How To...

How to Work Remote

Given that I am in management consulting, you’ll know that I have the perk of working remote. But like Peter Parker’s uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and yes, I’m talking about Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman, the best Spiderman of all the Spidermans.

Let’s use this statement (Great Power, Great Responsibility) to talk about working remote.

First, let’s talk about the “great power” of working remote.  When you work remote, a lot of things can happen.

  • You don’t waste time sitting in traffic (i.e. more time to work)
  • You don’t get the stress from sitting in traffic (i.e. you work more effectively at work)
  • Your office is wherever you want it to be (i.e. a coffee shop with other hipsters)
  • You can actually get work done (i.e. not get pulled into meetings.)

That’s great and all, but the part that gets lost in working remote is the “great responsibility” associated with it. Here are are some thoughts.

It may not be detrimental, but it certainly ain’t the same. Working remote, as mentioned above, has it’s benefits, but it is unreasonable to suggest that it’s the same as working in a room full of co-workers. This is particularly the case when your job is as collaborative as mine. I personally get a lot done when I am off alone cranking through client work, but it does feel like I am more of a “cog” in a system when I am working away from other colleagues. The irony of the internet is that it allows us to connect with others across the globe, but is only powerful and necessary when you are physically far away. In other words, it would be silly to instant message someone who is sitting right next to you. It would also be silly to suggest working on something with another person face-to-face is exactly the same as working with them through a computer.

Technology has allowed us the ability to work remote and that’s great, but let’s not assume that it’s always the right choice. For instance, it’s just not as effective for real-time collaboration. Having 5 people in a room allows people to all look up at a white-board and easily create and develop together. Take one person out and place them in another city, and you’ve got to create and then visually summarize what’s on the white-board to that one person. That’s inherently less efficient.

So what can we do about it?

We have a couple remote employees at our company that are excellent to work with. One that I believe is the gold-standard of remote-work is Mark. In working with Mark, I’ve noticed a couple of habits he does to ensure he is super effective working remote.

  1. If it’s between making a phone call and writing an email, he airs on the side of making the call. There are nuances in intonation, voice, and cadence that get lost in email. In addition, if there’s any misunderstanding, you can clarify it in real time.
  2. Whenever there is multiple people on the line, he uses WebEx, and uses the camera. It works wonders! The power of technology is you can speak with someone “face-to-face” even if he’s all the way in horrible Boston (I am an LA guy – I had to say it).
  3. He’s just damn good at ensuring his emails are clear and nothing is lost in translation. Nothing much here – words, clarity, and proper grammar is that much more important when you are working remote (not that it isn’t always important). 

Anything I missed? What tips and cautionary tales do you have about working remote? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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