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As a Remote Employee, You Don't Have to Be an Island

9 October 2017


I think the biggest challenge is to continue on the same path. I think it's easy to become complacent from the success you've had. — Jason Derulo

As soon as you become complacent, your show gets canceled. — Dick Wolfe

According to a recent Gallop poll, 35% of all Americans have worked remotely since as far back as 1995. Remote working has been linked to increased employee engagement and productivity, job satisfaction, connectedness, and the growth of a growing digital nomadic population.

I have been a remote project manager at a global telecommunications company for the past six years. In that role, I have always focused on being successful in my profession. I know the pride I feel when I lead a project from start to finish within budget and on schedule, with results that meet the client’s expectations. At the same time, I want to ensure that in achieving that success, I take the time to give myself mental stimulation to avoid the pitfalls of stagnation and complacency.

This can prove to be a challenge in today's fast paced, uber-connected work environment. Many people who work in an office environment see working remotely as the jackpot in employment. They’re right, it can be; but for some people, like extroverts, it can prove to be very isolating. The consequences of that isolation can be as minor as stagnation with one's career or as major as battling severe depression.

As someone that has battled both, I believe there are new ways to work remotely and at the same time experience success, to further your career while reconnecting with yourself.
Today, with advances in technology, the impression is that we’re more connected with people and involved with their lives through social media channels. Unfortunately, this is just the illusion of connectedness. Even with 5,000 friends on Facebook, we’ve actually become more isolated and are losing connection with our human emotions by masking our true appearances and developing an online persona. This “digital dystopia” has altered our perception of who we are in our real lives.

Working remotely can amplify those personas and suppress our true selves. This can be an extremely slow process and may not be noticeable to your or those close to you — until you find yourself in a depressed state where you begin to lose productivity and interest in activities in which you used to find happiness.

Through years of working remotely, I’ve found some tactics to help avoid that isolated feeling and get the best of both worlds.
  • Find or build a community. This can be accomplished by using resources within or outside of your organization. Build a strong relationship with your management and ensure that they understand your needs. Suggest ideas such as face-to-face meetings, quarterly team-building activities, or joining committees. These are ways to increase team productivity. Volunteering within your local PMI chapter will provide you with new relationships, visibility, and a way to earn PDUs.
  • Take breaks from your electronic devices. Remote employees spend more time on phones, laptops, and other devices than most people who go into the office. Many of us wake up and begin our daily work immediately, whereas others have an hour or so in the morning with family and water cooler talk with their coworkers. It’s a healthy habit to encourage more human interaction. Don’t bring your cell phone or laptop into your bedroom, and try to take one day off a week from using all electronic devices. It’s hypercritical for remote employees to maintain discipline and reduce electronic communication and embrace real-life relationships.
  • Free your mind/Be a digital nomad. Removing geographic boundaries is another great way to be able to satisfy your social needs. It provides a unique experience that will foster creativity by meeting new people in a never-ending, changing kaleidoscope of experiences. How much change do you require to reinvigorate yourself? It can be as simple as vacationing on an island for a long weekend and working your normal hours while enjoying the ocean during your time off, or selling everything you own and moving to a new country to absorb a new culture. There are no geographical limits as to what you can accomplish. Traveling is a great way to foster innovation and breed creativity. New solutions can be discovered by making new global connections that offer different perspectives on problems. As a devoted project manager, you can introduce the efficiency and effectiveness to your organization. A project manager with the ability to work remotely can stimulate mind and body through travel and change. It provides a way to refresh your perspective on life both personally and professionally.
Remote employees have to embrace an individualized work/life balance plan. The definition can be anything: living in a foreign country, joining an organizational committee, or reconnecting with yourself through nature.

We need to continue to enhance our communications on a new level and use our interpersonal skills to build and improve relationships within our profession. This doesn't and shouldn't have to be work. It should be an enjoyable and creative experience.
 

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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