Freelancers have been around for a while, and to some extent, the job is done, but that’s not what we are looking for.
In a digital age, we look outside the border of the classical workspace to find solutions to new problems.
If you want to build the best product you need the best team. We’re not going to get into what makes a team great and what not, but I’ll leave you with a hint — it’s also the people.
Even though having everyone together makes a whole lot of sense — easier knowledge sharing, more bonding, more trust, easier conflict resolution, etc. — in the competitive market of IT you might not have the luxury to find the right people so close to each other. Remote work is also not necessarily 100% offsite. Most of the new college grads would highly prefer to work in a company that allows them to occasionally work from another location.
Working remote is not easy. It brings overhead in order to ensure that the same benefits you have from a collocated team are also there when people don’t sit together. The first step in succeeding in this type of venture is to find someone that is fit for the challenge.
While exploring how our company does this, and what we have discovered works, we ended up with the next characteristics:
1. Quickly reachable
When you work next to someone you can always see if they are at their desk, or just directly ask them if they have a second. If your colleague is far-far away, this might seem impossible.
By using proper communication tools like Slack or Skype, that little green dot tells you if “they are at their desk” and a message beep is just like a tap on the shoulder. All of this, however, depends on how fast the people answer these calls, you get feedback immediately from the person next to you, so you should get an answer as soon as possible from the person around the globe as well. Responsiveness is key.
Social situations surround us when we work in the same place. That old water cooler example still stands. These situations help build friendships, which nurture trust. A team in multiple locations still has to reach that level and they do it by having reliable and committed team members, who are good at communicating and listening. They are active and open to new things, they cooperate to solve problems and are flexible in supporting other people.
If you are working all alone, isolated from the team and any type of pressure to get your work done, it might get demotivating and performance might drop. Proactive people, who know what needs to be done or how to find out, while also acting on their ideas without explicit approval, are more suited to perform in such an environment. Still being part of the team, they need to work independently as well.
Another good feature to have if you want to build trust is transparency. This works both ways; digital nomads need to be able to clearly transmit their input, while classical workers need to share all relevant information.
5. Independent troubleshooter
The most annoying things happen. It’s Murphy ’s Law, right? Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. This applies to small technical problems as well. All of a sudden you can’t access some internal stuff, your mouse has a mind of its own, even that old reliable program you always use is not responding to your furious commands. Most of us just call tech support or a friendly coworker comes down and helps us manage this unfamiliar web of permissions and old hardware, updates and wrong addresses. If you don’t have the skills to deal with stuff like this on your own, maybe you’re better suited for office work. Especially if you want to work completely remote, at least at the beginning, you have to be able to find your way through the setup of completely unfamiliar tools.
Being able to overcome these difficulties without in-office support is a must if you want to get anything done.
6. Results oriented
As mentioned before, proactive behavior and independence are highly valued. Another face of the same proverbial coin is result orientation. Quite the buzz word, or phrase in this case, we should narrow this definition down. Being able to drill down to the root cause of requests, the actual one thing that needs to happen in order to move forward; having the capacity and resolution to drive the execution and only finding gratification when the main goal is reached; that is for us result orientation, and that is what can make digital nomads great.
Last, but not least, point on the list: organized. Being surrounded by the working environment and colleagues you get constant reminders you wouldn’t otherwise get. A good sign that you, or someone you’re considering for remote work, are organized enough for the job is having a specially designated place in the house for the job. The work day has enough stress that you don’t need to worry about kids or dishes, washing machines, the neighbor’s radio, the dog’s mood to play. Of course, small breaks can actually help you improve productivity (Pomodoro technique), but constant distraction is just keeping you focused on the wrong thing. Another example of a well-organized behavior is having everything you need to get your stuff done with you on that one day you decide to work from home. All in all, working from your chosen location involves some more planning, so be sure you’re prepared for that.
As a conclusion, a remote colleague is a complicated being, friendly yet independent, self-motivated and transparent, most importantly reachable, but altogether indispensable in the future
In order to start living a freer life (at least with lesser commute) you need to ask a first question: In how many of these features do you recognize yourself?
Challenge your team to find out where you lack and start working on it. Share with us what works !
And if you already have experience, answer this one: What other overarching trait have you seen in extraordinary digital nomads?