Companies want to hire the type of person that is cut out to be a remote worker. The type of person that can be a remote worker is the type of person that excels at their work and that is what companies are always looking for.
In the first part of this series we talked about what remote work is and how a business benefits from remote workers. In this article we are going to focus on you. What does it take to be a remote worker? Is remote work possible in your job? How do you work from home when there are distractions?
NOTE: The following is not a definitive list and not true for every situation. Some of this represents what works well for me in my experiences over the last few years.
Can YOU be a Remote Worker?
Are you the remote worker type? This is always an interesting question. You can learn behaviors, I don’t believe this is a type that you are either born into or not. I think this is something you can learn and become if you just know how. So what are the key behaviors to being a remote worker? Surprisingly they are strikingly similar to what companies prefer in their best workforce:
- Disciplined / Focused
With that in mind, it’s not a huge gap that companies would actually want to hire the type of worker that is cut out to be a remote worker. “Wait a minute, didn’t you say this was learned?” Yes, many of these are learned behaviors. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
You must know how to do your job well enough that you don’t need someone helping you through the work (until you can stand on your own). This doesn’t mean you need zero guidance; we all need help from time to time. I won’t put a number on what determines self-sufficiency, I think most of us know that we know our jobs or not. If not you can probably ask your peers if they feel you are self-sufficient or not.
If you are paying attention, you may have just realized that this means someone “junior” (or just starting out in a new industry) should not be a remote worker. Why? To be able to work effectively without high amounts of guidance usually comes when you have good knowledge of how to do your job and how to do it well.
Folks new to an industry should probably shy away from trying remote work until they are more comfortable in their roles, responsibilities and simply put, skills and abilities. The biggest reason a “junior” worker should shy away from remote work is that the most important career objective for them is to learn and that is harder to do when they are remote. As a junior worker you should want to pair with others to learn how to do things better. The best type of learning is always face to face. It’s hard enough to teach someone face to face, doing it remotely compounds all of the issues that come along with paying attention to the non-verbal cues of whether someone is catching on or not.
When you are not physically around others working towards the same goals it can sometimes be unclear what you should be doing. Keep in mind it is not the company’s job to make sure you have something to do. It is your responsibility. To be actively engaged, you need to take an active role in making sure you have work to do. Being a self-starter is a high value to a company because they know you are not just going to sit around and wait for something to do. You are going to ask when you need something to do so. That means you are producing something for the company to offset your costs to the company. You want to make the company more money than the opportunity cost of you. This makes you valuable to the company, which is especially important when you are not physically present.
Disciplined / Focused
Discipline and focus means you can work when there are distractions around you. Does that mean you don’t work to eliminate distractions? No, in fact, eliminating distractions is extremely important for many of us. Being able to concentrate with distractions can be very difficult and stressful in the long term, so I would highly recommend removing distractions. How do you do that? We’ll get to that when we talk about how you help your home support remote work.
Discipline is a learned behavior. How do I know? Like many folks I know, I’ve been in the military. I have seen first hand how people become disciplined. It’s really a matter of habit. You do the same thing over and over until it just becomes a habit. So if you want to be disciplined you just practice discipline for some amount of time (some say 21 days straight) and from then on it will become a habit.
Focus is a little harder to achieve. I believe with discipline comes focus. If you are distracted by the twitters and you have the discipline to only turn it on at breaks, you can achieve focus on what you are working on when you don’t have it on. You gain focus by removing distractions until all there is in front of you is what you need to accomplish.
I left this last because motivation is a weird animal. People are motivated for different reasons. It’s really about learning what motivates you. To be motivated in this sense really just means to accomplish goals of the company.
When I was in high school I remember listening to a Tony Robbins lesson on how you can categorize folks into two types of motivation: positive and negative. I can’t find the source of this but it boils down people being motivated in two ways, pain and pleasure. You cannot motivate a person that is negatively motivated with positive reinforcement and you would offend a positively motivated person with negative reinforcement. I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is to find what motivates you and adapt some if needed so that it aligns with the goals of the company that you work with.
I believe that motivation can be a learned behavior with the proper conditioning. At the root of all of everything about being a remote worker is motivation. You need to be motivated to succeed at remote work. You need to be motivated to try remote work. You need to be motivated to possibly pursue a new home with a good setup for working remotely. You need to be motivated to learn new ways to enhance your communication with those surrounding you at work.
Now that we’ve talked about you, let me say that some or all of these qualities will lend well to remote work. Does that mean that this is true in all situations? Absolutely not. Each situation is unique and what lends well for one situation may not lend well for another or even make sense. If you are motivated to make remote work work for you, you will find a way to make it happen. And this list may not even describe you at all.
Next up we are going to talk about jobs that lend well to remote work.