This article is written by Julia Arpag, a recruiter who transitioned to a remote role. In this article, Julia shares the 4 R’s of Remote Working that has helped her to become successful as a remote employee.
While all the wonderful things I’d heard about remote working are true – No commute! Your dog is your coworker! You can jump on a conference call without doing your hair! – there are also some aspects that presented a huge learning curve.
The beauty of remote work is that everyone has space and autonomy to develop the habits that make them most successful. As a leader, you’ll have some employees who have been working remotely for years and have created a tried-and-true system they’ve honed over their years of experience. You’ll have others who, like me, are still navigating a completely different work environment and trying to find a rhythm that works best for them.
For someone just starting out in your company or in a remote role in general, guidelines to help them discern that rhythm can make the difference between success and frustration during those first few key months. If you as the leader set the tone for healthy, honest, open conversations about what works and what doesn’t, you’ll give your team tools to thrive in a remote environment and permission to iterate new approaches to their personal best practices.
I’ve established the 4 R’s of Remote Working as tools that have helped me be successful in my remote role. I offer them to you to share with your employees to help them approach their work healthily and sustainably!
The 4 R’s of Remote Working
The 4 R’s of Remote Working are:
This will look completely different for everyone – the key here is helping your team find what works best for them to be successful without the structure of a standard office-based 9-to-5. For example, I love getting up early to get my workout in, then having a leisurely morning (complete with eggs, cuddles with the pups, and of course home-brewed pour-over coffee) before I jump into my workday. I have coworkers who swear by lunchtime runs – or, better yet, Dunkin runs – for their daily energy boost. Others who have kids schedule their days so they can do the school drop off and pick up without missing a beat, or a meeting. The key here is for you as the team leader to give your employees the freedom to find and establish a routine that works for them, focusing on the results of their work rather than the specific windows of time they spend doing that work.
One of the best parts of working remotely is that if you do have an interruption in your routine, you can reset and get right back into work without having to drive to and from an office to do so. Your kid stays home sick from school, you have a doctor’s appointment, you’re visiting family for the week – you can stay on top of your work by being flexible and then getting right back to your established routine the next day. Part of giving your team the freedom to establish habits that work for them is also accepting these adjustments and trusting your team to get their work done whether or not they have an identical schedule every single day.
No matter the routine – or the interruptions that sometimes throw it off – giving your employees the space to figure it out for themselves will give them the foundation they need to flourish in every aspect of their work.
As an extrovert, I was looking forward to the flexibility of remote work but was nervous it would at the expense of building close relationships within the company. Happily, I have found this not to be the case at all, as I’ve sought to be intentional about building rapport in my conversations across the business. The personalities of your employees will, of course, differ from individual to individual, but whether they tend to be more of an extrovert like me or an introvert who prefers to keep to themselves, building at least a few relationships across the company will give them higher job satisfaction and help them look forward to logging on every day.
Your leadership role gives you the unique opportunity – and responsibility – to set the tone to help your team feel comfortable having those rapport-building conversations. Whether in a 1:1 with an employee or a group call with a project team, if they see you taking a few minutes to have a light-hearted conversation – comparing weather across the cities the people in the meeting call home, asking about weekend plans, telling a funny anecdote from your kid’s baseball game the night before – they’ll feel the freedom to build rapport across the company and close relationships across your team.
Not only will these bonds make “going” to work more fun for your team, but it will also help them do their work more easily. They’ll be able to reach out to people outside of your team already knowing one or two things about them and being able to ask work-related questions without the awkwardness of re-introducing themselves every time. It might take some adjustment for your team to have more personal conversations over Zoom meetings, but – as you know – it’s absolutely worth it.
Your team will be made up of social butterflies, wallflowers, and everything in between. Give them space to ease – at their own pace – into company conversations, but encourage them to ask a question or initiate a conversation during a call. Let them see you doing the same. Ask them questions during 1:1s and team meetings, and invite and answer theirs. As you build this rapport with them individually and corporately, they will feel empowered to do the same thing across the rest of the company and find more satisfaction and meaningful connection in their work.
There is no way to get around it – you have to take initiative to be successful as a remote employee. You know this, or you wouldn’t be a leader in your company, but you may have some employees who are used to managers who tell them what to do, how to do it, and then stand over their shoulders to watch them do every step of the project.
Encourage your team to take ownership of their work by explaining the project, answering questions as they arise, and then giving them space to work through issues independently. If they see an opportunity for process improvement, a team dynamic shift, or a tech advancement, have them do the research and host the conversations to figure out where to go with it. Show them that you’re eager to hear their ideas and support them as they develop them.
In the day-to-day, this same resourcefulness will help your team make sure they triage their inbox, set aside time for the deep, focused work that can’t be interrupted, and, in a role like mine, dig deep to jump on the 7th phone interview of the day or respond to the 25th LinkedIn message. This, partnered with their personally tailored routine, will allow them not only to persist but thrive in remote work.
The final – and often hardest – piece of successful remote work is rest. We struggle with rest in every job environment, but the temptation to overwork is especially prevalent when it feels like there is always work to do and, if you truly work from your house, you’re often in the space where you do it. As much as we all love to take time to spend with our friends and family, take our dogs for walks, or read a good book, we can feel – especially when we’re first starting out in a remote job – like we have to be “on” all the time so our coworkers think we’re hard workers, our clients think we’re worth their investment and our bosses think we’re star employees.
The most pivotal conversation of my remote career happened when I was just 2 months into my current role at WilsonHCG and already on the verge of burnout. My manager, seeing my exhaustion and frustration, looked me in the eye over Google Hangouts and said, “Stop. Just stop. Give yourself time every day to rest – not mindlessly on Instagram and Netflix, but intentionally in whatever ways work best for you. Prioritize your work, complete what you have to complete, and block out time on your calendar the next day for anything you can finish then. The world is not on your shoulders. Take a break, find your balance, and come back rejuvenated.”
I am so grateful I had someone who has been successful in remote work release me from the anxious hamster wheel that can come with a remote, “results-only” workplace – the benefit of this environment is that you’re not measured by the amount of time you spend in your chair, but the struggle is that you are measured by your output, which, if you’re an achievement junkie like me, you think can always be more, higher, and better. If your employees are on that same hamster wheel and need someone to help them off of it, let them hear you say – Stop. Take a break. They will be more successful if you let them – and yourself! – rest than if they work themselves into the ground. I promise!
A final word for your remote employees
The world of remote work is an incredible one. The flexibility, autonomy, implicit trust, and relationship-building opportunities are unmatched. I cannot say enough about how my life has changed for the better since transitioning into a remote role and getting to do work I love from home. However, working remotely is a skillset that requires different strengths and disciplines than other environments, and as you seek to help your team develop those strengths, I hope these 4 key elements of a successful remote employee help prepare you to do so. Happy remote leading!
Julia Arpag is a global recruitment consultant at WilsonHCG with 5 years of recruitment experience and 1 year – and counting! – of remote work experience. She is passionate about empowering employees to be autonomous, flexible, high-performing, and highly engaged through remote working.