Modern technology enables us to communicate and work with one another anywhere in the world, around the clock. We can send files, access databases, meet via conference or video call, and mix, mingle, and learn by attending webinars and virtual conferences. Done right, working on the go can be just as effective as working in an office, and maybe more so. But it's also easy to be lulled into a false sense of productivity and availability. Here's how to make sure you play at the top of your game whenever you're away from the office.
1. Set a schedule, and share it
Set up daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Let people know when you are working, how to reach you, when you won't be available, etc. Distribute your schedule so both you and your colleagues can plan ahead for key checkpoints, deadlines, and meetings. A schedule not only helps you organize your time and get work done; it also keeps you in touch with the people who depend on you to get their jobs done. Whether you work out of the office just one day a week or all the time, make every effort to remain visible, involved, and available in the virtual realm.
2. Be disciplined
Know yourself and what you need to do to set yourself up for success. This means being available and responsive no matter where you are, be it your home, a client site, a hotel, or an airport lounge. Don't let your environment distract you from completing your work. Stick to the schedule you have set for yourself. Start your morning by establishing your top objectives for the day. At the close of each day, review and update your to-do list. Working away from the office requires self-discipline and focus, because you don't have other people around to motivate you and keep you on-task.
3. Be resourceful
Make a list of the key people who can help you with technology and software problems. You do not have to be your own repair person, but if your laptop freezes or your Internet access mysteriously vanishes, you have to know who can help you and how to reach those people. Make a list of people you can reach in the event of technical emergencies, people who can help you fix your problems and get your deliverables in on time. Remember: Technology can fail you at any time. Use backup drives and extended hard drives, and print your work so you can access, move, store, or send it easily if necessary. And have a plan for what work you can do offline if restoring your online access will require time.
4. Take virtual coffee breaks
One of the challenges of working remotely is the social isolation: You miss out on seeing people at work and talking to them face to face. When most or all of your contact is virtual, it's easy to become impersonal and feel detached from the person or people you're communicating with, because you can't see their nonverbal cues and behaviors. Also, in the interest of time, conversations often focus on work-related topics and solving problems. Take a break now and then. Consider scheduling virtual coffee breaks with willing co-workers or other colleagues who also work outside the office. Make time to connect, socialize, and chat just as you might during a (real) break at the office. Making some time to check in with colleagues and share stories, frustrations, and current events unrelated to work will not only reenergize you, but it will bring you closer to the people you work with.