Succeeding in a remote work environment

Remote work seems tailor-made for middle-aged folks in the middle of their careers. They have built support systems, friendships, networks, and experience that offer them confidence and skills to be productive in any context. They also worked through the recent pandemic and learned the technology and practiced the necessary communication styles to succeed. Yet with many companies exploring or remaining with remote work environments, there is an upcoming generation with plenty of technology skills but without the training and accrual of those mid-career benefits. What are some ways to succeed in a remote work environment for those without existing experience or advantages? Many of the answers are familiar from working in an office, but they come with different challenges at home.

  1. Manage your time effectively: When working remotely, it can be challenging to separate work and personal life, so it’s important to create a schedule that works for you. Try to stick to a routine, set clear boundaries between work and personal time, and use tools like calendars and to-do lists to stay organized and on track.
  2. Create a separate space: Use your desk or a specific place to do work at home. A spare room is ideal, but not always available. This will help you not only in setting boundaries but also in putting your mind into a work mode that will help quiet all the potential distractions at home.
  3. Create connections: Remote work can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be. Reach out to colleagues regularly, schedule virtual coffee breaks, and participate in team-building activities to build relationships and connections. Also, consider joining online communities related to your industry or interests to network and learn from others. Remote workers should consider this step as part of their job and as part of building a sustainable career.
  4. Have productive meetings: When attending virtual meetings, be prepared and make sure you have the necessary materials and equipment. Avoid multitasking and actively participate in the discussion by asking questions and providing input. It’s critical to participate and be visible to build connections and opportunities at work. Volunteering to  notes can also be a practical way to make connections.
  5. Leverage new tools: Remote work has led to the development of new tools and technologies that can help you be more productive and efficient. Make use of tools like ChatGPT for language translation, information retrieval, and content generation, and consider using project management and communication tools like Asana, Trello, and Slack to stay organized and collaborate with your team. I created an outline for this section using ChatGPT!
  6. Take ownership of your development: In a world of remote work, it’s essential to take ownership of your professional development. Identify areas you want to improve, seek out online courses and training programs, and connect with mentors and coaches remotely. Consider joining online communities to network and learn from others, and be proactive in seeking feedback and guidance from your manager or colleagues.

By following these tips, young workers can thrive in a world of remote work, create connections, have productive meetings, and leverage new tools to succeed without relying on in-person mentors.

Employers can also help those new to remote work get settled and find success. Operationalize and focus on key ways to help folks hit the ground running. Have People Ops and the hiring manager collaborate to create a checklist for new employees’ first few days and weeks. Ensure that the employee receives the necessary training, documentation to sign, and setup materials such as a laptop as soon as possible to begin right away and feel connected.

Use a practice like an onboarding buddy to make sure new folks have a built in connection and a place to ask questions. Leverage tools like Poll Everywhere to solicit feedback about the first week and onboarding process to make space to improve and connect with onboarding employees.

Shift the way managers view time and productivity to focus on outputs and commitments rather than time spent or availability online. Some roles require availability, however, and there it is OK to expect it — for on-call, phone answering, or time critical response roles.

Find ways to use technology and in person connections for teams to improve small group cohesion and trust. Engagement and participation will be crucial to forming teams with psychological safety that can exhibit high performance.