Working Effectively and Remotely

by Julianna Beckert

15 December, 2016

Working remotely often presents challenges that you may not encounter when working in an office. The subtle clues you pick up through face-to-face interactions communicate much more than an email or instant message. When your co-workers only exist as text on your screen, it’s easy to view them as an obstacle in the way of your progress and success. It’s easy to get frustrated, and for departments to become divided against each other.

To adjust to the technological advancements that allow us to work remotely, we need to adapt. We need to bring back the virtues of in-person communication and remember that—even though we are interfacing with a computer—there is a human on the other side.

The computer lacks empathy, but you don’t have to.

Empathy is the most important virtue to keep in mind when working remotely. Everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. Getting angry at someone’s lack of communication or ignorance is counterproductive and a waste of your energy. You’ll get more done if you take a minute to consider the other side of things. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine yourself being busy and overwhelmed with your workload with different priorities than you might have. When you are able to see things from another’s perspective, you can better judge how to communicate with them.

Make time for small talk.

Sometimes you need to remind yourself that your co-workers are humans, not the commanding robots they may seem to be. One of the best ways to combat this feeling is to make time for small talk. Sure, small talk seems silly and unproductive, but it adds a lot of benefit. Get to know the personalities that you’re working with outside of work. When you’ve developed a friendly discourse, your co-workers will feel more comfortable being open and honest with you about work-related matters.

You’re on the same team.

When you feel like you’re in battle against co-workers, remind yourself that you play for the same team. It’s natural to become competitive and want to be the best part of your company, but you and your colleagues want the same things, such as efficiency, happiness, success and money. You have to work together to achieve these goals. Rather than dwelling on the problems, find what you can do to be a part of the solutions.

Share what you know. And ask more questions.

All too often, I’ve seen arguments where the issue is not an actual disagreement. The “argument” is caused by two people talking about two completely different things. They get caught up in arguing their point and don’t slow down enough to recognize the difference in their subjects. Make sure you understand one another. If it seems like someone is not understanding what you’re trying to explain, take a breath and maybe a minute, to find a new angle or an analogy. Choose your words wisely. Be descriptive. Think from their perspective and try to relate the subject to things they know about.

If someone has requested your contribution to a project and you don’t understand exactly what is required of you, don’t guess. Ask questions. You will save a lot of time and frustration if you are working toward the correct goal, rather than fumbling through many false starts.