When we are physically present at the office actions and productivity can be observed, creating an underlying accountability. When working remotely things change, the unseen can be difficult to manage as it can lead to a perceived double standard, an erosion of trust, and unclarity.
Even with the flurry of articles and blog posts about remote work, not many best practices I researched worked for me and my team. I have managed teams spread out across the globe in different time zones, working remotely and in other office locations. I learned from the things that worked and the many failures I had to set boundaries and expectations. To account for this, I created these commitments for my team to follow (including myself) when working remotely.
The Six Commitments of Working Remotely.
When I work remotely, I am committed to:
Being as productive (or more productive) when I work remotely as compared to working at the office.
It's true when working remotely I can be more productive than when at the office as I am working in a quiet, distraction-free space. That said, it takes commitment and responsibility to maintain that as we have to hold ourselves accountable rather than the collective group or optics holding us to that.
Being as available to my team and the business as I would be in the office.
Because I am working remotely, it doesn’t mean that I not reachable or unresponsive. My team uses Slack, and this is how we handle the quick question as would be the equivalent of popping over to one's desk to ask a question, for help or to inform. We also share our calendars, that way if someone is not responsive, we can see that they're in a meeting or on a scheduled call. Lastly, some of my team live in places where their condo or house has poor cell phone reception, and they're great at providing other options for them to be dialed in and are exceptional at not letting poor reception be an excuse for not being reachable.
Working in a clean, safe and distraction-free environment.
Simply put, working remotely requires the commitment of creating and carving out a space to be productive. Ensuring that you have a desk and chair that supports you, and a place where those in your house (roommates, spouses, dogs, children, etc.) know that you're productive and respect the distraction boundary. A good friend of mine works remotely as an SVP of a sales team for a global software company. The family operates as though he is "not home" if he's in there with the door closed.
Having the tools required to work remotely.
It's up to you to have the tools and technology necessary to ensure you're available. I have a docking station and an external keyboard and mouse setup at home just the same as I do at the office. I also ensure my home internet is snappy for good quality video calls.
Communicating with my team as to when I am online or signing off for the day.
We have a #whereabouts channel on our Slack feed, and people share a note when they are online in the morning and some context about their whereabouts for the day. The team is great about sharing when they’re signing off for the day too. I see this as the digital equivalent of saying “good morning” when you arrive and “good night” when you leave.
Never letting working remotely be an excuse for missing a deadline, communication or meeting that is required to do my job well.
It’s too easy (and lame) to blame being remote as an excuse for missing something and puts remote work at risk from being an option – nuff said.
In addition to these commitments, as a team’s leader I am responsible for ensuring that:
we have the budget for physical face-to-face time so great relationships can be built,
when we get together on meetings, we leverage video conference (and ensure that the online participants have a great experience),
my office team is always including my remote team in the conversations that they need to be involved in.