Remote work is ideal for many people, but are most of those people ideal for the job? Here are tips on how to succeed as a remote employee.
Work and office are no longer synonymous. Some 43% of US employees now work remotely at least some of the time, according to a 2017 Gallup survey. Additionally, employees who start working remotely or or two days a week tend to continue to do so for longer periods of time, spending substantially more time out of the office, the survey found.
The rise in remote working is often attributed to technological advances: Why go into the office if you can do the same work online at home? The shift is also commonly blamed on millennials, who grew up in the mobile, technologically-driven era. For millennials, technology is the way of life, so work wouldn't be any different.
Whatever the reason, the remote work lifestyle is sweeping America, and almost everybody wants in on the trend: 74% of North American office workers said they would quit their job to work for another company that allowed them to work from home, even without a pay bump, according to one report. Working remotely allows you to make anywhere your office space, which is ideal for people who need a specific environment to work productively. Being out of the office can also lower an employee's stress level, escaping the pressure of a supervisor being around any corner.
SEE: Telecommuting policy (Tech Pro Research)
Remote employees can also be beneficial to companies. Reduction in real estate expense, lower employee absenteeism, increased employee retention, improved employer brand, the potential to create a more diverse organization, and access to a larger talent pool are just a few benefits listed in a recent Gartner report.
However, while some companies have work from home policies or flexible scheduling, not all offer fully remote jobs, making them difficult to obtain, and keep. Here are some tips on how to find those specific jobs, how to be marketable in an interview, and how to succeed in the position.
Before you start looking for a remote job, you must seriously consider if you—fundamentally, as a person— would mesh well with a remote working style to begin with.
As a full time remote employee herself, Gartner analyst Carol Rozwell said remote workers must be focused and organized. "At Gartner, we have deadlines. By the deadline, I have to make sure that I have allocated time to get done what I need to get done," she said. Understanding deadlines and delivering quality work on a deadline is even more important when working remotely, because you are functioning completely independently.
Employees need to be aware of what time of day they are most productive, and then plan their work days accordingly, said 451 Research senior analyst Raul Castanon-Martinez. Not only is being a good remote worker about time management, but it's also about self-awareness.
"Using myself as an example (I work remotely most of the time), I will start work around 6 AM and focus on a set of tasks to complete by 10 AM. I will then take a break and come back for another 1.5 - 2 hour period before breaking again for lunch," Castanon-Martinez said. "The ability to manage time efficiently—including breaks—is key for remote workers because they lack external references such as a 9 to 5 schedule and lunch breaks which help keep them in track."
Upon looking for job opportunities, you need to ask if your profession is even able to be remote, said Rozwell. For example, if you are a car mechanic, you will seldom find a position that enables you to work on cars anywhere. Focus on jobs that have a communication or technology base, like consulting or IT help.
The way to start looking for remote jobs is to look remotely. Most major websites will show you remote jobs if you use the keywords "remote" or "mobile" in the search bar. However, remote-specific job sites also exist. Some of the most popular are FlexJobs, Remote.co, Working Nomads, We Work Remotely, Skip the Drive, and Jobspresso.
These sites are great places to start, but seekers should cast a wide net. The worst someone can say is "no," and more interviews leads to more experience.
Are you already in a job that is office-based, but has the potential to be done remotely? Here are some tips for negotiating a flexible schedule with your current employer.
Interviews are about making yourself as marketable as possible to an employer. Whether the interview is in person, on the phone, or via video call, do the basics: Research the company, learn about the position, and be confident in your abilities.
When interviewing for a remote job, both Rozwell and Castanon-Martinez agreed that prior remote work experience is obviously a benefit. However, if you don't have previous remote work experience, that doesn't mean you aren't qualified.
If you are interviewing for your first remote job, employers are looking for qualities and work ethic that would be successful remotely. "The [candidate] needs to give specifics. That's really the key word in that sentence. So give an example, give two examples, give three examples, whatever the number is, so that they get the sense that the manager is comfortable with their work style, and their ability to deliver work in a timely manner," said Rozwell. Providing detailed examples paints a picture of your work style.
Interviewers tend to have a few major questions on their mind when interviewing candidates for a remote position, Castanon-Martinez said. These include: "Is the individual able to focus for extended periods of time focusing on a specific task? How does the individual manage his/her breaks during the day? How does the individual sets up his/her work area?"
The interview is all about finding out if the candidate has the work ethic, time management, and attitude necessary for remote work. Market yourself as such.
Communication on the job
Once you've landed the job, you need to focus on keeping it. Open communication is especially vital in remote work, both Rozwell and Castanon-Martinez said. One of the biggest problems with remote workers is lack of communication, said Rozwell. Managers have to maintain a level of trust with remote employees, relying on the employee to get their work done without in-person supervision. If there is radio silence from the employee, then the supervisor has no idea what work is being completed.
"Give the manager the periodic update of where you are with the various projects you have. 'I'm doing Project A,' you might say, 'I'm 50% done with it now,' or 'I expect to be done with it on Thursday.' So you're giving your manager the confidence that indeed you're paying attention to the work and you don't see any foreseeable problems in delivering your commitments on time," Rozwell suggested. She said Gartner holds regular team meetings and one-on-one meetings between supervisors and remote workers, facilitating open communication and awareness on all ends.
With modes of communication like Slack, Skype for Business, Webex, and Google Talk, keeping in contact with one another can be simple. "These tools provide real-time access to business applications, resources and interaction with co-workers, regardless of their location, or the device or network they choose to use," Castanon-Martinez noted.
Clear communication is the cornerstone to being successful in a remote position. Being a remote worker doesn't mean you are an absent one.
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