Blog Post

10 Secrets to Being a Successful Corporate Web Worker

I’ve been on both sides of the fence as a corporate web worker. I’ve been one myself, telecommuting from my home office, and at other times, I’ve managed people who worked from home both part-time and on a permanent basis.

Telecommuting and working from remote locations works well for me, and it has worked for many, but not all, of the people that I’ve managed. I’ve seen examples of both extremes: people who were incredibly successful as web worker and those who got their telecommuting privileges revoked.

Being able to work from home is a nice benefit, but only if you can continue to successfully perform your job, and there are a number of things that you can do to help improve your chances of success. Here are my top tips for being a successful corporate web worker.

  1. Office space. Start by finding a place where you can work remotely without distraction. I’m one of the lucky ones with my own dedicated home office with a door that I can close to distractions. If the best place you have to work is a kitchen table and you have family or roommates at home, working from home might not be the best option. The key is to find some arrangement where you can focus on your work. This could be a location in the house, a coworking space or even a garage / workshop.
  2. Set goals. Know what you plan to accomplish and set goals for what you will accomplish when you are working remotely. Obviously, you should do this anyway, but it becomes even more important to have solid goals when you are working outside of the office, since you’ll need to be able to justify your efforts to your manager who can’t just walk by your desk to see you hard at work.
  3. Know what you need. Make sure that you have everything that you need to accomplish those goals that you outlined. Do you have access to that document you need to update and solid connectivity to all of your networks in the office? Nothing ruins your day like planning to complete a specific task and realizing that you left some critical piece of documentation or technology sitting in the office.
  4. Great output. In most corporate environments today, you’re judged on your output. If you can demonstrate to your manager that you have consistently high quality output while working remotely, your chances of success are pretty good.
  5. High volume of output. Quantity is just as important as quality when it comes to working remotely. If all you have to show for your day of remote work is one really high quality email, you probably aren’t going to be successful. Make sure that you are cranking out the deliverables to prove that you are working hard and not goofing off.
  6. Focus on work. Stay focused on your work-related activities, and remember that you are working from home, not taking a day off. Save the laundry, dishes, and other household chores for after you finish a solid day of work. You should be doing the same work, just from a different location.
  7. Be present. Because you aren’t in the office, you’ll need to find other ways to keep in touch with your coworkers. Stay online, keep your IM client open and use any other collaboration tools available so that your colleagues can see that you are online and available to them.
  8. Be responsive. Respond quickly to email and phone messages to demonstrate that you really are working and that people can get answers from you regardless of your physical location.
  9. Planning. Plan your remote work days to focus on a couple of big tasks that require quiet concentration, but that you can show off at the end of the day as solid accomplishments. I like to save big creative tasks for the days I’m working at home where I can focus with fewer distractions. Creating reports, documentation or writing presentation materials are all great remote tasks for me.
  10. Show off. I know, nobody likes a showoff, but the harsh reality in business (any business) is that people are busy, and if you don’t tell your manager how awesome you are, then she might not notice. Make sure that you take the time to let your manager know exactly what you accomplished when you were working remotely. If she knows that you will do a great job regardless of where you are doing the work, then she’ll have no reason to doubt your ability to work remotely, and it won’t reflect negatively on you when it comes time for that yearly performance review.

What are your secrets for being a successful corporate web worker?

Photo by Dawn Foster used with permission.

17 Responses to “10 Secrets to Being a Successful Corporate Web Worker”

  1. I’ve been working in virtual teams since 1995 and disagree on the points that are emphasizing consistently proving that you are actually working. Very old economy. If there is no trust within team and between client / knowledge worker than you might as well quit your job / assignment.

    It comes down to one thing: deliver the right quality work on time. It doesn’t matter when, where or how, just what. You only need to be a peak performer, stay focused on your objective and forget all the corporate BS.

    The whole point of working in virtual teams is to create more freedom for all members (to do things like laundry, manage kids et cetera), deliver better results and collaborative more cost-effectively. An office in the end of the day is nothing more than a kindergarten for adults.

    • +1 to Per’s points, and I’ll add one. The entire reason I work remotely is to avoid the constant communication which is in direct opposition to “tasks that require quiet concentration.”

      I like to save big creative tasks for the days I’m working at home where I can focus with fewer distractions. Creating reports, documentation or writing presentation materials are all great remote tasks for me.

      If you’re trying to do these tasks while subject to the same barrage of interruption you’d have at the office, all you’re really doing is saving yourself a commute. While there’s both personal and ecological value in that savings, it’s nothing compared to the value of solid blocks of focused, uninterrupted time, especially for creative tasks.

      I make sure my co-workers know how to get in touch with me when they really need something, preferably through a gatekeeper (usually my immediate manager.) This sometimes has the added benefit of giving my office-bound co-workers focus time of their own… if they know they can’t “casually” reach me, they’re more likely to queue up the discussions and maintain their own state of flow.

  2. i encourage everyone to try i work there/here. it is a great tool for tracking tasks with co-workers on remote teams. sign up, its free.

    we would love to get your feedback too. we are working hard to create an app that solves your problems!

  3. I have been working from home for about 8 years and all of these are correct.

    But I do have one to add… When you are not available (lunch, break, meeting, etc)…make it clear that you are not available on your IM client status and when you will return. This way people trust your status.