Recently, I was in the Atlanta airport and realized this is one of my homes away from home, and I felt…well, at home! I’ve spent so much time in this airport that I know which terminal has the good sushi, which gate is near the frozen yogurt, how much time I need to squeeze in a chair massage, and if I have to wait a few minutes at the gate to board, I have a trusty habit of using the back of the tall, black trashcans as my improvised standing desk. I get it all done on the go…remotely.
Remote work refers to a job that is done outside of the office. It used to be thought of as telecommuting or teleworking or referred to “working from home” when you had personal circumstances like an appliance service call or a sick child. These days there are various types of remote work and a lot of us do them. Some people are allowed to work remotely for a day or two each week and some people live far away from their company office or their job involves being on the road and with clients. I am in that last category, and my office is frequently an airplane, a coffee shop or one of my client’s offices.
In the dictionary, the word “remote” includes synonyms such as “distant, faraway, removed.” As a remote worker, I don’t mind being ‘removed’ from the office most of the time. After all, I like the variety of going to different places. A Gallup survey says that a perk of working remotely is that remote workers can be more productive. They also can have higher levels of organizational commitment and job satisfaction.
But when you work remotely, it is also important to manage the potential drawbacks. How do you make sure you don’t get perceived as the remote that is defined as “irrelevant, unconnected or distant?” Generating your voice on calls and video conferences can help people be present to you and your contribution. Socially, there are drawbacks to manage. You can miss out on the hallway conversation (the positive ones) and also the after-work drinks or social gatherings. I called into the office once and had trouble finding someone to help me. It turned out they were in the conference room celebrating everyone who had an October birthday. Hey, I have an October birthday, and I was not even invited! So, you often can be forgotten when you work remotely. Rather than sulk about it, it is important to create social interaction with your office mates as well as on-the-ground as you work remotely.
My solution has included celebrating the things I like about working away from the office and generating practices to experience the dynamics I miss about being in the same office day-to-day. For example, with the birthday celebration, I created a team that has a calendar of birthdays, and we call and sing to the birthday person wherever they may be! It is fun and creates that belonging I saw that I missed from the office celebrations. I created meet-ups with my friends who also work remotely and travel a lot. I met one girlfriend for coffee at the airport (our gates were right across from each other) earrrrrrly one morning when we both had early flights. It took the ‘suck’ out of getting out of bed and into travel mode so early. I had a date with my girlfriend! Working remotely without becoming remote takes paying attention to and organizing ‘being there’ even when you are somewhere else!