Remote work is extremely rewarding but also tremendously frustrating at times. Trust me, I’ve personally enjoyed both sides of this coin. In an effort to stay focused, we’re going to assume that you’ve already made the decision to work remotely and that you have buy-in from your manager to work from a home or remote office for all or part of your work week.

There could be hundreds or thousands of scenarios that got you to this point, but congratulations you’re here! Now what the heck are you going to do next? How do you transition to working remotely successfully?

In this context, I’m going to stress two things: that success keeps you on the promotion path in your role, just as you were when working full time in the office with the team, and that success also means that you are still highly functioning in your role and no one else is enduring any additional burden as a result of you being remote. These are 2 huge things to accomplish during remote work. It will certainly take a fair amount of effort on your part, and from your colleagues, especially if you are part of a small or young organization or remote work isn’t part of your company culture.

The Challenges of Remote Work

The first time I had a regular remote role was back in 2004.  At that point in time, I was still working in healthcare and I transitioned to working 100% remote in order to continue going to college in another city about 2 hours away from the hospital where I was working. I was a Quality Assurance Analyst and by design the role was highly autonomous. The biggest hurdles I faced were getting the documentation I needed to review (my work queue) physically to me, returning the results of the audits to the respective admissions representatives in a timely manner, and creating the right work routine around classes and other things in my schedule.

Receiving and returning the documentation were solved easily via our shipping contract with DHL and enlisting the help of some volunteers that I had good relationships with at the facility to help sort and distribute things. Creating the right work routine, especially as a 22-year-old, took a bit more time and conscious focus to overcome.

5 Keys to Achieving Success

I have an innate knack for time management and prioritization, so I definitely had some natural advantages and instincts on my side but thinking back, here are the 5 main things I did to create the right work routine:

  1. Establish a dedicated space for work
  2. Block my schedule with both work blocks and tasks that were ideal for the mental capacity I had at that time
  3. Portion out the work – I was able to review many more charts doing all of 1 thing at a time: marking, correcting, commenting, scoring, etc.
    • One of the keys here, however, is to keep yourself from doing too much of 1 thing for too long. For example, I broke things into sets of 50 patient charts, which then took an average of 30 minutes.
    • The other hidden benefit here was if VPN or a system went down, I could easily continue on to another phase or another set of work.
    • It is critical to develop your own note taking/shorthand system here though, so you can easily pick up where you left off without missing a beat or creating rework for yourself.
  4. Keep 50% or more of your work blocks during the “normal” work day of the team. If personal or family challenges are the main reason for the shift to remote work, do the best you can to make this happen. Consistency is key, and others are being trained by your actions regarding your availability.
  5. Over communicate your status! Remember, no one can just walk by and know where you’re at on something or see that you’re working away. You aren’t asking for a gold star every day here, but you should make it a goal that your boss/team never has to ask where you’re at on a project they’re expecting you to be working on. Especially, if their work is dependent on yours!

What next?

These 5 things should get you off to a stellar start if you’re transitioning to remote work in a role with a lot of autonomy and minimal interaction with other people/teams. What if you’re in a different type of role? Manage people? Are in a critical position that is constantly accessed by other people/teams?

Fear not! You can still work virtually and continue to be highly effective in this type of role. That’s what I cover in part 2 of this post!