Matter Chatter

Bridging the Gap: Best Practices for Working Remotely

As technology continues to improve, it has become more convenient for people to work remotely/in different offices across a variety of industries. Inter-office IMs, video conferences and the like are great communication tools that can connect employees in different geographies, but that said, nothing can compare to face time with your co-workers (actual, in-person face time … not FaceTime).

I have recently started working in Matter’s newest office in Boulder, Colorado but am also on several Newburyport-based accounts. In PR specifically, where there is so much collaboration needed among teams, not physically being in the same office as some of your co-workers can be a challenge. But as Matter continues to grow and expand to new locations, I thought it was time to dust off a few best practices for working remotely.

Back to Basics

Yes – emails and IMs are fast, easy and you don’t feel as though you are interrupting your co-workers’ busy days. But the value of actually speaking with your teammates is immeasurable, especially if you don’t have an existing relationship with them. A LOT can be lost in written communication, including tone, personality and even meaning.

A question as simple as, “What are you doing?” could be taken a million different ways depending on the recipient’s mood or your last interaction. Are you just checking in? Are you implying that they aren’t working? Are you trying to get a sense of how busy they are? There’s no way to know for sure unless you pick up the phone every so often to chat.

Show Your Colors

Make your presence felt and try to infuse your personality into your correspondence and interactions as much as possible. When you aren’t in the same room, it’s easy to become invisible to the rest of your team, and awkward conference calls are not always the best way for your team to get to know you. When you can, try to talk about non-work related topics and show interest in what your teammates are doing outside of the office.

It’s not just small talk – it’s an important part of team building.

Do Good Work

Duh. I know. Obviously, no one aspires to be mediocre, but your performance becomes all the more important when you are working remotely. Teammates in different offices don’t see how long you spent working on that press release, poring over your laptop – they only see the finished product. If your work is not buttoned up, it’s easy to erroneously draw the conclusion that you’re not trying.

Also, raise your hand more often to help out overwhelmed teammates. It’s important to demonstrate that you’re a team player and a valuable resource on whom co-workers can rely when sh*t hits the proverbial fan – even if you’re not sitting in the next cube. Additionally, if you work in a different time zone, that can also be used to your advantage. In Boulder, we are two hours behind our counterparts in Newburyport – offering to take on a last minute assignment that popped up at 5:00 pm ET can be a life saver for teammates who are trying to get out the door at the end of the day.

Face to Face

While these tips can go a long way, nothing compares to spending time together – live, in-person, as a team. When you are able to get some face time with your teams, take advantage of it!

Don’t just act like it’s business as usual. Even if you are super busy, take the time to have lunch or drinks with your co-workers who you don’t get to see on a daily basis. When I recently visited our headquarters in Newburyport, my teammates were great about organizing opportunities for us to spend time together outside of the office. I was able to get to know them beyond their writing styles and email etiquette, which was invaluable.

While it’s certainly not uncommon to work with teammates in other geographies, it’s not always easy. Making the effort to communicate effectively, demonstrating who you are and what you can do, will undoubtedly minimize the figurative distance between yourself and your team.