I recently started a full-time job as a marketing specialist for a small company. I will be working completely remotely, which is great because I have a lot of flexibility. I am moving from one state to another for a few months and then I will be moving again, hopefully to a long-term home. How do I stay on top of the work, so I can keep this job while I am going through this transition?
Signed, On the move
Dear On the move,
Congratulations on your new position! This is very exciting, and we wish you all the best success! This is the real strength of remote work, that flexibility to accommodate unusual life moments while you earn a living. Now let’s talk about the practicalities of your unique situation and provide you with the tips you need to make it work day-to-day.
First, if you haven’t done so already, negotiate schedule requirements and set up communication protocols with your new boss and colleagues. We’ve talked a lot about this in past posts – you can read more about that here. Your goal is to keep regular, consistent, predictable contact with your new boss/colleagues and deliver work on deadline regardless of your physical location. When you do this, your physical location becomes less of an issue because the work happens regardless. I’ll talk a little later how you can leverage your upcoming moves to elevate your visibility, give everyone a chance to get to know you a bit and keep everyone positively interested in your journey.
Second, staying on top of work requires good scheduling practices, lots of self-discipline and reliable internet connectivity so you can deliver your work assignments on or ahead of the agreed-upon deadlines regardless of your location. This means focusing on logistics and timelines. If your company utilizes some sort of project management tool like Basecamp, SmartSheet or Microsoft project – use what the team uses. Become expert with the functionality and use it as your project tracker. This provides you with a digital system that helps with tracking timelines, to-dos and deliverables. If your new company isn’t utilizing something like this, you can a) negotiate this with your new boss and sell them on the benefits of such a solution or b) go old school – this means get a physical day planner and calendar, note all the important deadlines and count backwards from the deadlines to build your daily to-do lists.
Regardless of the method you choose, both require a lot of work and daily upkeep. We find physical calendars and day planners are great for very visual remote workers who function best when they have a physical picture of their workload that is accessible even when their stuff is packed for a move. If you are moving around a lot, this might be an advantage for you because it will also provide you with a comprehensive picture of your deadlines quickly without an internet connection. Not a bad thing when you are on the move a lot. Manual systems require you to stay in close contact with your teammates, updating with them frequently so everything stays in sync. As you are new, this isn’t a bad thing. More contact with colleagues now not only keeps you top of mind but also helps your new colleagues to get to know you a bit. In this scenario, your check-ins focus on how you are managing your workload, when people can expect things from you and when you need something from them to keep a project moving forward. It demonstrates your discipline and abilities through your actions rather than your physical presence.
Digital tools provide a lot of extra options like digital reminders, team dependencies and a track record of the work completed. You will have to master the functionality fast, schedule time daily for upkeep and convince everyone else on your team to do the same. Be aware digital solutions work best as a team tool when everyone is on board and actively using the tool…if your colleagues are less diligent or neglect to update their pieces of the project then you could run into trouble. We found people start to get lazy. They assume everything is up-to-date and they may not find out there is a problem until it’s too late and they miss a deadline that was discussed at the office but never updated online. Assess the company culture and the team appetite before you go this route. What you want to avoid is choosing a work tracking system that requires you to hound others for updates, so they get to know you as someone who is always pestering them to do something they don’t want to do in an online system they hate.
Regardless of your choice, use your regularly scheduled team check-ins to confirm expectations all around – yours and theirs. When you work remotely, it’s up to you to do the heavy lifting, never make assumptions, always ask the question and follow-up up with written email confirmations just to make sure you understand. Once you have your system for scheduling and tracking work is set up, coordinate your work obligations with your physical movements. If you have a heavy deadline falling during a move, plan for this and a) get everything done ahead of schedule, b) proactively set expectations so delivery dates are deferred to times when you are actively available or c) practice working while you are on the move and use something like a mobile hotspot to maintain connectivity during travel. Make your plan well in advance of the move and communicate your movements, availability, limitations and requirements to your boss and co-workers so there are no surprises.
Now, let’s talk about fun ways you can keep your team interested in your movements to keep yourself top of mind and to let them get to know you a bit. Think of your moves as an opportunity to send fun digital “postcards” to your boss and colleagues so they know something has changed with you even as you deliver on deadlines. Cool pictures of your new location, or a travel log of your move itself…use your imagination and professional discretion…present the move as lively, fun and visually interesting, but don’t spam people with all the gory details. A couple of fun photos with tasteful captions will do it along with any critical info such as “I’m in a new time zone!” or “New street address!” You can use the less formal channels such as IM or whatever chat function your team uses for these messages. If your team will consent to video – and we recommend strongly that you advocate for it – then you can take a minute at the beginning of a video call to give folks a tour of your new place. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to keep people informed of your whereabouts so they always know you’re there.
Congrats again on this wonderful opportunity! Best of luck with your moves, send us pictures and let us know how it’s going!
Photo by Erda Estremera