close up of feet on a coffee table as person works on laptop sitting on couch at home
PHOTO: Dillon Shook

A lot of helpful information is out there for people who’ve suddenly found themselves working from home for the first time. Tips and tricks continue to appear for how to best work from home and how to handle the transition.

I thought I’d give a slightly different perspective on the subject. I’ve been managing a team of remote workers for several years now. We have employees from Long Island, to Orlando, to even Juno, Alaska. One of the perks of doing consulting work for cloud-based technologies is our team can live almost anywhere.

As you learn to work and adapt to this new environment, let me give you a few tips that will hopefully reduce your stress and the stress of your manager.

Prioritize Output Over 'Putting in the Hours'

Here’s the thing. You may find yourself with a lot more free time than you expected. You are no longer commuting to work, water cooler conversations aren’t as frequent, people aren’t randomly stopping by your cube or office. All that time adds up!

Depending on what exactly you do for a living, don’t prioritize making sure you always work eight hours. Prioritize getting the work done that’s assigned to you. As a manager I’m less concerned that you are in front of that computer every second of the day and more concerned that you are getting your work done. We have some employees who are most productive at 3 a.m. so they might not be in front of their computer at 9 a.m. If you find yourself sitting and just staring at your computer or spending hours and hours on social media because you’ve got to get those hours in, then you may be doing something wrong. With that said …

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Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication with your team and manager is paramount to success when working remotely. Did you finish all your assigned tasks? Let your manager know in case there’s a high priority item that needs to be worked on. Are you going to be working at 10 p.m. instead of 10 a.m.? Make sure someone knows. One of the most frustrating things as a manager is when you need to get a hold of someone on the team and don't have a clue if they are available or not.

Maybe you are a developer who works better at night. Maybe you’re a parent with kids suddenly home from school and you need to take care of them. If you are not going to be working during normal business hours for any length of time, make sure someone knows. Maybe you are more productive at night or maybe you can’t work while the kids are awake. We are all adjusting to a new normal these days — just make sure your manager is OK with it. If you are scheduled for a meeting, make sure you are on that meeting or make sure the organizer knows well in advance if you can’t make it.

When all else fails, communicate. Overcommunication is ALWAYS better than under communication. And another thing: no one is judging you if there’s a kid screaming in the background or a dog barking. We get it. We’re likely right there with you. We are going to figure all of this out.

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Don’t Hide in Your Corner

Along the lines of communication, don’t hesitate to reach out to your co-workers and managers. If you need something, ask. If you are feeling stressed, reach out to someone. Working from home can sometimes feel like you are working on an island. It never hurts to reach out and connect with another human being. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. We’ve been doing virtual happy hours for a while now where everyone jumps into a meeting and just chats. Beverages may even be in hand, but the point is it’s not a work meeting. We are a group of co-workers telling jokes, picking on each other, and seeing each other’s faces.

Related Article: Culture and Productivity in the Era of Remote Work

Have Some Grace

Finally, depending on who your manager is, this whole work from home thing may be throwing them for a loop as well. Their knee-jerk reaction might be to try and micromanage the situation to ensure every employee is sitting in front of that computer from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m. and if you get up for a bio break you better let someone know. It can be hard to trust people you can’t see and KNOW they are doing their job. So, have some grace there. Give your manager an opportunity to get used to the new normal as well. Maybe take your communication level up to an 11 for a while. Reach out to them often to see if they need anything.

We are in a unique situation right now, and how we react to it could change the way we work for the rest of our careers. I’m here to tell you, after working remotely for most of my career, it can be done. Remote work offers a lot of benefits and freedom, but also brings a lot of accountability and responsibility. Now, more than ever, it’s important to work as a team and put effort into making that team work.

Please stay safe, wash your hands, and don’t be afraid to use a web cam every now and then … someone out there needs to see your face today.

Do you have any tips for working from home or managing a remote team? Would love to hear your advice as well.