One of the reasons people like working from home—or at least not at the office—is that they aren’t bombarded by interruptions from other people. We’re left alone with our work and our thoughts. Which is great…most of the time. But what if that little voice in your head gives you bad advice? It happens more than you think. Here are three ways that remote workers undermine their own work and potential long-term success.
We isolate ourselves to focus on our own work
If you’re focusing on your work, shutting out the outside world, not communicating with others in the short term, you’re getting things done. But isolation can also mean you’re not talking to your teammates, you’re not participating as actively in meetings and collaborative activities as you were, and if nobody hears from you, you quickly become “Out of sight and out of mind.”
Suddenly you’re not included in every discussion, you might not get that new project, or be thought of for an assignment. In fact, many companies believe that if you’ve chosen to work primarily from home, you’re consciously choosing lifestyle over career. That may or may not be true, but it’s worth considering whether working alone and being hyper-focused is actually interfering with your work.
Remember, the only things that belong in silos are corn and nuclear weapons.
We think the work will speak for itself
While we are hammering away, we believe we don’t need to actively promote ourselves or build strong networks and relationships. We don’t have to worry about these things because our work will speak for itself. It doesn’t.
There are many reasons to believe this. Maybe you’re an introvert who doesn’t enjoy speaking to the group, or you were raised not to brag, or you have faith in your manager’s eye for talent. But the simple fact is doing quality work is seldom enough in this world to achieve the rewards that should come with it.
Social recognition, promotions, new assignments or just personal growth… all these require help from other people, and they aren’t likely to care about you and your work as much as you do. Remember, being a remote worker should only describe where you work, not your emotional distance from the rest of the team.
It’s a fact of human behavior that quality of work is only one factor that goes into long-term success. Yes, we need to deliver excellence, but social capital, knowing people, being pleasant to work with, demonstrating why people should know, like and trust you, are critical if you’re going to be anything more than a cog in a machine.
We imprint on our manager
Maybe you realize you’re going down a silo, and that you aren’t interacting with people, and perhaps your work is not being recognized or rewarded. Building relationships with a whole team of people might be hard, or uncomfortable, but by golly, you can maintain one solid connection, and that’s with your manager.
Many people try to compensate for the reduced interaction with their teammates by doubling down on the one relationship they feel truly matters. That’s the person with the most potential impact on them—their manager. If I have a question, who do I go to? Do I reach out to a teammate I hardly know, or do I contact my boss? If I suspect she isn’t aware of how hard I’m working, I’m going to cc my manager on everything I do, so she knows I’m sweating it out here.
If this is you, your effort to prove what a good team member you are and how hard you’re working is actually taking MORE of the boss’s time. There may be unintended negative consequences to that. What looks like proactivity might be seen as needy or bothersome.
The best way to avoid these self-inflicted wounds is to be mindful of how we build and maintain relationships with others. If you’d like to learn more about being a great remote teammate, join us November 4 for our FREE webinar: The 3 Ps of Being a Great Remote Teammate.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership.