5 Tips to a great relationship with your remote support staff
If you are like most former office workers, over the past six months your routine for how work gets done has probably changed. The deliverables may have stayed the same, but you may have found that supporting a remote team calls for a different layer of skills than onsite support typically requires.
The most obvious change is that you can’t just drop in on someone and ask a quick question. Sure, messaging is possible, but if you can’t see what someone is doing, you may be unaware that you are actually interrupting an important meeting or they are heads down concentrating on a budget. To better serve others, remote work can improve with better choreography. In other words, being clear about the entire process, from support to delivery, and fully understanding the purpose of your work as it relates to a goal or desired outcome is far more important when working autonomously and remotely. The following steps can help you stay ahead of potential roadblocks and last-minute requests.
Plan and schedule your work. First and foremost, planning your week ahead of time allows you to better predict when interruptions could happen. If you work with a group of procrastinators who rely on you to pull things together, then planning ahead allows you to make progress on more work instead of getting sidelined. On the flip side, if you have been accustomed to asking questions on the fly while in the office, you know that you would never have walked in and interrupted a meeting to do so. Think through everything you normally do and plan your work more carefully. Try to avoid peppering your supervisor or your team with a million separate details if it can be avoided.
Make the jobs of those you support easier, not harder.
Review projects when assigned. The minute you are given a task, review the information and get your questions answered before you begin work. Make sure you look for details that are unclear and get your questions answered up front. Waiting until you are knee-deep in something before you discover there is conflicting information means you have to stop and find out the answer. That may be true of onsite work except that relying on yelling across a cubical is no longer an option. Remote staff are participating in more virtual meetings, so you may find that their lack of mobility when behind a computer screen makes them harder to reach. Ask questions responsibly. Walking through what you need before you actually begin can help you avoid potential delays and the stress of needing an answer five minutes before a deadline.
Pay attention. Be hyperaware of the schedules of those people you support. Make the jobs of those you support easier, not harder. Time your interactions so they support instead of distract someone who might be knee-deep in alligators at any given time. Check their schedules and know when it might be unreasonable to expect a detailed response to something that may be important to you. Consider what they are focused on before making unnecessary interruptions.
Proof your work. And you may be thinking, “Of course I do that.” If so, that’s great. But I’m guessing that when working side by side, small mistakes get caught sooner. You may have relied on walking over to someone’s desk and asking questions before you hit send on an email or published an update. Without having that quick response, little mistakes may get unnoticed. And now, we are all relying even more on electronic communications. Although edits can be made, a first impression based on an error cannot be erased. If you are producing reports, correspondence, announcements, website content or marketing copy on behalf of someone else, your errors can alter a presentation, ineffectively influence decisions or simply make the people you support look bad.
Find positive outlets to be acknowledged. If your love for supporting others grew from being the focal point in the office, you’ve probably found that your role has changed. There isn’t time to shoot the breeze at the cooler, and you may be missing that lighthearted banter in the lunchroom. You may need to find a different social outlet. Some companies have an HR department that has stepped up to think of ways to engage, encourage and support people. Others may have left this to managers to handle directly, and the ball has been dropped. People may be so caught up in trying to get work done while homeschooling kids or dealing with technical glitches, they may have forgotten how much an “attaboy” or inquiry about your well-being would cheer you (and probably everyone else as well). If you are feeling like you need more, then speak up. Make a suggestion for how your team can engage, share compliments or take a minute to be social, and then be prepared to coordinate it. The time required to coordinate a newly remote team and then introduce yet another structured activity for something that had previously been taken for granted may be the main reason your supervisor hasn’t taken action. Don’t whine. Save them from herding cats.
What tips can you share with us that have helped you?