Many managers of remote employees harbor some not-so-secret fears about what their subordinates might be up to in the course of a workday. Managing yourself when nobody’s watching can be tough.
In some cases, there might already be systems and processes in place that help to squelch their apprehension. In others, you might find yourself building them alongside your boss.
As a remote worker, a lot of responsibility falls upon your shoulders; your role is less visible than that of any office-bound colleagues, and as such, it necessitates that you demonstrate your value through your output. (The emphasis here is always on outcomes rather than on time spent.)
Yes, I’m talking about two of the biggest topics in remote work: productivity and accountability. How to handle both when not under the watchful eye of a boss or teammates is both an art form and an acquired skill. Yet both are essential to your professional success and potential advancement.
Here are a few pointers on best practices and some helpful tools to get you started with managing yourself:
1. Align your work with your personal goals.
If you can’t immediately speak to the ‘why’ behind the work you’re doing, stop right there. Take some time to step back and consider why you’re working in this particular role right now, and prioritizing these specific projects over others. Ask yourself what goals are you aiming to meet, not only for your current organization or latest client, but for your own career?
Once you’re able to draw a direct line from what you’re working on today to where you want to go, it will be much easier for you to think strategically, and to move quickly. Achieving this alignment is definitely worth the effort; after all, it’s your future at stake!
2. Organize and document your progress.
Starting the day hopping from one task to another is like running a few feet in 50 directions. You’ll assuredly feel very busy, but it won’t get you very far.
Instead, consider ‘bucketizing’ your workday into project work that dovetails more naturally by topic and by concentration level. For example, I write blog posts early in the morning, schedule social media and work on strategy in the afternoon, and only tackle the ad hoc stuff toward the end of the day when my energy lags.
Meanwhile, I document my tasks and progress so they’re known to anyone on my team. Use a project management tool like Trello or Asana to help keep others up to speed on your work.
3. Share successes and roadblocks.
You don’t need to give others a dissertation on your work, but you should be sharing the Cliffs Notes version. What are some of your recent wins, or helpful changes that you’ve made? Are there any issues you’d like to raise, or is there something happening internally that’s holding you back in your work?
Offering these insights helps add context to your contributions, and also helps you plow forward with the support of your colleagues. Moreover, starting dialogues like these can build stronger teams, encourage a more transparent culture, and can position you as a highly competent, self-sufficient remote worker. That’s a win/win/win if I ever saw one!