As a member of the College Outside marketing team, I handle everything from analytics to event programming to copy. I have hard deadlines, and am required to coordinate with other members of the staff to receive feedback on my own work as well as provide insight on others’ work. However, I live in Philadelphia and the company is headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, three hours behind and 3000 miles away. For this reason, it has been essential for me to develop strategies for myself that allow me to perform to the highest level while telecommuting. As the percentage of companies, offering flexible work options, such as working remotely, grows, these skills are more important than ever, and I’ve outlined my tips here.
- Commit to a schedule.
There’s an assumption that when you work remotely, you can work whenever you want whether that is 11 at night or six in the morning. While that flexibility is nice to have, it’s been essential for me and my manager to agree upon a set schedule of hours, when I can always be sure to get a hold of her and vice versa. As we have a three hour time difference we also made sure to choose hours that didn’t cut into each other’s personal lives (it wouldn’t work for me to set my office hours for 8am EST when that’s 5am for her, or for her to ask me to stay on until 5pm PST which is 8pm here). Being able to contact my team members while working is essential to my productivity and results in a better final result. My schedule also prevents me from overworking myself. When you’re “working from home” it can be hard to leave the office for the day, set hours help to maintain those boundaries.
- Find a space where you can be productive!
Just because I “work from home” doesn’t mean that I’m confined to my tiny studio apartment, and neither are you! For me, it’s difficult to be productive when I have access to my entire fridge. I’ve come to find that changing where I work prevents me from getting as distracted and all in all results in a more interesting and productive work day. I rotate between several local coffee shops and my rock-climbing gym, depending upon the scale of the work I need to get done. Locations that have limited noise, as well as access to plugs and wi-fi are best.
- Write everything down.
No matter how good your schedule is, working remotely removes the convenience of just turning around at your desk to ask your manager what they said earlier. I make sure to write everything down while I’m on the phone with my boss, review those notes with her before we hang up, and then make a check list so that I don’t accidentally miss anything. There’s no such thing as too many post-it notes in my remote work style. College Outside uses Slack, so I also take advantage of their pin and star tools to make sure I can find important messages later, and indicate to my boss which messages I send need to be reviewed. Staying organized on paper and on your phone/laptop removes the possibility of things slipping through the cracks when no one’s watching you.
- Communication FIRST!
My manager and I video chat every day that I work, which allows us to set clear expectations for each work day. We also have periodic reflections so that we can be sure that I’m getting everything I need/want to out of my internship and that I’m fulfilling all her expectations. These conversations are crucial to my ability to excel in my position. In addition, I make sure to be transparent about my ability to meet deadlines, my school schedule, and give plenty of notice before taking time off. This emphasis on communication between my coworkers and me is to what I attribute much of my success.
- Professionalism is not just for offices.
It can be easy to forget the importance of etiquette when you aren’t going in to a physical office. No one cares if you’re not wearing pants if you’re working from home all day! However, qualities such as timeliness, positivity and decorum are still important to keep in mind even from across the country from your boss.
I’ve been honored to be a part of team that encourages me to pursue the projects that interest me and provides me many of the tools for success. I hope that my experience working remotely for College Outside will assist other students as they enter the highly variable and flexible job market that exists today.
This blog post was adapted from a document I compiled for distribution to new interns who join College Outside on how to be successful within our team.