How to succeed in remote work – Quartz at Work


Starting a new job remotely is difficult in normal times, let alone in times of a pandemic. I know, I experienced it firsthand.

When I joined Quartz in early April, the company was two weeks after the start of US lockdown orders, which closed the New York headquarters I had planned to depart to each morning. Suddenly, all was online: onboarding, training, and even casual conversations to meet my new colleagues.

I quickly discovered that it was more difficult to put faces on names, know who did what, and learn about the culture of the company, especially as everyone adjusted to the pandemic. There was no one to drop by and chat casually, or “Pssst” with my questions about story formats and how to report expenses. I didn’t have a new office to colonize with my favorite knick-knacks and photos, and still don’t know what the best places to have lunch in the office are.

As jobs slowly return to the United States and other countries, my experience will be far from unique. Many offices remain closed in anticipation of vaccine distribution, and a significant number of people who have become accustomed to working from home during the pandemic will decide to stay there indefinitely. It is therefore more important than ever for companies and employees to integrate well remotely.

1️⃣ Prepare for Day 1, before Day 1

The first day of any new job is overwhelming – it often comes with a rush of paperwork and presentations, which can be more difficult to follow through a screen.

One thing you can do as a new hire is ask for more on-boarding information up front, says Career and Talent Coach Tiffany Waddell Tate. “Especially in a remote environment, their answer should enlighten you on whether [the onboarding process] is something they have together or not, ”she laughs.

Find out what to expect: is there a lot of training on day one or will you go for it? Are you going to meet a group of people right away or over a longer period of time? Are there any documents you can or should review in advance? These types of prompts will help you understand what the organization expects from new hires, Tate says, and might even prompt the company to tweak its own plans.

(A tip from Quartz onboarding: Consider asking or looking for a new friend, who we call ‘manatees,’ not a mentor or mentee, but as helpful as either. A new friend shouldn’t be. your manager, and not necessarily someone who works on your team. But they can provide a more informal ramp into the business (and answers to frequently asked questions) by chatting with you several times during the first few weeks.)

2️⃣ Have a conversation that defines your expectations with your manager

Everyone is different, including managers. It’s important to ask your people how and when they like to communicate, especially since IRI is not an option. “You can’t assume that what worked before will work in your new job,” explains Career Coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Many managers have specific preferences for registering via email, phone, or chat, as well as when and how often they will want to contact the base. Here are a few more questions to guide your conversation:

  1. Do you prefer that I ask questions as they arise or in a weekly meeting?
  2. What would success look like in my first 90 days?
  3. Are there any metrics I should look at to assess this?
  4. Who are the people I need to know inside and outside of my team?
  5. Do you have any tips from your first few months here?

This is also a good time to clarify what is useful to you, such as a regular one-on-one meeting to ask questions and receive feedback (strongly encouraged!). Smith, career consultant and former senior media executive at McClatchy and Gannett.

It is also helpful to research broad company standards – don’t ask someone, as they won’t be able to describe them. Are people extremely on time? Are they formal or informal? Do they curse? How are they dressed? Is email more of a mode of communication or a mode of documentation? Do they use gifs and emoji? These are your only portals to your colleagues, so find out how to use them in a way that helps you fit in.

(Quartz onboarding tip: try your hand at a user manual, a one-page summary of individual work styles that can help co-workers adapt to each other. Better yet, share user manuals with your manager and / or other members of your team. It has the advantage of being an excellent icebreaker.)

3️⃣ ABC: Always communicate

Staying connected with your colleagues and your manager is crucial, even if working remotely means that it is now a fully digital relationship. “It’s going to sound like excessive communication because you don’t have the water cooler, the hallway, the kitchen, to run into people,” Ceniza-Levine explains. “Everything has to be planned. It must be initiated, because the alternative is absence.

In addition to regular meetings with your manager, informal video chats with coworkers are great opportunities to ask questions about their work, group culture, and what is typical of the business in relation to a pandemic time. Get in the habit of asking everyone you chat with who else you should talk to or meet; these presentations can be an important catalyst for building relationships, even in a remote environment.

(A tip from Quartz onboarding: “Good communication” is a goal, not a strategy, which is why we use a technique called 5-15. Cassie Werber of Quartz at Work explains: “Each week, each member of a team spends 15 minutes writing comments in a template report sent to the team leader. The manager takes five minutes to read and respond to each report, and 15 minutes to gather their own comments for their director. It continues in the chain. Building this kind of personal documentation habit will also keep your invisible work from being obscured.)

4️⃣ Remember the value of social capital

“Social capital” refers to the personal connections and relationships that someone can use to facilitate opportunities, in other words, the power of a strong, connected network. As a new employee of a business, this can over time include people you can exchange ideas with, internal experts you can consult, senior leaders, and champions of new projects and promotions. These relationships are especially important for new employees who are still learning about a company’s culture, professional development resources and growth opportunities.

“[Social capital] is not essential for someone to be successful, ”says Kevin Davis, founder of the nonprofit association for student training and mentoring. First works. “It makes it a lot less difficult.”

With contributions from Phoebe Gavin.


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