The Good Remote Worker: Work rarely speaks for itself

A common fear held by both remote workers and teams collaborating with them is having no idea what they're doing or why they're doing it. A fear that, when left unchecked, diminishes the value of actual work being done.

In this part I'm going to discuss why just doing work isn't enough and how a remote worker can avoid being forgotten by their team.

Involve people early and often

I don't know too many people who wouldn't prefer working distraction-free the majority of the time. I know personally I do some of my best work in complete solitude. When I'm working with a team, that isn't always an ideal mindset to have.

A common tendency for remote workers is to bury their heads in their work, obscuring themselves from the collaborative process. Sometimes this is necessary when deadlines are close or the stakes are high. But most of the time, it is diminishing the trust and confidence you've built with your team.

When I don't include others on the work I'm doing, the role I have in my team's progress becomes unclear. If its unclear to me, then it is definitely unclear to my team. As a result, the work I do loses value.

Show your work!

In elementary school, my math teacher would always urge and often require us to show our work on math problems. I always thought the reason was to thwart cheating. I mean, who didn't look in the back of the math book for answer keys?

Of course, cheat prevention wasn't the reason for showing the work. My teacher understood that showing the work helped me understand the problem, what variables I was solving for, and the importance of picking the right path to a solution. But more importantly, it gave my teacher the tools to help me see why the path I took could be flawed.

As a remote worker I want to be transparent about the work I'm contributing. Showing my work on a regular basis, unfinished or otherwise, creates confidence and trust within my team. Instead of just relying on my own ability to find and resolve issues I encounter, I'm employing the experience and knowledge of others. Then it becomes less about micro-managing my progress and more about clarifying the role I have in the progress my team makes.

Get involved

So maybe I am the kind of remote worker whose work speaks for itself. More power to me! However I am not off the hook! Just as some will be afraid to show their work, others might be afraid to help and guide others in their work. Don't be!

Getting involved in the work of others is about sharing knowledge. My experience and knowledge may fill a gap a team member doesn't know how to cross. Again, the goal is to create trust and confidence in the team. How can I do that if I never show up for others?

Remote workers have a responsibility to go slightly above and beyond in this regard. Physical presence doesn't have to be a barrier, it should be an opportunity to build trust and confidence in my role on the team.

June 03, 2016