Working remotely is full of positives, and a few negatives—as I outlined in my last blog post Confessions of a Remote Worker: Part One. One of the hardest parts of being a remote worker is that when you’re in your home office, you’re alone all the time. Pets don’t count as co-workers. Another challenge is that you’re not at the office with your boss. As the saying goes—out of sight, out of mind.
Here’s what I’ve found to make working remotely a successful venture for me and for the people back at the Kansas City, Mo., office.
You need a space that’s dedicated to your job, preferably with a door.
No, you can’t work on the couch with reality TV blaring in the background, but you can sit at a desk and turn on music or NPR, just as you did when you went to an office with other people. Having a space dedicated to your job allows you to enter the space in the morning and leave it at the end of the day. It’s very easy as a remote worker to work 10 hours a day. Don’t get in the habit.
Figure out who is paying for what
If you’re a contractor, that’s a separate issue. You’ll pick up your Internet, computer, paper, ink … If you are a full-time employee working in a different location than the main office, work out an agreement about what’s your responsibility and what is going into the company’s budget.
This is a job. While working remotely gives you certain leeway (yes, I throw a load of clothes in sometimes) it doesn’t allow you to do your own thing during work hours. My hours are the same hours as the office back in Kansas City with only a few exceptions for the unexpected—the same as any worker in a traditional office.
It’s even easier to eat through my lunch hour working from home than it was when I went to an office. My advice: Back away from the desk. Since I live in California, I take time for a 30-minute walk. It gets me away from my desk, clears my head and energizes me for the afternoon.
Get out of the house
I’m an introvert, so I like copious amounts of time alone, but even I have limits. Two afternoons a week I work from a coffee shop. The change of scenery helps the isolation that can come from being remote.
Join professional groups in your area
You need people. Meet them in your industry through professional associations in your area. This is essential. It widens your professional network and also your company’s.
Remind the main office you exist (every day if possible)
At first, people forgot about me. When there was a meeting, they’d forget to set up the speakerphone. We’ve now moved to having me Skype into meetings, but at first, I would call or send an email to the IT guy to remind him. I would ask my co-workers to dial me up if they had an impromptu meeting and eventually, the team got accustomed to remembering the remote worker. The first year I worked remotely, I made a decision to mail my boss, the CEO, a list of what I was doing every week. I still do it when he requests it. None of the other managers did this, but I felt that since I was his first remote employee, I needed to establish the trust.
Travel back to the home office
You must get face time as often as fiscally possibly. I go back to the Kansas City office six times a year. In addition, I see my boss and the other managers at our conferences, at board meetings or on trips for the magazine I manage for a total of about 10 times over the year. I make sure I greet everyone in the office when I’m back and meet new employees that were hired since my last visit. The onus is on me, and on you, as a remote worker. You might want to think that the main office should remember you (and feel hurt when they don’t) but that’s not real life. If you’re remote, you need to be responsible to connect with your boss and co-workers.
You can make being remote work for you if you put effort into it and stay aware of the pitfalls. Stay tuned for more tips and helpful hints on working remotely in future blog posts.