There are a lot of reasons people work from home. Sometimes it’s by choice, sometimes it’s due to pregnancy or a temporary illness, or sometimes you’re just not located near the office and it just makes good sense.
There are definitely perks to working from home, but it’s hard to remain relevant compared to other team members. Other team members in the office have the advantage of water cooler conversations, lunchtime networking or even major business meetings on site with the boss.
That said, you don’t have to let them have the upper hand, and you shouldn’t assume they do, either. Plenty of offices these days are filled with rows of desks with people wearing headphones, and there’s very little verbal communication happening.
But still, they have the advantage of physical presence. So, what can you do? We have the secrets to staying relevant when you’re a remote employee. The important thing is to be proactive.
Be Part of the Virtual Office
If you’re working from home, then you’re probably already linked to the office through social apps, such as Slack or Skype, or even your project management software. These channels allow you to get direction, ask questions and collaborate with your team, no matter where you’re located.
According to the research firm GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, 3.7 million employees are working outside of the office at least half of the time. When you add in contractors, freelancers and those who have a home-based business, those numbers are staggering.
Telecommuting rose 6.5% from 2013 to 2014, and most of what’s driving work conversations are those social apps mentioned above. The truth is, even if you were in the office, chances are you’d be hooked up to one of those social channels and communicating with your team without ever leaving your desk. So, in a sense, you’re part of the office, the virtual office.
That means you can stay relevant by using those channels, not only to learn what your tasks are for the day, but to stay in contact with your team and superiors. You don’t want to become a nuisance or clutter the channel with irrelevant chatter, but you can still have fun and remain intimate with your boss and coworkers.
Promote Collaboration Around Projects
You’ve already got the tools to stay in communication with your team. Now up your relevancy by promoting more collaboration around the projects you’re working on. You can even facilitate the process remotely.
You can go back to your project management tools. If that software is online and has a Gantt chart, then you can use that shared Gantt chart to see the project schedule, everyone’s tasks, the duration of those tasks and if any of them are linked.
You can collaborate by having conversations and sharing documents, links or images related to that work. Work on generating ideas together, keeping everyone accountable for their work and building trust among team members.
This allows you to create opportunities for people who are working in the office, and for those working remotely like yourself, by having a platform on which everyone can get together and discuss the work. It’s like a virtual watercooler, only better, as you’ll have tools to foster the collaborative process.
Meet in the Real World
You can’t do everything remotely, not if you want to stay relevant. There are times when you might be called to the office or the job site. That’s good. You want face time. It’s important that the team and your superiors can associate a face with the name.
But if you’re not being called in for meetings, and everything is done through conversation calls or video conferencing, then you should take the initiative to get yourself seen in the real world. Insist on being invited to team meetings onsite. If you can come in occasionally in person, it will go a long way.
But what if you can’t get to the office? You’re too far, or it’s not feasible for whatever reason? Then you’ll want to get dialed in via teleconference, so you can at least listen in and add inputs where it’s appropriate.
Use your judgement. Just as you don’t want to clog the social channels with useless information, you don’t want to hog attention at the meeting for no reason. That will backfire on you.
“Let’s Do Lunch”
It’s easy to fly under the radar when you’re in the office, so imagine how hard it is to stand out when you’re only a ping on some messenger program or just another email address. Working remotely means that you must become more proactive in making yourself known.
Suggest lunch with your bosses. Take them out. Seek advice. Remind them that you’re alive. This way you can get out of the house and get valuable feedback. Even if you only meet with them once a year it’s going to have a big impact on them and you.
For example, you can get feedback on your performance and have a more intimate understanding on what’s happening on the project. It also gives you a chance to ask questions and find clarity around things that you might have been uncertain about.
Bottom line: it’s going to impress your boss. They won’t forget your name. In fact, it’s such a good idea to meet in the real world that you should probably suggest the same to the team. Maybe every couple of weeks another person can pick a lunch spot or a place for drinks after work.
It’s a great way to bond with the team, gain their trust and have them get to know you. It’s going to go a long way to helping you all work better together when you’re back at your home office.
Have a Weekly Kick-Off
See if you can get the team together once a week for a short meeting that is unrelated to work. It might seem like a hard sell, especially if everyone is overworked, stressed out and on deadline crunch, but it can be sold on its benefits. It’s a team-building exercise and a way to blow off steam, so you can hit the road running afterwards.
Make it fun. You can share inspirational posts you saw, or the funniest meme that’s currently making the rounds. Have a contest to see who has the messiest workspace. Everyone can upload a picture of their desk, home office or the coffee shop they work in, and then vote on which one they like best. Have a silly question of the week, such as: “If you were a song, what song would you be?” Get creative.
People tend to like this break from the grind, where there’s no pressure and just a laid-back atmosphere where everyone can get loose and enjoy themselves. But it’s also a fun way to stay relevant with the office crew. They won’t forget you.
If you want to tether yourself to the office and the team, then ProjectManager.com is for you. An online platform that helps you get your work done efficiently while providing ways to stay relevant in the work place, our cloud-based software keeps you in real-time contact with the team and their progress. Try it out for free with this 30-day trial.