It's a workplace benefit we all dream of having – being able to work from home once or twice a week or even full-time, allowing us to save on travel expenses and avoid air con wars with colleagues.
Currently, about 4 million people work remotely, according to the Office for National Statistics, which is equivalent to around one in seven workers. And with an increasing number of companies embracing flexible working, the figure is predicted to rise to half of the UK workforce in 2020.
Granted, working remotely comes with many benefits. But it’s easy to overlook the challenges it can bring, including the ability to make a good, lasting impression with bosses or colleagues.
When working in an office, it’s fairly obvious when you’re hard-working, friendly and deliver good results - but it can be harder when you’re not working face-to-face. So how do you make a good impression when you aren’t physically in an office?
It sounds obvious, but making sure you deliver your work on time is crucial. In an office, you may have more leeway to push deadlines, but it can be harder if you’re a remote worker - and particularly if you’re new to it.
Of course, there are times when you need more time to finish a project than you originally thought, or if you are dealing with a personal problem. If this is the case, be clear and let your manager or colleagues know as soon as possible.
“Consider what it is that impresses you about other colleagues – ultimately, it’s about trusting that they can deliver a quality piece of work,” says business and career coach Clara Wilcox, founder of The Balance Collective. “Be clear on what success looks like in your role and deliver it.”
Build a reputation for being reliable first
It can be beneficial to get to know your colleagues and bosses in person before you start working from home to ensure there is a good level of trust.
“Build a solid reputation,” Wilcox says. “If you can, if time and location permits, get yourself into the office when you can. Nothing beats that face-to-face contact.”
When your main form of communication is online or via phone calls, it can also help to know a bit more about who you are working with - including their likes and dislikes and how they interact with staff on a day-to-day basis. A blunt message from your manager might seem rude when you aren’t working together in person, but they might just be busy and in a rush.
It’s important to stay in contact throughout the day if you’re working remotely to avoid frustrating your co-workers. This might mean being extra responsive via email or checking your messages on Slack more often.
“As there won’t be any water cooler moments, make sure communications continues; be clear on when you are around and when you are not. No-one likes anyone going AWOL,” Wilcox advises.
Working remotely doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to a lunch break or coffee breaks, but make sure it’s OK for you to be away from your computer and let people know when you will be back. If you need to step away from your desk, tell them - so they aren’t desperately trying to get in touch with you.
Don’t let your working environment change too much
Once in a while, it’s fine to work from the comfort of your sofa or even from your bed, but it’s important to try not to make a habit of it - no matter how tempting it is.
Setting yourself up in a home office - which may just be a small desk in your living room or at the kitchen table - is crucial. You know where you work best, but when you’re working at a proper desk, you’re more likely to be in the mindset to focus and concentrate.
You’re also more likely to make a good impression at work if you pretend you are actually going into an office, as a structured day means you’re more likely to get things done. Set yourself a list of work to complete, or schedule what you’ll do and when over the course of the day.
Finally, relax and make the most of being able to get your work done in a comfortable, quiet environment. When you’re done for the day, put your computer away and enjoy not having to commute home.