While the trend toward remote work is undeniable, and is happening in more and more types of jobs, it may seem like the norm to you. After all, there have been field sales folks working from home or away from the office for many years. For many of those years I have heard concerns and challenges with this working arrangement, and they are the same things I hear from leaders and team members just now making the shift to virtual work. In this article I want to give all remote team members a new viewpoint of their work and help them see a new benchmark for success as a remote teammate.
A Picture of the Past
The classic picture of the travelling salesperson includes a person spending inordinate amounts of time alone – in their car and in hotel rooms. Go back far enough and they knew every payphone in their sales territory, and could be found camped out on them, making appointments and talking to the home office about what they and their Customers need. Today these road warriors are one with their phones and computers – but the communication and focus is the same: communicating with the home office advocating for the customer’s needs (and their own commission), too often pitting themselves against their in-office colleagues.
This picture isn’t perfect for every remote sales team member and organization, but it is close enough in most cases for you to clearly see that view. And while it has worked – sales have been made, and commission checks have been written, it isn’t a picture of organization bliss, optimal success or results.
A Picture of Today
While the types of jobs being done from home have expanded, the picture isn’t that different. But while the context and amount of windshield time might have changed, some things remain: the remote worker feels isolated, and while they work hard, their view of their work often becomes more insular and inwardly focused. Like the travelling salesperson, they see their work as separate, and perhaps more important that the work that others do. And if there are people still working in “the office” they can come to be seen as separate at best and adversaries at worst.
What Does Success Look Like?
Regardless of your past working situation, you need a clear picture of success looks like as a remote teammate. It starts with this mindset:
Your job (and success) is about more than your work.
As I said it is very easy when working remotely without the casual interactions with others to view your work as paramount, and to view your work differently. This insular, individual view is natural, but can have unintended consequences – and overcoming those consequences is why I’ve written this article.
So, What is My Job Anyway?
While I don’t know the specifics of your job and situation, I want to help you answer that question – perhaps more broadly than you are currently considering it. In short,
Your job = your work + team work
Let’s be a bit more specific.
Your work includes the tasks on your task list, your key job responsibilities, likely found on a job description, the technical, process part of your job, the stuff you have subject matter and process expertise about. This is likely how you define your job, how you think about your job, and how you would describe your work to someone at a party or event.
But is that all of it?
Team work includes work outside of what you see right in front of you. It includes the building of relationships and trust with your colleagues and co-workers, many of whom are doing work that supports or interacts with yours. It includes collaboration on projects and initiatives, helping and mentoring others. It is hard to argue the value of all this work too, even if it isn’t obvious or in plain sight when you sit down to work in your home office each morning. In fact, if truth is told, you know that some of the biggest frustrations and challenges that come from working remotely come precisely because not enough time is spent on this list.
Finding Greater Success
Finding greater success (or helping others find it as a leader) starts with that change of mindset – to begin to live the equation: Your job = your work + team work. Likely the gap comes in the team work part. Stated a different way, greater success as a remote worker comes when you see yourself as a remote teammate, rather than a remote worker. Here are a few things you can do to change your actions to match this mindset.
- Get a clear picture of what the “team work” is in your situation – get clear expectations.
- Work daily to build relationships and trust
- Engage more actively in meetings, rather than multitasking (on “your work”)
- Understand the roles and needs of others – chances are you can make their work easier and more effective once you do
- Offer to help – after all you are all on the same team
- Use all your communication tools – chances are if all you use is email, you won’t be doing the rest of this list much justice.
When you see that your job and success is about more than what you see in front of you – you will change your actions and get better results. This may require more effort when you work remotely, but the effort will be repaid both personally and interpersonally, in both the short and long term.