First of all, let me tell you… Working remotely is not easy.
But neither is working on-site. Work implies effort. And you’ll never be a good professional if you’re not willing to put effort on a daily and regular basis.
So you say…
"What do I need to be a trustworthy remote worker?"
And I say…
"Well, you need basically the same as for any other kind of work."
But there’s a difference. And although it’s not easy to explain, I think it’s easy to understand.
The main driver that enables you to work with someone that you’ve never met in person is trust.
In my opinion, to earn that trust there are three key characteristics that you must have:
Being reliable is not only about being good at what you do. It’s also about doing it consistently across time. Set goals and work to achieve them on time.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t screw up from time to time. Everybody makes mistakes. The most important is how you deal with such mistakes. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Learn and work on fixing them. Make sure the same mistake won’t happen twice.
So, knowing that things don’t always go as expected, make sure you communicate it as early as possible. Raising problems in a timely fashion helps the team to react effectively. Additionally, it helps the team to trust that everything is on the right track if you don’t tell otherwise. This will also help you to be predictable.
So, why would you need to be predictable? Your team relies on you at many levels… for example:
- You hold valuable information. Your team needs to know exactly when you’re available to share knowledge or discuss ongoing issues. Even in different time zones, it’s important for work-time to overlap at least 4 hours. This will be useful for mutual support among employees and for creating a sense of team. And a team will be much more important for a remote coworker than you’ve probably anticipated.
- You are a valuable asset. You’ll need to commit to projects and deliverables in a short/medium term. Beware, you shouldn’t be online a week and offline on the next one. If you’re taking time-off make sure you follow the company’s processes to communicate it. If you’re working in Agile methodology, remember the team about your time-off before the next sprint starts. If not, at least a week in advance.
- You share goals and interdependent tasks. Your team needs to know if you’ll be able to meet the goals and finish the tasks as expected. Take this into account when estimating work effort. Once again, remember to call out if anything isn’t going as expected.
- You get in touch with customers. Your company is counting on you to deliver as promised and to convey corporate values.
Most of this predictability, is achieved through a consistent behaviour and clear communication.
3. Clear communication
If you’ve made it this far, you probably figured out how clear communication is key for a remote worker. Even so, it’s worth to go through many aspects you should consider when communicating.
- Make sure your written and spoken communication is concise and straight to the point.
- Use practical and simple examples to illustrate different scenarios that may sound confusing.
- Timing is crucial in communication. If something is not going as it was expected, make sure you communicate it to your team leader as soon as possible.
- Conflict should not be avoided. Nonetheless, embrace it positively in order to benefit from the outcomes of a discussion. Also, if you’re working as a consultant, make sure you approach the client coherently. Make sure your idea was discussed in advance and agreed on by all team members.
- Oral communication is not always enough. Make sure decisions are written down and keep every stakeholder in the loop. Avoid surprises.
- Don’t assume anything. Clarify and over communicate every question or aspect that may affect your results.
In sum, use communication to help you be reliable and predictable. I’m sure you’ll be a trustworthy remote worker.
by Pedro Baptista Afonso