While remote work has gained significant momentum over the past decade, it’s still considered an unusual practice in many parts of the U.S.—and the world. In your current role, you may interact with teammates, clients, or prospects across regions and cultures, requiring you to frequently communicate and possibly travel to participate in face-to-face meetings. Each one of these scenarios represents an opportunity for you to shed light on remote work.
Find yourself in an awkward situation with someone who is especially skeptical? Try to think of yourself as a global ambassador for remote work.
Here’s how you can change others’ perceptions of remote work through your actions:
Being courteous about using space when traveling.
You may be on a long distance bullet train heading across borders, or be quietly working in the corner of a favorite local pub. Your fellow passengers may want to place an item on the shared table in front of you, or your watering-hole-of-choice might get crowded at a certain hour. Will you be a source of annoyance to fellow patrons?
Spreading out all your gear and setting up an external monitor isn’t just overkill; it’s inconsiderate of those around you. Don’t presume that this behavior is generally accepted or typical unless you see plenty of others following suit. (And even then, try not to be that foreign guy or girl with the fully mobile office!)
Compensating for time spent in a cafe.
I get it—coworking spaces don’t always offer day passes, and public libraries can be few and far between. Maybe your hotel concierge has been giving you serious side-eye for loitering in the lobby, or perhaps your Airbnb has a lousy Wi-Fi signal.
For all of these reasons and more, we remote workers often turn to nearby cafes for a quick shot of caffeine and the chance to get work done. If you think you’re getting your money’s worth by nursing a single mug for three and a half hours, though, think again. You’re taking up valuable real estate, especially if you’re working out of a bustling cafe. So at the very least, order a pastry and be sure to tip well, and know when to move on to another location versus camping out for your waiter’s entire shift.
Listening to others’ perspectives.
You’ll meet plenty of naysayers throughout the course of your remote career; arguing with them about the joys of onboarding, professional development, communication, and advancement from a distance likely won’t sway their opinion.
Instead, opt to hear their concerns and criticisms. Keep in mind that in other cultures, long-held traditions may exist that make remote work seem bizarre, if not outright offensive. There may be a few you agree with, or perhaps a couple of problems you’ve personally encountered (and found a way to solve). Diplomacy is the fastest route to building a mutual understanding.
Speaking candidly about challenges and advantages.
Nearly everyone has read about the digital nomads who make toting laptops to sunny beaches their job; others may still believe remote workers don’t ever change out of their PJs. Yet if they haven’t met someone with this increasingly mainstream work arrangement, they’re none the wiser.
You can be the the individual who dispels common myths about remote work while discussing its many advantages and challenges. Your forthright approach could slowly chip away at longstanding stereotypes and begin to reshape a company or a community’s attitude toward those who telecommute.
Identifying commonalities in work processes.
No matter how you get deliverables accomplished, you’re still a professional, and that means you’ll be able to find some cultural overlap with those in similar industries around the world. If demonstrating punctuality is highly valued by those you’re meeting with, show that it also matters to you by installing the necessary software to arrive early to video meetings, for example.
If a client expresses doubts about transparency with your distributed team, offer to take him on a virtual tour of your digital project management tools in order to help him feel more at ease. When a new business prospect admits that he rarely uses synchronous communication, show your understanding along with how you’d accommodate that preference.
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