remote employee focusing on productivity

Successful Remote Employees Do These Three Things

Working remotely is a new concept for most of the workforce. I’m not talking about those who are self-employed or those who launch a startup out their garage. I am talking about individuals who are employees of an organization, those who are part of a team and report to a manager, but they do so from a home office. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of you out of office buildings and into your home offices for the foreseeable future, I want to share some things I’ve learned about remote working that — if both employees and organizations act intentionally – could make full-time remote employees successful.

Improve your self-awareness and use data to your advantage

Five years ago, I began to work for a medium-sized organization. My manager was laid back and his/her managerial style was learn-as-you-go. He/She assumed that I knew exactly what to do unless I inquired otherwise. While some people thrive in that environment, I felt like he/she was throwing me to the wolves. I resented that I never got officially trained, and it left me feeling like a failure.

During the interview process with SHIFT, I took a Predictive Index (PI) Behavioral Assessment. Through this assessment, I learned that I have a higher than average drive for Formality, which means that to be most productive I need to know the rules and specific details about my job before I am released into the workforce. A learn-as-you-go, experientially haphazard, approach to training does not work with my personality. Rather, to be successful in a role, I need to study and practice first and then, with confidence and inertia, I will hit the ground running.

No wonder I didn’t feel successful at my last job.

Because Val, my manager at SHIFT, had this information upfront, she intentionally scheduled my first week of work at a formal, in-depth training session, which she knew would set me up for success. After the formal training, Val held one-on-one sessions with me so that I could learn her workstyle and ask outstanding questions about the software or the formal training.

Although employee onboarding and training are not Val’s strengths, by knowing how I operate, she was able to bring out the best in me by outsourcing my formal training. Then she clearly acknowledged my need to round out the final aspects of onboarding and training during my first few days in the office.

By the time I returned home to my home office, I felt prepared and confident. As a result, I could honor and celebrate my accommodating and cooperative nature (other behavioral drives discovered through my PI Behavioral Assessment) in building relationships with clients.

Start thinking about your day in terms of productivity instead of time

When you work in an office, you don’t sit down and work for eight hours straight. You take bathroom breaks, you chit-chat with colleagues, you have transition time between meetings, and you take a break for lunch. The same is true at home; it just looks different. You can put in a load of laundry, let the dog out and make a freshly prepared salad for lunch.

The key is to focus on productivity as opposed to how many hours — or which hours — you work. While you need to schedule most of your working hours during the typical business day so that you can collaborate with your clients, boss and teammates, if you are the most productive between the hours of 6-7:30 am, then knock out your top work priorities at that time. Then you can get in a workout or put on a load of laundry before you attack your next work-related priorities.

When you focus on productivity rather than a stereotypical schedule, you can achieve a better work-life balance. To ensure you’re intentionally productive, set goals and timeframes for achieving them so that you stay vigilant and you minimize distractions. When you accomplish a few tasks, you demonstrate your value to your employer and you “earn” the right to do something else for a while. You’ll know the end of your workday by the work you have completed – not by the time on the clock.

Communicate efficiently

Communication is always tricky, especially when it’s done in an email or a text, which can be misconstrued without non-verbal clues like gestures or intonation. To ensure key messages aren’t lost, make sure you’re communicating with people in the way they “hear” best.

Insights through PI offer this data, and you can bet I use it to my advantage. My boss has a lower than average drive for Patience and Formality, this means she is informal and restless and needs to delegate details and work at a fast pace. Therefore, in my communication with her, I summarize with bullets and I state my intentions directly.

I hope that one of the silver linings of this pandemic is a change to the status-quo office environment. However, excelling as a remote individual contributor takes self-discipline and self-awareness. For me, not being tied to a cubicle is a privilege and something that I do not take for granted, but it requires diligence and the need to intentionally set boundaries.

Amanda Gorman, SHIFT Client Success Manager

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