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The Remote Employee – Transitioning from Home Field Advantage to a Permanent Road Trip

Written by Naydine Torres, Senior Client Relationship Specialist

This blog is the second in a series about working and managing workers in different locations. Read the first blog here.

It’s playoff time for baseball fans and there’s nothing sweeter than watching your home team play in October. With my beloved Chicago Cubs in the hunt for a repeat championship, I’m reflecting back on the keys to this season’s success thus far. As the 2016 World Series Champs, the challenges the team faced, much like those of the previous year, were different than the pressures of the 2017 push for the pennant. Adjustments needed to be made.

The same can be said for those of us who’ve gone from the traditional office setting, to a permanent position as a remote employee. Prior to joining First Business Bank, I was blessed to be able to work from home. This was not based on merit, rather, a major medical circumstance made working remotely a recommended option – I was pregnant WITH TWINS! Due to the high-risk nature associated with carrying multiples, my manager and I were able to create a schedule that allowed me to have some face time at the office with colleagues. The remaining business hours I worked from my apartment, where I could kick up my swollen feet on the couch when needed, which, by the second trimester, had nearly doubled in size.

The transition from office employee to “free agent” status was seamless. As I’d been with the company for three years, I had built strong working relationships with my team, other bank colleagues and outside vendors. I knew our systems, processes and procedures, and aside from occasional internet connectivity issues, my living room was no different than the office when it came to performing job duties.

Starting at First Business, I came in as a full-fledged Remote Employee, which has proven to be a whole new ball game. Along with the usual trials of joining a new team, working as a remote employee adds additional complexity. You may have the tools and skill set to become an asset to a new ball club, but you’ll soon learn they may have a league of their own.

Here’s a game plan for success:

SPRING TRAINING Building the fundamentals

  • One week (preferably two) of on-the-job training – if your location is out of state, you should plan to visit the office for as long as your schedule and management will allow. This time is invaluable.
    • The Coach – Sit with your manager to identify the main objectives and goals of the role
    • Your Mentor – Spend extensive time with your job counterpart or trainer to learn how to fulfill those expectations on a daily basis
      • All tasks should be walked through from start to finish. Ask: What programs are used? Which groups are involved? What if I run into an issue? Errors – what should I NOT do? Tips for success?
      • Gather job aides, procedures and sample emails/memos
      • Take notes – you won’t remember every point
      • Know the roster – Learn your fellow teammates’ job functions and build a greater understanding of how your role relates to theirs. Ask: How often should I reach out to you? Do you prefer email, a phone call, or an instant message? For projects, are you determining the pitches or do I decide balls and strikes?
    • Meet & greet – Lunches with the manager and everyone else. The purpose is to get to know your team members on a personal level. It’s much easier to ask all these new faces in person about their experience, where they grew up, their families, and so forth. The same questions tend to feel more like an interview when asked over the phone. Ideally, leave work out of it at this point.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE Frequent follow-up visits to headquarters

  • Time with your manager to:
    • Assess the remote relationship
    • Address issues with being in the outfield
    • Gather ideas for improvement, and create solutions to tackle gaps in communication
  • Shadow other department employees with whom you work with on a frequent basis to:
    • Understand their role in the process
    • Communicate how you operate as a remote employee
    • Foster an open dialogue to discuss the pitfalls when information isn’t communicated, as well as tips to making the interaction effortless. EX: “It causes a delay when you submit things as XYZ – we would rather have it in ABC order.” When things are communicated face to face, it takes all the un-implied tone out of the equation, which is often misconstrued through email and messaging applications.

CHATS WITH THE COACH Regularly scheduled meetings with your manager

  • Weekly one-on-one meetings (30 minutes); monthly one-on-one meetings (60 minutes). What’s working? Difficulties you face because of your location? Do you have enough to keep you busy?
    • Be open, honest, and transparent – your boss can’t help without the knowledge about how you’re struggling. Keeping lines of communication open shows your desire to thrive in the position and a willingness to accept constructive criticism, which helps the overall team performance.

STATS Keeping your team up to date

  • Keep track of your progress on long-term or ongoing tasks. Send it out to the team on a daily or weekly basis, so everyone knows where you are. Or save it to a shared location for all to access.
    • Be available for phone calls. Neither you nor your teammates have the luxury of walking over to each other to get clarity on an urgent matter, so make sure you are accessible at all times. Use instant messaging for issues or questions that can be resolved quickly.

As a remote employee, you face some disadvantages as soon as you come up to bat. Keeping open lines of communication to and from the dugout, and responding in a timely manner, can make the transition into winning seasons, not only for the team, but also for you as an individual player.

How about you? Do you have tips for us as a remote employee? Many companies are venturing out into road teams. We’d love to hear what works for you. Let us know!

 

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