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How to Become a Successful Remote Employee

A happy and successful remote employee smiling at home while leaning on his desk



Through my many years spent running the remote recruitment agency DistantJob, I’ve placed thousands of remote workers with many different companies. I’ve overseen many highly successful job placements, with developers, salespeople, and other remote employees fitting perfectly into their new roles.

While these remote workers came from all kinds of different backgrounds, hailed from many different countries, and possessed many different skill sets, time and time again I saw the same qualities appear among the most successful of the bunch.

With remote workers more in demand than ever before, it’s time to share those secrets with you. If you’re a remote employee (especially if you’re a developer, a role that’s highly sought after right now), you’ll learn what you should bring to the table as you take on a new job. And if you’re a CEO or manager looking to hire remotely, you’ll learn the traits that will prove most important to your company.

Here then are the skills that I’ve learned exemplify how to become a successful remote employee.

Learn How to Effectively Communicate in a Remote Setting

As far as we’ve come with modern teleworking tools, many workers and managers still feel most comfortable speaking face to face. So if a remote employee wants to be successful, he/she would be well served learning how to use the video chat, task board, and instant messaging apps that hiring companies also use.

For instance, if her new company expects his employee to be available and reachable at a moment’s notice throughout the day, he/she should set the status on an app like Slack to be available, and make sure to notify the manager if and when it won’t be reachable. Likewise, he/she should learn the art of engaging and participating in group video chats; shyness isn’t a good enough excuse to never contribute during team planning meetings and other group discussions on an app like Zoom.

These and other communication skills are essential for a healthy and productive remote work environment.

Make Technology Work for You

If you’re not a developer or someone else directly involved with highly technical work within your company, you might have been able to skate by for years without needing to learn about any technological tools more advanced than FaceTime.

Project management platforms make it easy to manage complex projects by breaking them down into bite-sized tasks,” says Dave Lavinsky, co-founder of Growthink, a company that offers business plan software. “For example, writing a business plan or an executive summary requires collaboration from several different team members to get the data and content investor-ready. The right tools make it easy to format these larger goals with sub-tasks, timelines, and collaboration features. Most tools offer free trials, so it’s important to test-drive different platforms to see how each caters to your specific needs.”

But as we just mentioned with respect to communication, technology becomes an indispensable resource when in-office work shifts to remote work. In addition to communication-based apps such as Slack and Zoom, it pays to familiarize yourself with task management tools such as Asana and Trello, remote desktop apps such as TeamViewer, and all-in-one platforms like Bitrix24.

Every company and every job title will require a different set of skills and responsibilities, of course. But the more work productivity apps you get to know, the faster and easier your transition to remote work will become.

Supercharge Your Time Management Skills

Working from home or in another remote environment may be new if you’re a developer or salesperson used to working out of a central office. The routines that you spent years establishing at company headquarters may not be all that useful when your office consists of your dining room table, with your cat meowing in the background.

That’s why it’s essential that you set a daily schedule that works for you. For instance, it’s ok to take advantage of being at home by making yourself a delicious, home-cooked lunch. It’s not ok to spot the TV out of the corner of your eye and decide to settle in for 3 hours of Maury Povich reruns.

To frame your time management and build out your calendar, consider posting achievable tasks within specific timeframes. If you have three assignments due at the start of a new work week, sort them based on how time sensitive each one is, and how labor-intensive each one is. If you work better when you plow through only one assignment at a time, manage your time that way. If you get bogged down by staring at the same project for hours at a time, splice in the other assignments for an hour within your work day, to break things up and keep you motivated.

In short, whichever work strategies make the most sense for you, use those to map out your day so that you feel both mentally healthy and productive.

Be Flexible

If you’re thinking of applying for a remote job, a few skills will prove more important for your chances of success than flexibility so make sure to update your resume.

You may have spent your entire career working 9 to 5 out of an office. But if you start working remotely, you might find yourself working for a company that’s based on the other side of the ocean. If that company demands that all staff members put in the same hours, the 9-to-5 schedule that in-office workers need to follow might look something like 3-11 to you.

Being open-minded and flexible to, say, work at night can give you a leg up over other qualified applicants. Just make sure that if that’s the job and the workday structure you want, you take the necessary steps to make that new schedule possible. Some of the adjustments you may have to make could include adjusting your sleep schedule, leaning on your partner or another caregiver to help with child care if you have younger kids, and finding leisure activities during typical work hours that keep you balanced and stimulated.

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

So you’re now working in your own space, free from the dozens of fellow worker bees who once buzzed around your cubicle eight hours a day, every day. Time to embrace solitude, right?

If you want to help your new company grow, then that’s exactly the wrong approach. Whether you hold the title of developer, a marketing rep, a human resources assistant, or any other job, working remotely does not negate your obligation to work cohesively and harmoniously within the structure of a team. If anything, remote work demands more collaboration, not less.

Vanilla Ice saying Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Many of the same teamwork and collaboration principles that apply to in-office work are also relevant for remote. Be willing to listen to others’ ideas, even when (especially when!) they differ from your own. Be willing to pick up others’ slack when a family emergency or other exigent circumstances knock them out of commission. Be generous with praise and gratitude for your co-workers.

By helping to foster team spirit, both you and your colleagues will build a far more enjoyable, comfortable, and productive setting in which to work.

Sharon Koifman
Sharon Koifman
Sharon Koifman is the CEO of DistantJob, a remote placement agency that provides remote worker staffing and best practices-based advisory services for companies seeking to improve and expand their remote work operations.

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