Working Remotely: How to Shine as an Employee from Miles Away

If you’re someone who works remotely, you are very familiar with this scenario.

When you say, “I work from home,” these words often elicit one of two responses.

“Oooh, you’re so lucky! I would love to do that.”
“Oh, I could never do that. I’d go crazy.”

People who give the first response often picture you in bunny slippers and pajama pants, a laptop somewhere in the distance, as you channel-surf through daytime talk shows or stream Game of Thrones on Netflix. All of this while drawing in a cushy paycheck, of course.

Those who offer the second response probably have a better idea of what telecommuting entails – discipline, organization, and actual work. Sure this comes without a lengthy commute, office distractions, or obligatory birthday celebrations.

The many benefits of working from home – no commute, a quieter workplace, and more flexibility with your hours – give people the opportunity to be even better employees than they would be otherwise.

With the right tools, work environment and mindset, you can be your office’s shining superstar – without setting foot in your office. (At least, not often).

1. Set Up Your Best Work Space

Advertisements for work-at-home positions sometimes show attractive people working on a beach. Let’s get this out of the way – when it comes to working, the beach is hot and uncomfortable, and sand is really bad for your laptop. Plus, there are too many distractions. I mean, don’t you just want forget spreadsheets and take a dip in the ocean?

It’s nice to have the option to work anywhere, and it’s great to escape to your deck on a nice day or the local coffee shop for a change of scenery. The most successful telecommuters, though, have an established space where they work most of the time.

Use your designated workspace in conjunction with a daily routine to kick start your productivity by sending a signal to your brain that it’s time to work. Fortunately, with the technology available today, your ideal space can be a dedicated home office, your kitchen table, or even the local library.

2. Get the Right Tools for the Job

Many remote workers only require a laptop and an Internet connection to do their job. With a smartphone and a decent data plan, you can create a Wi-Fi Hotspot wherever you are. But did you know you can also use your laptop as a mobile hotspot?

This is helpful in situations, such as a tradeshow or a team meeting in a public place, where two or more people or devices need to share an Internet connection with only one Ethernet cable. You’ll be the hero at the meeting, while showcasing your work-at-home savvy, if you can hook up a co-worker (or client) in need with free Wi-Fi through your laptop.

3. Become a Videoconferencing Pro

Becoming a shining work-at-home star in your organization requires knowing how to leverage technology to your benefit. Rather than shying away from Skype or MS Lync, showcase your skills by becoming a videoconferencing pro.

First, dress for a videoconference the same way you would for a day at the office. Pay attention to what’s in the background of your call, too. A simple, plain background and a tight camera angle minimizes distractions – and hides those piles of laundry in the corners of your office.

When you’re on the line, speak slowly and clearly, and sit close to the microphone if you have a naturally soft voice. When you have the mic, ask if everyone can hear you. Also pause and ask for comments or questions, as people are typically more hesitant to interrupt during a conference call than an in-person meeting.

4. Nurture Work Relationships

One of the best things about working remotely is the lack of distracting water cooler chatter. But missing out on building relationships with your co-workers is also one of the biggest drawbacks for telecommuters. To be a superstar, you have to make an extra effort to stay connected with your team on a personal level.

This could mean calling into a conference call a few minutes early to chat with whoever else has also dialed in, or making small talk via instant messenger on Monday morning. Respond to emails promptly and in detail to eliminate the need for multiple follow-up questions.

“Build a relationship and let people know you’re there,” software developer Ryan Wilcox said in his blog post “How to Work Remotely and Still Be the Best.”

5. Visit the Office

If it’s geographically possible, show up in the office every so often to meet with co-workers face-to-face, either for a meeting, to drop off hard copy deliverables, or to grab lunch. The socialization keeps you in front-of-mind with your superiors as well as provides you with a dose of inspiration, sanity, and a reminder of how lucky you are that you don’t have to deal with the hassles of commuting and office life every day.

Working remotely has both benefits and drawbacks — it’s up to you to make the extra effort to be the office superstar who works from home.