There are plenty of things to love about being a remote worker.
From the old cliché of being able to work in your pajamas (full disclosure: I’m actually in my favorite comfy pants as I write this) to the freedom to structure your workday in a way that suits you best, there are tons of benefits.
But here’s the truth: there are also some challenges to deal with when you’re geographically separated from the people with whom you work closely.
For example, effective communication gets tricky. It’s tough to build a really supportive team culture when you’re all so far apart. And the one hurdle I find myself awkwardly stumbling over time and time again? Holding myself accountable.
As a remote worker, you have a boss. However, he or she isn’t constantly there dishing out demands and breathing down your neck. Your manager is often out of sight (and maybe, therefore, out of mind)—which means you need to learn how to successfully manage yourself.
Fortunately, after several years of working remotely, I’ve landed on some strategies that help me hold myself to acceptable standards. These tips and tricks encourage me to own both my slipups and my successes—whether they happened while I was in pajamas or not.
Here are five tips for holding yourself accountable in a remote environment:
1. Ask yourself this one important question.
Holding yourself accountable requires a certain level of self-awareness. That doesn’t come naturally to all of us (I’m blushing over here!), so you’re going to need to make a conscious effort to ensure that you’re doing great work—even if your boss is across the globe.
For me, that all starts with asking myself one simple question: Am I proud of this?
Whether I’m applying that question to an article I’ve completed or the way I handled a specific conflict or situation, it helps me to step back and confirm that I’m putting in my all—and not just coasting along.
2. Establish regular check-ins.
While I make my living as a freelancer, there is one organization that I work with as an actual part-time, remote employee.
In that case in particular, setting up regular, one-on-one check-ins with my boss has been so helpful in keeping me on track and making me feel like a true part of the team.
During those monthly chats, my manager and I connect on my recent work, the progress I’m making toward the larger goals we’ve set, and also discuss the things I’m doing well—as well as the areas that could use improvement.
If you’re picturing some sort of really formal review, that’s not the case at all. Instead, these casual conversations are an awesome way to forge a deeper working relationship and ensure that both my and my boss’ expectations are being met—despite the fact that we’re located across the country from each other.
3. Set your own goals and deadlines.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Somebody sends you an email asking if you can tackle a certain task. They give no indication of when they need it completed, so you ask about an end date. “Whenever you can get to it!” they immediately respond.
What’s going to happen to that assignment? If you’re anything like me, it’ll continue getting pushed to the back burner in favor of more time-pressing projects—until it eventually just falls off the stovetop entirely.
This is why it’s important to set your own objectives and deadlines when necessary. It’s a tactic that’s helpful in any working environment—but especially when your remote colleagues don’t have the luxury of giving you a friendly reminder while you’re gathered around the breakroom coffee pot.
When something lands on your to-do list with no assigned end date, pick one for yourself and then put it on your calendar like you would any other deadline. That way, you can effectively manage your workload and make a plan to actually get it done.
4. Remember the power of the list.
Speaking of to-do lists, there’s nothing that helps give my accountability as a remote worker a boost more than a good old-fashioned list.
It seems painfully simple, right? But just jotting down the things you want to accomplish in a day can help keep you focused on your work—rather than giving in to the numerous temptations that crop up when you work outside of a traditional office environment.
5. When in doubt, over communicate.
There’s no denying that it’s far easier to sweep things under the rug when you work remotely. Perhaps your colleagues won’t notice that you’re running late on your portion of the project. Or maybe that mistake of yours won’t cause any major issues—meaning there’s no need to even mention it.
It’s tempting, right? But make this your remote work golden rule: when in doubt, over communicate.
It can be tough to take ownership of your own blunders and shortcomings. However, communicating about them effectively is always (yes, always!) going to turn out better than if you try to let them slide under the radar.
Remote work comes with plenty of perks—but there are some challenges you’ll need to overcome as well. When it comes to holding yourself accountable, put these five tips into play and you’ll solidify your reputation as a professional and reliable remote employee.
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