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Remote...Now What? Getting Started as a First-Time Remote Worker

Posted On03/20/2020

ContributorSheri Pepper

By Catherine Tansey

COVID-19 is forcing the largest work from home (WFH) experiment in history. As teams everywhere go virtual, employees at all levels of the organization are looking to make the transition as seamless as possible.

No matter what your job title, working remotely for the first time is an adjustment that’s compounded if you’re suddenly WFH on a full-time basis. As the dust settles after the initial transition, remember that change is easier when you’re set up for success.

First-time remote workers and employers can improve their WFH outcomes by focusing on:

1. Communication

The subject of how and when you and your teammates communicate tops the list for remote work priorities. This means addressing everything from the communication tools you use and creating protocols for documenting conversations to establishing understanding among team members about what and how we say things.

Switching from in-person to online communication can lead us to miss the nonverbal cues of our usual interactions, and this can make teamwork challenging. Some best practices for remote work communication are to be generous in your interpretation of others and explicit yet professional with your own feelings, responses, and questions.

  • Email: Use email for long, explanatory messages so others can go back and re-read for clarification.
  • Intraoffice messengers: Lean into tools like Slack or G Chat for quick questions or to solve timely issues.
  • Videoconferences or calls: Rely on synchronous communication for decision making and brainstorming.

2. Expectations

Clear, documented expectations help make remote work more satisfying and productive. If you’re the boss, set clear expectations, and if you’re an employee, ask for clarity, on the following:

  • Working hours: Spell out expected working hours and when everyone needs to be online.
  • Dress code for video calls: Clarify appropriate dress for video conferences.
  • Success metrics: Define success for tasks and teams and share them will all members.
  • Central repository for sharing documents: Try to trim down the communication scatter that can quickly happen when using multiple online tools, such as Slack, Dropbox, and email. Create a central depository where you and your team stores all documents in one place.

3. Workspace

Set up a remote office at home for your best shot at success. Dedicated workspaces can be the difference between a focused, productive day and a disjointed work-from-home experience. You may not always be able to avoid interruptions if you have pets or children at home, but a dedicated workspace with a “do not disturb” sign can help mitigate them.

For at-home workspaces and remote offices, consider:

  • Ergonomics: Use a table or desk that allows your arms rest at 90 degrees. Choose a comfortable chair with good back support.
  • Background: Be mindful that your backdrop is professional and tidy if you’re taking video calls.
  • Noise: Play ambient music or turn on a white noise app to limit distractions around your dedicated workspace.

As you begin your WFH journey, you may feel disorganized without the familiarity of your office space. You might miss the casual office chatter that keeps you connected and in the know. You may find it’s hard to focus and feel productive. All of this is normal, and with time you’ll adjust to your new remote working reality.

At Nelson, we understand that change is challenging, especially in uncertain times. Just like you, our teams are now working remotely, and just like you, we’re learning along the way. As your employment partner, we remain dedicated to helping our clients and candidates orchestrate a fluid transition. Please contact us if we can assist with any of your employment needs.