How to succeed as a remote employee

Career Coaching

Remote work is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and many people I know. As a remote worker of 12 years, I have a hard time imagining going back into an office setting. Of course, as the CEO, I would love to see my employees in their productive states, since our relationships are through a computer screen, but the autonomy that comes with remote employment is invaluable. I have built stronger relationships with my family, friends, and myself, and I attribute a lot of that to my work from home lifestyle. If I want to go for a walk in the middle of the day while not feeling obligated to get back exactly 30 minutes late, I can without guilt. I want to sign-on early and stop working at 3:00pm, I can. As long as I don’t miss my meetings and the work gets done, what harm is there with not chaining your employees to a desk just to say they were there? 

The question I get all the time is how do you stay productive while working remotely? The key to remote work success comes in many forms, based on your personality, work agility, and environmental preferences. We work from home, so we have a healthy work-life balance. We work from home, so we can be productive in more ways than just our careers.

Pros and cons of remote work 

There can be some back and forth on whether working from home or in an office is better. The reality is, it’s based on your personality whether it works for you or not. Some people need more human interaction outside of those who live with them, others enjoy spending time at home. 

Pros

  • There is more flexibility when dealing with appointments and errands. 
  • There are fewer interruptions from meetings and office chat. 
  • There is no need to commute, so you save time, money, and stress. 
  • You make a positive environmental and sustainability impact. 
  • There is more time to spend with your family and friends, resulting in a stronger work-life balance. 
  • You more than likely can do your work when you are most productive – just make sure you don’t miss those meetings and deadlines!
  • You have location independence and are not tied to living in a specific location, possibly one you don’t like, simply because the company is based there. 

Cons

  • There is less in-person contact with colleagues. 
  • You are not on site for the in-office perks. 
  • There is a lack of physical separation between work and leisure time. 
  • Electronic communication with colleagues can result in misread cues. 
  • You must make an effort to get a change of scenery. 

Staying productive while working remotely 

Staying productive during work isn’t as easy as many think when working from home. The reality is that you are home, and you most likely have things you could do around the house. There is a chance you have a day or two where you don’t have a lot of meetings or specific deadlines and you’d prefer to spend part of the day doing something else. 

Here are my top tips on staying productive while working remotely: 

  • Work out a schedule with your family, so you can spend time with them, have designated work time, and to keep distractions at bay. If possible, keep the door closed to separate yourself from your personal life during your working hours. 
  • Have your own office/workspace, so you can keep work in a separate area of your home. Keep the space tidy, to eliminate clutter and unnecessary stress. 
  • Get ready for work every day. Take a shower, put on some non-pajamas, and get into a work mindset. 
  • Keep an early schedule, if possible, and get as much work done in the morning. 
  • Schedule and set alarms for breaks and take them. 
  • Keep your personal social media, communication, and digital engagements on mute throughout the workday. Eliminating the distraction will keep you from falling down the rabbit hole. 
  • Block off time for checking emails. 
  • Keep a to-do list. Keep it up-to-date, and make sure you stick to the goals you have set on a daily basis. 
  • Try meal prepping, to cut down on leaving the house to grab food or having long periods of time cooking meals throughout the day. 
  • Keep yourself hydrated.  
  • Block “office hours” in your work calendar. 
  • Multitask when possible.
  • Have a non-digital distraction/break to keep yourself off social media (e.g., a jigsaw puzzle, word search, Legos, etc.) to replace “water cooler” time. 
  • If you’re having a tough day, don’t stop working. Push through it the way you would if you were on-site. 
  • Don’t go back to work once you are done working for the day. You surely will burn yourself out if it becomes a habit. 

Succeeding in your career while working remotely 

Staying productive and succeeding in your career while working remotely can be two different things. But if you want to climb the ladder in your company, you’ll need to put in the extra effort to succeed in what you are currently doing, proving that you’re ready to make your next move forward. 

Here are my top tips on how to succeed in your career as a remote employee: 

  • Stay on your bosses’ radar. If you have weekly check-ins, keep them in the loop of your work-life. Document everything. If you  need to provide daily status, be smart with how you communicate; don’t send multiple emails throughout the day – send one thoughtful, all-inclusive email at the end of each day. 
  • Do not assume good work/workers get noticed. During your check-ins with your manager, be transparent about your successes, your room for improvement, and if not already defined, create a career path plan based on what you want to do with your life. Your boss isn’t seeing you “in action” at work every day, so taking initiative is key. 
  • Speak up during team/department meetings, but don’t over communicate or dominate every conversation. If you want to have deeper conversations on topics, follow up with your manager, on a one-to-one basis, and communicate the rest of your ideas and ask any questions you may have. 
  • When team/department meetings have a lot of people sharing their thoughts and ideas and you feel as though you cannot get a word in edgewise, put your thoughts, notes, and opinions in the virtual meeting (e.g., Zoom) chat. Everyone has access to the chat, and it can be a great way to make sure everyone can hear you.
  • Embrace sharing your computer screen or your video during meetings. This shows engagement, and helps you connect with your team/department virtually. Get comfortable on Zoom, take the extra five to ten minutes before a meeting to ensure you’re presentable – you would do this if you were in the office, so why not when stepping into a Zoom lobby. 
  • In an ever-changing environment, understand you can only control what you can, so make sure you do. A bit of a tongue-tie, ey? If your position is growing because of understaffing, budget cuts, or departmental mergers, or you are simply taking on additional responsibility in hopes of climbing the ladder, take the time to truly understand what you are supposed to do, and how to do it. If you’re anxious about all of this, take online classes or conduct deep research to help yourself. Take advantage of your company’s educational opportunities. Few people do, but if you capitalize on the opportunity and communicate to your manager the steps you are taking, you are sure to be seen as a go-getter. 
  • If you want to grow in your career and your company isn’t in the right place to support your growth, keep all of your options open. If you decide to grow elsewhere, be patient with your onboarding. Typically, the first 90 days on a new job are the transition period, which is where you get the opportunity to show your new boss your ability to be a sponge. Remember, just because you’re comfortable with the job you’re in now, doesn’t mean you’re happy. Do not stay “stuck” in a job you do not want to do, or for a company you do not believe in. 

Working from home can be difficult at times, but it’s worth the work-life balance. Make sure you’re separating work from your personal life, so you do not go through phases of feeling bogged down. Work hard, make your meetings, meet your deadlines, and keep climbing that career ladder.