quitting my job or dealing with a lapse in compensation when I was struggling to find work. The process was very seamless.
  • It allows employers to find and develop talent: there are plenty of people within the country that may possess some amazing skills but might not be located near a major branch or headquarters. Organizations can utilize this talent by offering them employment without requiring them to relocate. This can be the same deal if an employee is ready to be promoted but can’t relocate. Rather than giving them the less-than-ideal options of staying underemployed, relocating or forcing them to consider another employer in order to move up in their career, a virtual option can help retain an employee while giving them internal mobility.
  • It focuses on what matters: Results. Much like the purpose of ROWE (results only work environment), virtual work can be supportive of a results-focused situation. Micromanagement is disengaging and sometimes people don’t perform their best work during normal business hours. Being strapped to a desk can lower productivity. And maybe some people thrive when they’re blasting music, while others might prefer a quiet workspace with no distractions. Virtual work makes it easier for people to find their happy place without having to deal with formal requests or pushback from their peers.

Virtual employment can be a fantastic opportunity for both employer and employee, as long as it’s done right. Consulting an Organizational Development Specialist and researching technology to ensure a virtual environment can function the same as a traditional environment will be necessary.

If you’re curious to know more how virtual employment and virtual internal mobility works, ask me! I’ll be happy to tell you about my ongoing career story. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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What Questions Should You Ask When Considering Virtual Employment?

 

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We hear a lot about the challenges organizations face when they consider virtual employees or telecommuting options. These challenges are even more predominate when discussing flexible work options or results only work environment (ROWE). How can they evaluate an employee’s performance? How can managers ensure that they’re working full-time? Will there be backlash from employees who work in a traditional capacity? After working as a virtual employee for almost a year and a half, I can honestly say that it works… sometimes.

There are a lot of factors that affect the success of these flexible options. Before a company or an employee decides that this is right for them, consider the following:

  • Employee personality: As an employee, it’s important to really understand yourself as an individual and as a professional. For me, virtual work was ideal because I knew that I have a type A personality and my morale is higher when I don’t feel the watchful eyes of a micromanager. Additionally, I can produce better results more frequently in my private (and quiet) office than I would at a distracting workplace. Although this has worked for me, many people informed me that they would probably go crazy without social interaction. Others have admitted that the leniency of being home could distract them for work. It would be best to think about these things if considering this as an option.

 

  • Employee functions: As a company, you need to determine if full-time telecommuting or ROWE work for this particular job. Does an employee need to be available at certain times to interact with other members of the company or clients? Can the employee handle tasks remotely or are there some things that require the employee to be on-site? Does their status/level cooperate with the type of employees in it, such as, are they responsible and can self-manage?

 

  • Restructuring of management functions: This might be one of the toughest areas to figure out but it’s definitely not impossible. In my current experience with virtual employment, I have the privilege of working for a company that seems to have this sorted out. Even if it isn’t perfect, they take the measures needed to ensure ongoing improvements. Somehow their ability to increase support through communication and measure productivity without micromanaging has actually helped me feel a stronger connection with my leadership team and direct managers. Despite the fact that I’m not physically working in front of them every day, they have taken the time to recognize my achievements as well as areas I’ve struggled in. Does it take extra time out of their week to pay attention to their individual employees? Sure, but it’s the best experience I’ve had with a manager thus far.

 

  • Benefits: For companies, there can be plenty of benefits as far as cost savings go due to reduction of overhead. When it comes to hiring, it allows employers to find diverse talent and top candidates because they aren’t limited to one specific area. As an employee, it can be really beneficial for your everyday life. I’ve been told that mothers enjoy the ability to be available to their children when they are home or sick. Military spouses like the mobility aspect when their significant others move around.  I personally like it because I don’t feel restricted to a particular area. If I wanted to move to another state or travel, I could do it tomorrow. I also love the fact that I don’t have to waste time commuting or spending money on clothes or gas. Instead, I actually have more time to actually do the things that matter, like work.

 

  • Challenges: Of course, there are always challenges. How can managers keep morale high if on-site employees feel like virtual workers have it easier? Can managers ensure the virtual workers have the same exposure to internal mobility? How do managers know that their virtual workers are being productive? These are just a few things that companies face when developing and implementing flexible work options.

I’m an advocate for virtual work, telecommuting and flexible options. I don’t think employees should be limited or confined and that some of these options can actually help employees performed better and allow companies to retain talent. Of course, I’m aware that this doesn’t always work and that a great deal of thought and strategy has to go into the development and management of it. However, for me personally, I would love to stay in a virtual position for as long as I can.

Want to know what others think about this? Check out the discussion on #TChat tonight at 7pm ET. Take a look at a preview here.

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How to Make Telecommuting Work for Your Company

With all the speculation around Marisa Mayer’s decision to reduce telecommuting options and Best Buy’s decision to get rid of ROWE, I’ve been a little concerned about the subject. Although their choices are their choices and I’m sure they had good reasoning for it, I don’t think other companies should start panicking over this. More importantly, I don’t think companies should start rethinking their telecommuters (or their plans to implement them) just because these two situations occurred. Both companies had issues beforehand and didn’t make the decision out of the blue. So, let’s not get all crazy about it. I work virtually every single day and found that it has been better for my career, productivity, and growth than the years I spent going into the office.

