Success as a remote employee part 2

In Part 1 of the post we covered How did I end up working remote? When do you tell the hiring manager you won’t relocate? Why is working remote such an issue?

In Part 2 I’d like to cover why are managers hesitant to hire a remote employee and some of the ways to address those concerns

Initially managers can be reluctant to hire someone remote. Their usual fears include

  • not being able to track progress on your work
  • not knowing when you are stuck and need help
  • concerns you won’t be able to gel with the team and network
  • lack of visibility

If you want to work remotely for a manager you have to alleviate those concerns

Tracking your progress

Agree on a regular rhythm and format for status reporting to keep your manager informed. When composing a status report state what is completed and what remains to be done, instead of reporting on what will be done by a specific date.

For example writing: “I have completed the first round of unit testing but still need to complete stress and regression testing.”  is more helpful than “testing will be done by end of day Friday.”  You may know that the testing will be completed by Friday, but you haven’t built up enough trust with your manager for him/her to know you are good at estimating work completion dates. By reporting what is done instead of what will be done, you are telling your manager exactly what is done so they know you are being productive even though they can’t pop into the office to see how things are going.dilbert-status-report

Not knowing when you are stuck and need help

thRQZIU0OQAs part of your status reporting make sure you include a section such as “How can my manager help me”. But don’t wait until a status meeting to bring up issues when you need your manager’s help. It’s a good idea to talk to your manager and decide what is the best way to virtually ‘pop into their office with a question”,  Should you ping them on a messenger system? send an email? make a phone call? Having an agreed upon method for reaching out for help as needed will give both of you confidence that issues that come up can be identified and dealt with quickly if needed. Small issues can become big issues if they are ignored for too long.

Concerns you wont be able to gel with the team and network.

CloudNinjaWannabesThis is a tougher one to solve.  It is tougher to do this remotely. Your only interactions with co-workers are likely going to be in meetings. There may be a minute or two of chit chat at the start of the meeting, but you aren’t going to find your work buddy in the 30 second ‘how was your weekend’ conversation while waiting for someone else to join the conference call.

Some tactics you can try include setting up “water cooler meetings” these are occasional meetings with co-workers where there is nothing on the agenda, it’s just a chance to say hi what’s going on in your life? You can complain about the workload, talk about your cats, or discuss what you watched on Netflix. It’s just a way to give you a chance to get to know your coworkers. These meetings can be with one co-worker or with a bigger group.

Another tactic is to try to plan trips to the office around team building or team training events. It won’t always work out, but being at these events is a great way to get to know the team.  If your team has 4 team building events or celebrations a year, agree with your manager how many you will travel to attend.  Accept the fact you won’t be able to attend all of them. Training events might work to attend remotely, but it depends on the format and content.

Lack of Visibility

look-at-meThis is another tricky one. You definitely have less visibility when you are not in the office.

Meetings with senior managers are a good opportunity to visit the office in person. This gives you a bit of visibility and is good for networking as well. If there is a meeting with senior managers, chances are there will be other people of influence in that same meeting. You might also have a chance to meet with your team in person to do dry runs or preparation for the meeting as well.  These meetings often have a significant impact on team direction and strategy, so it’s also really good to see reactions to proposals and announcements first hand.  Another interesting aspect to meetings with senior management is that because its the big boss, everyone makes a point of being in the office that day so they can attend in person. Chances are if you are not on site, you will be the only person joining remotely. When you have 10 people in a room with a big boss and you are the only one remote, you are not likely to get any chance to speak unless you have a presentation on the agenda.  in fact these are the meetings with the highest risk of forgetting to open the conference bridge completely. When the boss walks in the focus shifts. If you are listening in on a meeting like this remotely, identify an ally to get there early and get you connected on the conference bridge before the boss arrives.

HourofCode3Look for opportunities to work on side projects that have visibility. This may be something as simple as planning a trivia contest for a team meeting as part of the team social committee or something more demanding such as leading the team diversity and inclusion initiative. General meetings and all hands meeting are a good place to find these types of opportunities. You can also ask your manager to help you find the right opportunity.  Ideally you want to combine these opportunities with your personal passion. I love helping out at kids coding events, and have discovered I often got to meet senior leadership at high profile kids coding events. I also enjoy and have confidence on camera, so I look for opportunities to be included in videos that will be shared internally and externally.

Do you have a special skill? Each person arrives in their role with a different background. Maybe you are working in tech but started out with a degree in English literature and as part of your degree you learned how to write a great summary. Maybe you took a course on your last team about how to create a great LinkedIn profile or how to make a good PowerPoint presentation.  Is there a skill you have that you can teach your teammates? Offer to do a brown bag lunch, or training session, or just write a blog post and share it with the team. These are great ways for your manager to say to senior management… hey look at what this person has done.  You never know leadership may read your blog post or attend your session.

Next up…

  • How to thrive in the company as a remote employee?
  • Staying sane as a remote employee
  • Does working at home impact your career?
  • When all is said and done, is it worth it?

 

 

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