In the Summer of 2006 I started working full time within a virtual workspace. At that time, working from home full time was still unusual and to me and felt like unchartered territory. There were some adjustments I had to make to learn how to be successful while working from home. Now, 11 years later, it’s interesting to look back from that first assignment. Since then, I have worked for a couple of companies, in a few different roles, and been a part of several teams. Along the way I have had to adjust; sometimes it wasn’t easy, but I have always managed to make it work.
To be sure, it’s now quite common to work virtually, even part of the time, and in some jobs it’s a lot easier to do than in others. Over the years I have worked in a variety of roles where I might have been the only remote person or just one of many. Now, I am part of an entirely virtual team that spans the United States, Canada and India. I even have colleagues I work with in Australia and Poland. Bridging the gap is easy with email, Skype, instant messaging, text and phones.
There is no doubt that having a one on one interaction with colleagues is important. When you work in an office, it is much easier to interact by physically being in the same space as your co-workers. You may get to know what the names of their children are and about their pets. Without much effort, you may learn about how they take their coffee, even where they prefer to go to lunch. When you don’t physically share the same space, you must try harder to make that connection. For instance, something as simple as acknowledging a colleague’s birthday, or asking about their weekend or family or even learning what teams they support may sound superficial, but does help to bond across the miles. The funny thing is, and probably what I least expected about this dynamic, is just how close I would become to some of my colleagues. Some of the colleagues I’ve worked with over the years I have come to know so well that, frankly, I consider them very dear friends, if not family.
Working from home is not for everyone, and some days are harder for me than others. Self-motivation is paramount to being successful. Without a manager close by to make sure you are getting your work done, without a colleague in the next cubicle to run an idea buy amoxicillin online uk past, it’s easy to feel isolated and unsure.
This is when you must take the initiative to ask for direction or seek advice from others. It can be intimidating to ask for help when you are in the same office, it can be more so when you must do so across email or over the phone. I have found that my superiors and co-workers appreciate when I come to them for direction or advice as they know that I am engaged, care about my work and value their opinion. Sometimes a quick chat over the phone with a teammate, to confirm you know a deadline or have the right details to complete a project, can be enough to feel engaged and an important part of the team.
Looking back on the last eleven years, It’s not just the work that I have done or the people that I have worked with that has shaped me, it is also the way I have worked. I think that I have learned to trust my instincts more, and I have learned to speak up, making my voice heard in a way that I hadn’t done previously. When your manager can’t see you at your desk every day, it is incumbent on you to make yourself known and bring something to the table. If you know you will be having a team meeting or a one on one call with your manager. Think about any ideas, questions or concerns you may have. Others may have these some questions and concerns, but may not feel comfortable asking. I have found that if I have questions or am unclear about direction, usually others on my team will too. By putting yourself out there, you will show that you are curious and want to improve. Other team members may begin to look to you as a leader, and someone may can come to when they have questions and don’t feel comfortable asking for themselves. I think that this has made me a better employee and a better colleague to my teammates. While I came into the virtual workspace thinking about how much time I would save by not commuting (a lot), and how I could be at home with my dogs every day, I think the biggest benefit has been in how it has changed me as a person. It’s hard to imagine it any other way.