Sometimes virtual work and telecommuting options don’t work properly because: they are not implemented well; they are not managed well; the option doesn’t work with the job function; or the wrong people are being allowed to telecommute. Too often we hear about the negativity of things, but what about the positive aspects of it? I’m living proof that it CAN work if it’s done right.

Here are some suggestions to make telecommuting work effectively:

  • Utilize different forms of technology that makes sense for your company. This can increase opportunity for collaboration and communication in a functional way.
  • Create expectations and a plan for managers to manage this successfully.  Managers need to be very involved in the daily activities of their teams, communicate feedback regularly, and make themselves available for additional training/assistance.
  • Allow HR to look for opportunities that increases engagement throughout the organization. Some of these activities could include different committees within the company to help the company be progressive. It can also allow employees to partner up with people they might not normally work with. This can create a strong sense of community and team work.
  • Hire the right people for this position. The people who are a fit for this are ones that are trail-blazers, internally motivated, Type A, and accountable. They don’t believe in making excuses- they believe in working hard. This hard-work and dedication can inspire others and set the bar for the organizational expectations.
  • Create a culture in which they leave no man (or woman) behind. All of the employees should be there for each other and they should make sure they help out one another to ensure everyone hits their goals and expectations.
  • Compare notes regularly. Employees of the organization should regularly meet to discuss different tactics they utilize which can ensure they are managing their time well. This can keep them productive and effective at their jobs. Employees are able to learn from each other and they can try different options to see what works for their needs.

Like I said earlier, I feel like I’ve progressed more in my career working virtually than in an office. I’ve not only done well at my job, hit goals, and made my managers/clients happy but I’ve also had the ability to take on other projects that I am passionate about. Essentially, I am defining my own career path. I’m responsible for my professional development.

You don’t believe me? Check out this infographic on Youtern.

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Benefits of Working Remotely/Virtually

There seems to be this on-going idea that remote or virtual workers don’t work as hard or effectively as those who come into the office. Additionally, there is this common thought that these types of workers don’t receive any perks of working for a company because they are no longer physically there. Some may even believe that these types of jobs are illegitimate or a scam. Others could think that these individuals would be miserable because they don’t see/interact with anyone. In some cases, this might be very true. However, I would like to put this common belief to rest. After working in a virtual environment and speaking to others who have worked remotely for years, I have learned that there are many benefits to this type of role.

If your company has found a way to implement this role effectively, you may find that working virtually/remotely has both personal and professional benefits:

  • Increased communication: Working outside of the office means that you must rely heavily on communication. Also, your communication must not be taken advantage of. Because these roles rely heavily on using communication successfully, it has allowed an increase in effective collaboration. Additionally, employees felt that they built stronger relationships and teams because of this reliance on communication.
  • Increase in productivity and accountability: A lot of worker’s complain that they are not engaged because they do not feel responsible or accountable for anything. They also feel as if though they are not empowered to do their best. If you are working in a role like this, you have to be self-driven, organized, good with time management, and accountable. Your success and failures occur due to what you produce. Individuals in this role have found work to be more meaningful.
  • You are relocatable: Sometimes, things change in life. Perhaps you are a nomad that wants to explore other areas. Maybe a significant other is in the military or needs to transfer for a company. Perhaps you need to move to help a loved one during sickness or a hard time. Or maybe you want to try someplace new that has a better living situation. Reasons are endless and many times people can feel unfulfilled or stressed if they feel that they have no options to do these things. Working remotely can allow you to easily relocate for whatever reason without having to quit a job or search for a new one in the new area.
  • It can help your job search: Some areas just really don’t have a good job market and your job hunt may be unsuccessful. Maybe the area you live in doesn’t even have companies that support the type of industry you are targeting. Remote/virtual work can allow you to gain employment for the job function or industry you desire, with a company that is out of the area. Companies that offer this option can expand their job offerings to people that are struggling to find work in their current location.
  • Can cut costs and time: You can save a ton of money working home if you don’t need to spend it on transportation and gas. You can also cut down time spent on commuting and allow yourself to have a little extra time to either work harder, handle personal affairs, or even just relax. Who wouldn’t want to save money and give a few moments back to themselves?
  • Always be there:  This is a great option for parents or pet owners. Sometimes parents/pet owners do not have the means to pay for babysitters, boarding, walkers, or daycare. Additionally, some parents/owners don’t want to use these options because they want their children or pet to know them while growing up. This option can allow you to be home and be there for when your children grow up or when your pets need you.

Of course, there can be chances where people take advantage of working from home, which is why this stereotype is out there. Surprisingly though, many people who are self-driven can be even more productive and dedicated to work than those who come into the office each day. It’s really all about finding candidates that are results driven because they’ll be the producers that are successful in any environment (inside or outside of the office). If you are a company, consider these options. You can cut overhead costs and expand your workforce to areas that have talent you wouldn’t be able to find in your immediate area. If you are a job seeker, be sure to consider this option because there are many benefits, such as the ones mentioned above.

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