Telecommuting has become an increasingly popular decision for both companies and their employees. I have successfully worked as a telecommuter for San Francisco-based workplace culture firm, Great Place to Work, for the last five years. While staying visible and fighting misconceptions can be challenging, it’s still possible for virtual workers to enjoy incredible connections to colleagues, clients, and workplace culture, and receive accolades for being a team player. If you’re a telecommuter, or hope to become one, here are some tips on how to stay visible, while working remotely.
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Be Available on Instant Messenger, whether it’s Microsoft Lync, AOL, Yahoo chat, or even Yammer. Remote employees are often left out of the conversation, or worse, resented, because they’re not around for a quick chat when a coworker needs it. If you’re “on” the clock, be on IM as well.
Get involved in “non-work” work. Even though I work from home, I’m active on several Great Place to Work Committees, including our Fun Committee and Health & Wellness Committee. Being a part of the important non-work that happens at work keeps you a part of the culture and helps you build relationships with colleagues outside your team. Just because you’re not in the office, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in the activities you would have participated in had you been there.
Invest in a web cam. The easiest way to stay visible while working remotely is to actually be visible. Most companies now use some form of teleconferencing program, cell phone app, or chat mechanism that allows participants to view each other live. Politely insist on virtual, face-to-face interaction when it is reasonable. It helps foster connections and helps your colleagues remember who you are.
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Don’t disappear during the day. As a telecommuter, I often work very long hours, perhaps because I’m so intent on proving to people that I’m working. When your colleagues can’t find you during the day, they will assume the worst. Be certain to inform your colleagues of your whereabouts through shared calendars, email notifications, or out of office messages. If you have a doctor’s appointment or are taking the afternoon off to attend your child’s parent-teacher conference, don’t just disappear. Let your team mates know where you are and when they can expect you to be back online.
Make time to attend significant events and meetings in person. Being a telecommuter doesn’t mean that you’ll never have to leave your house for work! Work with your manager to determine if and when you should be in the office, perhaps for quarterly meetings, the annual retreat, or the company’s big holiday bash. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the time to connect with your colleagues and establish relationships that will help make you more successful in your role.
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