These days, virtual work environments are becoming more commonplace. But how do you work in such an unconventional environment? It’s not as easy as you might think.
I’ve worked from home for over 10 years, the first seven of which were for somebody else and the past three have been for myself.
During that decade, I’ve learned a ton of lessons, many of which were acquired through the painful crucible of failure. Here’s what I’ve learned, and what you may want to consider if you’re searching for a virtual job (or wanting to run a virtual team):
I lost an employee because this person realized that working from home by yourself all day isn’t as fun and exciting as it sounds.
I’ve had to learn this lesson, as well. What do I need to thrive in my work? I need occasional interaction with people, but often I need to be left alone to work. This was why I eventually invested in an office outside of the home, to create a separation between work life and home life.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes work from home (I do), but having a dedicated space where I can leave things and/or escape to when I need to just get stuff done is really important. By no means does everyone needs an office like this, but I know I do. I also know that I need some social interaction, so I schedule a few lunches with friends every week.
Create a predictable rhythm
I first learned this working a day job for a nonprofit from home. My wife would leave every day at 8:30 in the morning and return around 5:30 every evening.
Early on in our marriage, I would sleep in, slowly get to work, and then disappoint her when it was dinner time and I still had work to do. Quickly, I learned there was nothing wrong with working a 9-to-5, especially if it meant getting share the evenings with my spouse.
Nowadays, I leave the house at the same time every day and return home around the same time. I have standing weekly meetings with friends and other groups that help me grow. Some days are dedicated to writing and other days are dedicated podcasting. I try to batch things and create blocks of time in which I always work on the same thing.
All of this creates a predictable rhythm that allows me to just show up and do the work.
When in doubt, over-communicate
If you don’t do anything else on this list, do this. I have had to fire people and almost been fired myself for violating this rule.
When working remotely, it’s so easy to misread tone in an email or text. It’s far too easy to hurt someone’s feelings or have your own feelings hurt when that was never the intention of the message.
Every relational conflict I’ve ever experienced in the workplace could have been avoided by better communication. And that’s not an exaggeration. The onus is on you to make sure the person on the other end of the line understands what you intended to say.
Clarify, clarify, clarify.
Don’t rely too heavily on technology
With all the amazing communication tools available to us (e.g. Skype, Facetime, Slack, Google Hangouts, email, etc.), working remotely has never been easier. But that’s not to say it’s not without its fair share of complications.
Technology cannot replace the connection two human beings forge with one another when working towards a common vision. In my experience, this means almost always trying to do the harder thing. When emailing is easier, pick up the phone. When calling is the most comfortable choice, get on a plane.
The point is, whenever you feel inclined to do something that avoids confrontation, do the hard thing. It’ll make your job much easier in the long run.
Recently, I opened up applications for seven new positions we have available at Goins, Enterprises (the fun little name of my business which includes this blog, the online courses that I teach, and the events we do).
In the past, I’ve worked with contractors and freelancers, but now I’m wanting to grow a more dedicated team.
If you’d like to be a part of that team, check out this link and fill out the form at the bottom of it.
What lessons would you add to this list? Share in the comments.