Being the new kid on the block is always hard, but being the new kid on the block of a remote team? That can be even more intimidating—especially if you’ve never worked remotely before.
So, how do you make a positive impression on your distributed team? Turns out it can be easier than you think. Here are a few simple tips to help you put your best foot forward (even if nobody will ever see your feet).
Be aware of what other members of your team need to get the job done. When working with a group, do your best to deliver your part of the project earlier than necessary so that others can get going. This sends a clear message that says, “I am proactive, resourceful, and hardworking!”
When relying on someone you’ve never seen before for a project, receiving pieces of it ahead of schedule calms anxieties, builds trust, and pushes everyone ahead. So set the example. Be proactive, and you’re guaranteed to delight your remote teammates.
Be Prompt and Accessible
Your online presence is crucial to your success as a remote employee, as that is sometimes the only indicator that you’re working. This boils down to, how fast do you answer emails? How often do you check in with your supervisors? What progress is clearly visible to those people?
Communication is huge. Being available to hop into meetings and promptly responding to chats communicates a clear level of commitment and care to your teammates and supervisors.
This doesn’t mean you need to be glued to your computer or phone, but you do need to make sure you communicate to your team in a clear, visible, consistent way that says, “I’m here. Rely on me.”
Be a Friendly Face (or Avatar)
According to a study(PDF) done at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, employers tend to seek new employees in much the same way they seek friends or romantic partners. This means they prioritize cultural fit ahead of qualifications.
How does this apply to going above and beyond in your virtual workplace? Simply put, be an enjoyable person.
This doesn’t mean you need to overcompensate or be fake. Remember, you were already hired! Your coworkers already decided that you are someone they would want to hang out with outside of work, so celebrate all of those wonderful things about you. Bring your sense of humor, playfulness, and love of college basketball into the online office—and share those with your coworkers!
Make small talk a part of your workday. Taking an extra few minutes to be a friendly face in your virtual workplace is more than worth the payoff in cooperation and support you’ll get from your teammates when you need it most.
For remote workers, independence and proactivity are necessities. Exhibiting those qualities is most likely a big part of why you were hired. To really go above and beyond, it’s important to take those qualities a step further, and to demonstrate that proactive independence to your superiors.
Whether you’re new to virtual work in general or just new to the company; there’s probably a lot you don’t know. There are established best practices and hierarchies to which you are brand new. As important as it is to ask questions, it just as important to check in with yourself before firing off a series of emails and ask, ‘Can I figure that out on my own? Are there resources available to me that would answer that?’ This can save time for everyone and slim down crowded inboxes.
A willingness to figure things out on your own is essential for successful remote workers. Always ask for help when needed, but do a quick check-in before foisting those questions onto someone else. Your teammates will appreciate it.
Yes, I know. Communication is the dead horse we continue to beat in this remote work world. But we do this because it’s so important!
Many people assume virtual work is for the socially inept who don’t like to work with others. But in reality, studies show(PDF) that emotional intelligence is one of the most important characteristics of a successful and productive distributed team.
Effective communication comes from a combination of all of the topics we’ve discussed so far: anticipating teammates’ needs, being a positive presence, and being reliable and independent. It means striking a balance between being autonomous and also remembering to check in with your supervisor. Don’t be afraid to schedule a weekly meeting to catch up and say, ‘Hey, I’ve been slaving away on this project for a few days. Here’s what I have so far. Is this going in the right direction? What are your thoughts?’
Being too distant or quiet can be worrisome to your manager. And worse, when you hibernate with a project for a few days, you may re-emerge to find that you’ve been sprinting in the wrong direction. Keep the channels of communication open, and you’ll be more productive and feel like a part of the team.
Be Adaptable: Say Yes!
Your coworker just had three other projects dumped on her plate. She needs someone to cover Client X for just this week. She sends out an email asking someone to help her. What do you do? You say, “Yes!”
By saying yes, you are not necessarily saying, “I will put on a happy face until I faint from overwork!” You are actually saying, “I acknowledge this may be challenging right here and now, but I recognize there is a bigger picture and I will do my best.”
By saying yes, you save the time spent complaining and whining by funneling that energy into being the best team member you can be. Be flexible and adaptable. Help your co-workers when they are in a tough spot. Remember, you’ll need that extra help yourself one day.
At the end of the day, none of us are perfect. No matter how hard you strive for that “Outstanding Remote Team Member” award, you’re going to make mistakes. You are going to miss deadlines, miscommunicate, or take a project in the wrong direction. No matter what happens, always be accountable for your own actions. If you mess up, own up.
Some employees (and especially new employees) fear this idea. Your brain may be saying, “No, I don’t want to get in trouble. I don’t want to look bad.” But in reality, owning your mistakes actually does the opposite. It communicates to your team that you know what your responsibilities are and the standards for that work.
Accountability, even when painful in the short-term, is an indicator of your long-term integrity. After all, most of your team likely already knows it was you. So, be accountable. Own up. Your team will be far more likely to take you at your word in the future.
Never fear, remote workers new and old. If your inner-overachiever has struggled to shine in your remote work environment, there are plenty of ways you can make a tangible, positive impression in an intangible, virtual world. Bring the sunshine, roll up your sleeves, own up, check in, be early, and do the best you can. Your teammates will notice.