Whether you like it or not, remote work is here to stay. This means when you accept your next job, chances are it will be partially, if not fully, remote. So here’s how to begin and succeed at a new job in a world that’s become increasingly distance-oriented.
1. Read your contract and new company’s handbook
One of the first things to do when you begin a new job is to closely read your contract, as well as become fully aware of your new company’s policies, requirements, and expectations. This is true for all employees, regardless of where they work, but especially true for remote workers. So, read your employment contract closely, if you haven’t already, and if you’re not sent it, ask for your new company’s handbook.
These things are important to read because both full-time and project-based remote workers must have clear and concise guidelines to prevent misunderstandings that could occur. Remote workers need specific parameters and expectations. Will your work be guided step-by-step by a supervisor? How much autonomy do you have in your position? Remote work often puts the burden of showing performance on you, the employee.
Note that your employee contract should include any special requirements you and the company agree to so that, as a remote employee, you’re given the same considerations and access to information as a colleague who works in the office. Pertinent legal notices that are posted on a bulletin board at a workplace, like Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) notices, must be sent to you electronically.
2. Create a well-functioning workspace
A successful remote career necessitates having a space where you can concentrate, research, write, and maintain contact with coworkers, colleagues, and clients. Space in your home may be limited, so a certain amount of creativity could be needed to carve out a workspace if you don’t have a dedicated home office.
Going to work in a closet might not sound like an ideal location, but there are abundant plans for re-designs of closets into offices on sites like Family Handyman, Pinterest, and Happy Housie. Many of the ideas allow you to tailor the space to your specific needs. You might not work exclusively in a closet-office, but it’s important to have space designated for work only. Sharing the dining room table with children or roommates can make you less productive.
3. Keep your work email separate from your personal email
When you work a fully remote job, you can live anywhere. This means that, even if your company is headquartered in New York, you might be working from your Wicker Park apartment in Chicago or your beachside condo in Malibu. While it might sound convenient to live where you want to and not have go into an office (and navigate public transit) in a crowded city, there’s an important issue that remote work presents: How do you keep your work and personal emails, texts, and any other forms of communication separate?
The answer is to use your company’s cloud-based server for work-related messaging to avoid accidentally sharing private, proprietary, or legal information with your friends and family. The reverse is also true. You don’t want your coworkers in on any personal conversations about your life outside of work that’s not meant for them.
Policy directives like this one from the State of Texas are common, so make sure to follow the directives in the state where you live: “The use [of company] electronic systems, including computers, fax machines, and all forms of Internet/intranet access, is for company business and for authorized purposes only. Brief and occasional personal use of the electronic mail system or the Internet is acceptable as long as it is not excessive or inappropriate, occurs during personal time (lunch or other breaks), and does not result in expense or harm to the Company or otherwise violate this policy.”
In addition, note that companies that deal with sensitive material should provide tech support to ensure classified information is not exposed to anyone outside the company.
4. Keep your files secure
It’s important to keep your work files secure on a dedicated work computer. Don’t use the family computer—it likely doesn’t have an un-hackable security system in place. Another safety tip is to upload files to your company’s cloud-based storage after every workday to ensure its security.
In addition, use these steps to help ensure company data is safe:
- Find out what your company’s cybersecurity policy is
- Ensure all internet connections are secure
- Keep passwords strong and varied
- Utilize two-factor authentication
- Use encryption software
- Add firewalls, antivirus software, and anti-malware
5. Create task lists and set calendar reminders
Working remotely doesn’t mean you get to work only when you feel like it. Be hyper aware of due dates for projects and filings. Create chronological task lists to keep track of appointments and responsibilities. And adhere to a schedule that fits the parameters of your job—be available when others are working. Allow coworkers to easily keep in touch with you so you can hit your personal and team deadlines. Remember, your coworkers may not be able to do their work until they have information from you.
6. Be extra mindful of the tone of your emails and Slacks
Remote work usually involves communication that’s written rather than spoken. Be aware of the tone your emails and texts produce. After you’ve composed a note, read it slowly to yourself before hitting the send button. If the message sounds agitated or contains inappropriate wording, change it.
The person you intended the message for is not able to glean information from your body language as they would in a person-to-person conversation (and you might not have met them yet so they might not know your personality). The subtleties in the cadence of your speech can be lost or misunderstood, sometimes with unintended consequences.